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What Does Our Tongue Tell Us About Our Liver?

Nicole Cutler

Oct 30th, 2012
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Find out how tongue observation can reveal more about the liver’s health than most people realize.

A primary care physician will likely ask his or her patients to open up and say “ahhh” in an effort to get a glimpse of the tongue. Besides looking at the throat, tonsils and general mouth condition, western-trained doctors know that the tongue can reveal several health clues. However, practitioners of Chinese Medicine take tongue observation to an entirely different level. By analyzing the tongue’s shape, body color, coating and moisture level, a practitioner of Chinese Medicine can accurately determine a person’s predominant health disharmony. When it comes to assessing a person’s liver health, there are various tongue indications a Chinese Medical practitioner will look for.

Nomenclature Differences
Any discussion about the assessment of liver health in western medicine (WM) and eastern medicine (EM) must first address one of the fundamental differences between these worldviews:

•    WM – According to western medicine, the liver is an organ that lies on the right hand side of the abdomen, below the diaphragm and behind the ribs. The largest internal organ, the liver makes and stores glucose (fuel), cleanses the blood of toxins, makes bile to aid in the digestion of fats and manufactures several essential hormones and proteins.

•    EM – According to eastern medicine, the liver encompasses the actual organ (same as in WM), but also refers to the entire liver system. This includes energetic characteristics, both physical and psychological attributes that are related to the liver’s function. In EM, the liver stores blood, ensures the smooth movement of energy throughout the body, controls the sinews, recovers energy, contributes to immunity and houses the spirit.

The Tongue in WM
A WM physician can tell several things from having a patient stick out his or her tongue, such as:

•    Inflamed tongue – this could indicate a deficiency of Vitamin B
•    Swollen tongue – this could point to hypothyroidism
•    Tongue ulcers – this could be related to fever or infection
•    Cranial nerve problems – as indicated by symmetry and soft palate movement
•    Tongue lesions or ulcers – could indicate excessive stress or oral cancer

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http://altmedicine.about.com/library/weekly/bl_TongueDiagnosis.htm?p=1, Tongue Diagnosis, Cathy Wong, Retrieved September 2, 2012, about.com, 2012.

http://www.ehow.com/how_4876128_discover-health-problems-looking-tongue.html, How to Discover Health Problems by Looking at Your Tongue, Retrieved September 2, 2012, livestrong.com, 2012.

http://www.lifescript.com/health/everyday-care/health_basics/decode_your_tongue.aspx, Decode Your Tongue, Nicole McEwen, Retrieved September 2, 2012, Lifescript.com, 2012.

http://www.liverdoctor.com/index.php?page=is-your-tongue-trying-to-tell-you-something, Is Your Tongue Trying to Tell You Something?, Retrieved September 2, 2012, `SCB, Inc., 2012.

Maciocia, Giovanni, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, New York, NY, 1995; 77-82, 149-152.

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