Ancient Remedies for Modern Lives

Tongue Diagnosis and Tips for Better Health

What is your tongue telling you?

Follow-up to Chinese Medicine tongue diagnosis

By Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc

You’ve stood in front of your mirror and taken a good long look at your tongue…maybe for the first time since you were 10. Then you compared it to the chart show on Chinese Medicine tongue diagnosis. Now what?

China Life Web_tongue_chartHere are some health tips and dietary suggestions for each of the tongue types illustrated on the chart. You will see that some suggestions apply to more than one type of tongue pattern because there are commonalities. And, of course, there are dietary suggestions that are considered good for everyone like eating more frequently, eating smaller meals, chewing your food thoroughly, and avoiding extremely hot or cold foods and beverages, especially ice water. Following these general eating rules leads to more consistent energy, helps the digestive process and allows your body to absorb more nutrients.


Health and dietary tips specific to what your tongue is telling you…

Qi Deficiency

Foods that boost qi include brown rice, asparagus, peas, pumpkin, shiitake mushroom, squash, sweet potato, carrots, tomato, apples, cherries, grapes, almonds, black sesame seeds, herring, mackerel, mussel, octopus, oyster, tuna, trout, chicken, chicken liver, beef, duck, ham, lamb, and honey.

Stay away from raw foods which includes; salads (Instead of salads try steamedveggies), too much fruit, and fruit juices.

How to quickly boost your qi: Breathe deeply because when people are under a lot of stress, they often take shallow breaths. Breathing deep into your diaphragm brings more oxygen into your body and stimulates your qi.

Avoid eating too much food or too little food because either will rob you of enjoying consistent energy.


Blood Deficiency

Blood and qi depend on each other and are closely related so you can use the qi deficiency suggestions as well as the ideas listed below.

Foods that build blood: aduki and kidney beans, almonds, black sesame, mussel, octopus, oyster, sardine, tuna, red meat especially the bone marrow and liver, eggs, parsley, oats, barley, corn, rice, wheat, bran, alfalfa sprouts, artichoke, shiitake mushroom, beetroot, celery, avocado, dark leafy greens (kelp, spinach, kale, wheatgrass), apricots, dates, and red grapes.



Foods that help cool heat include celery, cucumber, seaweed, turnip, bamboo shoots, watermelon, blueberries, cranberries, fig, grapefruit, lemon, lime, pear, kidney beans, crab, octopus, tamarind, grains such as barley, millet, wheat and wheat bran, teas with chrysanthemum, dandelion and peppermint.

Stay away from alcohol, coffee and very spicy foods.

Tips to cool off: Avoid long exposure to excessive heat and do not smoke.


Damp Retention

Foods that help resolve damp conditions are aduki beans, lentils, tuna, garlic, horseradish, nettle, parsley, corn, alfalfa sprouts,  pumpkin, rhubarb, radish, turnip, papaya, lemon, and green tea.

Avoid dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream) fatty meats, fried foods, sugar, orange juice, and bananas.

Stay away from prolonged exposure to damp environments.


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Damp Heat

Many of the suggestions for damp retention and heat also apply to damp heat since damp heat is a combination of the first two.

Additional foods to incorporate when damp and heat exist together are asparagus, celery, Chinese cabbage, blueberries, cranberries, kidney beans, and tamarind.

Avoid spicy pungent foods, alcohol and coffee.


Blood Stasis/ Blood Stagnation

Foods that invigorate blood are chives, cayenne, eggplant, basil, chestnuts, turmeric, cinnamon, adzuki beans, garlic, vinegar, leeks, ginger, rosemary, nutmeg, licorice, and dates

Tip: Try heating your lower abdomen (do not do this if you are pregnant). The area between your belly button and pubic bone is considered your power pack of energy. Heating this area is like igniting your pilot light and encourages free flow of qi and blood throughout the body.


Qi Stagnation

Because blood and qi are so closely linked, most of the blood stagnation suggestions also apply to qi stagnation.

Additional foods to encourage Qi circulation are radish, cardamom, carrots, corn, peas, cloves, and caraway.

Tip: Exercise is important for both blood and qi circulation, get moving!


Yang Deficiency

Foods to boost your yang energy include quinoa, basil, black pepper, cinnamon, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, horseradish, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, star anise, turmeric, mustard greens, onions, radish, squash, sweet potato, turnip, scallions, cherries,  raspberries, strawberries, chestnuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts, anchovy, lobster, mussel, shrimp, trout, chicken, lamb, and jasmine green tea.

Avoid raw and chilled foods, fatty foods, and milk.

Tip: Stay warm! Don’t walk around barefoot and eat warm foods like soups, steamed veggies and stews.


Yin Deficiency

Foods that boost Yin include adzuki, black, kidney and lima beans, coconut milk, sesame seeds, walnuts, clam, crab, oyster, octopus, sardine, beef, duck, pork, nettle, honey, millet, artichoke, kelp, string bean, sweet potato, tomato, water chestnut, yam, zucchini, apple, apricot, avocado, banana, lemon, lime, mango, pear, pineapple, pomegranate, and watermelon.

Avoid  caffeine, alcohol, sugar and strong pungent spices.

Tip: Take time out to nourish your yin energy. Yin is considered, calm, nurturing and cool, so be sure to take time out for yourself. Try meditating 10 minutes a day, take a yoga class or another activity that nourishes your calmer energy. Nighttime is when yin is at its strongest so, don’t stay up late…or at least not too late.


 About The Author

Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc

Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc

Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois, since 2002. Dubowsky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from University of Illinois in Chicago and her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colorado. During her studies, she completed an internship at the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing, China. Dubowsky has researched and written articles on Chinese medicine and has given talks on the topic. She maintains a popular blog about health and Chinese medicine at Acupuncture Blog Chicago. Adventures in Chinese Medicine is her first book. You can find her at – See more at: Chinese Medicine Tongue Diagnosis. Tongue chart kindly provided by China Life.