Five colours of tongue: red tongue and deep red tongue

The inspection of tongue is an important diagnostic method in traditional Chinese medicine. Tongue colour is a part of the inspection. Generally there are five colours of tongue. The article is telling about red tongue and deep red tongue.

Red tongue

Red tongue is redder than normal tongue colour, or it may be bright red.

Red tongue indicates a heat syndrome, as heat accelerates the movement of blood.

A heat syndrome may be caused by pathogenic heat or fire which is transformed from the stasis of other pathogenic factors. It is called heat of excess. In the case, the tongue is bright red, and has prickles. Sometimes the coating of tongue may be yellow and thick.

The deficiency of Yin may also cause a heat syndrome. It is called heat of deficiency or fire of deficiency. In the case, the tongue lacks nourishing from Yin fluid. The tongue is bright red, and has little or no coating. The tongue is dry, and sometimes the tongue has cracks.

When the tip of the tongue is red, it generally indicates the fire in the heart. When the two sides of the tongue are red, it generally indicates the heat in the meridian of liver.

Deep red tongue

Deep red tongue is redder than red tongue, or it may be slightly dark.

Deep red tongue indicates the severe syndrome of heat.

In traditional Chinese medicine, during the progression of a heat syndrome, pathogenic heat moves from the superficial position to the deep position, and the illness is from the mild stage to the severe stage. In the beginning, the heat hurts defensive Qi; subsequently it hurts Qi; and then it hurts nutrient Qi, finally it hurts blood. Here Qi is a narrow concept that indicates the Qi that is located in the position between defensive Qi and nutrient Qi. Nutrient Qi can be transformed into blood, so nutrient Qi and blood are often mentioned at the same time. The attribute of defensive Qi is Yang, while the attribute of nutrient Qi is Yin, so nutrient Qi can be called nutrient Yin.

When pathogenic heat stays in the position of nutrient Qi or in blood, and hurts nutrient Qi and Yin, or when heat of deficiency is severe, the tongue is deep red. The colour is deeper, and heat is more severe.

When the deep red tongue has coating, it indicates heat stays in the position of nutrient Qi or in the blood, or the heat of internal organs is severe.
However, if the deep red tongue has little coating or no coating, or has cracks, it indicates severe deficiency of Yin after long-term illness, or severe damage of Yin fluid in the late stage of a heat syndrome. As Guide of Discriminating Tongue, a book written in 1920 by Cao Bingzhang, says, deep red tongue that has lustre but has no coating indicates the loss of stomach Yin, and deep red tongue that is withered and has no lustre indicates the loss of kidney Yin.

published on

updated on

Yike Jiang avatar