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Dr. Richard Isaacson

Inspecting the Tongue to Determine Your State of Health

For hundreds of years, Eastern medical practitioners have known that they can tell a great deal about the health of a patient’s internal organs by inspecting the tongue. The art of diagnosis by observing the characteristics of the tongue has allowed experts to understand the status of internal organs by observing the patterns on the tongue’s surface. The tongue mirrors the viscera.

Zetsu Shin, Japanese for tongue diagnosis, is one of the most prevalent techniques for in Chinese medicine. Inspection of the tongue - more precisely, various areas of the tongue - reveal the status of virtually every appendage and functioning system in the human body.

Your Tongue and the Rest of You

For the purpose of Zetsu-Shin, the tongue is divided into three distinct areas. The forward third of the tongue, from the tip back, relates to the body’s upper portions: the lungs, the overall chest, the heart and the neck. If the tongue displays froth in the middle of its front third, this is interpreted as a sign of potential respiratory problems. The practitioner sees it as evidence of low lung energy, and will expect to find a bronchial condition such as asthma, a cold or an allergy affecting the lungs. From an emotional standpoint, a small depression in this forward third of the tongue may indicate severe depression or sadness.

The tongue’s middle third is tied to the internal systems involving the stomach, the liver, the spleen and the pancreas. One symptom that may be seen in this area is small ulcers such as chancre sores: these may indicate stomach problems such as recurring gastritis or an ulcerative condition in the stomach.

As directional continuity might indicate, the rear and final third of the tongue is related to the abdominal organs including the small intestine and the colon. Coating on the rear third of the tongue may be indicative of a high level of toxins in the large intestine. A traditional practitioner would interpret this as a sign of low colon energy.

The Importance of Structure and Color

The structure of the tongue reflects important characteristics. Practitioners of Zetsu-Shin can draw conclusions about a person’s overall strengths and weaknesses from the shape and dimensions of the tongue.


+ A wide tongue demonstrates balance in both physical and psychological condition.

+ A narrow tongue suggests average or mediocre physical capabilities that will manifest pronounced strengths and weaknesses. The mental implications of a narrow tongue suggest a quick mind but inclined to a narrow viewpoint

+ A wider than average tongue belies an undeveloped physical condition with perhaps a tendency to obesity. This person will be more inclined to focus on issues of the mind or psychology.


+ A rounded tip suggests a healthy physical and mental makeup.

+ A pointed tip demonstrates a stiff or even unbending physical condition. This physical prototype is matched with a Type A personality that perhaps can be overly aggressive to the point of offensive.

+ A very wide tip reflects physical weakness or poor conditioning. In like fashion, this person may be mentally sloppy, have difficulty focusing and dealing with reality.

+ A divided tip reflects a divided personality: one that undergoes sudden swings in mood and in opinion.


+ A flat tongue will generally suggest the person has a well balanced and acute mind with great skills of adaptability.
+ A thin tongue reflects a cerebral individual, whose principal interests are intellectual and whose personal attributes are generally pleasant and generous.
+ A thick tongue suggests a physically oriented person, athletic perhaps and certainly competitive with the assertive personality to match.


As an indicator of a person’s current condition - on a day-by-day basis - the color of the tongue plays a primary role.

+ Dark red, like a visible infection, demonstrates an inflamed state. Further assumptions that can be drawn from this color are that there may be the presence of ulceration or some other degeneration of the related organ.

+ White indicates a general stagnation of blood in the related body area, which may include conditions of excessive fat or mucus. Another potential conclusion is that there is a fundamental blood disorder brewing that may lead to anemia or a similar condition.

+ Yellow indicates a disorder of the liver and gallbladder just as it does when seen in a person’s eyes or skin color. It is also an indication of animal fat deposits and/or possible inflammation. This applies especially to the upper digestive tract, the kidneys, liver and pancreas.

+ Blue or purple indicates stagnation of blood circulation. The conclusion to be drawn from this observation is that there is some sort of serious dysfunction or weak behavior from that portion of gastrointestinal system linked to the portion of the tongue under observation.

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