According to ayurveda, your tongue is a map of your internal health. Ayurvedic practitioners have used tongue diagnosis (jihavaa pareehsha) for millenia, just like in Chinese herbal medicine. Abnormalities on the tongue can be read by ayurvedically-trained doctors to provide an in-depth analysis of health.
Western medicine largely ignores the tongue, treating ‘furry’ tongues largely as a cosmetic problem, only concerning because of bad breath and unsightliness. Ayurveda takes the state of the tongue much more seriously as a barometer of internal health and uses abnormalities to diagnose conditions. Doing this makes sense, as the tongue is actually the end part (and start!) of the gastro-intestinal tract. The tongue is one of the body’s detoxification paths. The furry coating on the tongue is actually toxins eliminated from the digestive system overnight. The tongue is also directly connected to the heart, therefore indicative of the health of the cardio-vascular system.
A healthy tongue should be pink with no coating or bumps or marks, according to ayurveda. This is rare – most people have a little bit of coating, especially at the back of the tongue. This indicates ama buildup in the colon.
Ayurveda states that ama on the tongue should be scraped off, instead of left to be swallowed and reabsorbed into the body. Ama is undigested matter from the stomach. It contains toxins and bacteria, so must be removed. If it is left to build up too much, it can cause sore throats, and then illness. It will also cause bad breath. Ama will be released back into the body.
Apparently, the ancient Egyptians and Romans (as well as ancient Indians) all scraped their tongues. Special silver tongue scrapers can be bought, but are often very sharp. I prefer to use the edge of a teaspoon. This should ideally be done first thing in the morning, before breakfast. Scrape, then rinse the spoon, then scrape again, until there is nothing left to scrape. Apparently, this also stimulates all the nadi points in your body and starts the digestive process off to a good start for the day. Toothbrushes do not remove as much bacteria, and alcohol-based mouthwashes can dry the mouth out.
The map on your tongue
Any abnormalities on the tongue (such as spots, marks, coating) can indicate a problem with the corresponding organs. The front of tongue corresponds to the lungs, heart, chest and neck. The centre of tongue equates to the spleen, stomach, pancreas and liver. The back of the tongue corresponds to the intestines, colon and kidneys.
The doshas and tongues
Will generally be small, thin and dry. There may be slight tremors. A thin tongue means dehydration in the body. There may be a brownish/black coating, indicating too much vata in the body. There may also be small cracks, bumps or pimples on the back of the tongue (indicating kidney, large intestine or colon problems).
Will generally be medium-sized, broad, and tapered at the end. There may be yellow or red ama, indicating too much pitta in the body. Yellow means too much bile, maybe related to taking drugs or smoking. Redness means inflammation or acidity or high blood pressure. There may be bumps or bright red patches in the middle of the tongue (indicating liver, spleen, stomach or pancreas problems).
Will be pale, thick and large. A white coating indicates too much kapha in the body. There may be too much mucus or candida in the body. A thick tongue means water retention in the body.
An entirely coated tongue means that agni is too low, allowing ama to build up. Action must be taken to restore health. In this case, an entire detoxification process (panchakarma) would be needed, and a major lifestyle and dietary change taken, according to your particular dosha.
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