The heart on the sleeve

Jazyk TCM

“She sells seashells by the seashore” - such a tongue twister can give a hard time even to a healthy tongue. But if the tongue burns and hurts, these words can be too tough. How can TCM deal with such a disorder? 

Western medicine recognizes a number of problems with the tongue. Tongue inflammation or glossitis may be manifested by redness of the tongue, which is accompanied by pain, burning and taste disorder. It is rarely a separate disease - it is usually associated with a poor condition of the gastrointestinal tract, or manifests itself in various infectious diseases. Other possible causes include deficiency of iron and B vitamins, irritation of the tongue by thermal and mechanical influences, allergens, chemicals, etc. Rather than a specific treatment, it is recommended to see a doctor to determine the exact origin of the problem and the way of treatment.

 Even in the case of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is of course best to visit an experienced therapist. However, distinguishing between six basic states can effectively help us identify the root cause:


Heart fire 

The tongue is particularly painful at the tip. Other symptoms include aphthae on the tongue, mental unrest and nervousness, especially feeling of bitterness in the mouth in the morning, insomnia, sleep disturbed by wild dreams, feeling hot and red face. The tongue is generally red with a more red tip and a dry yellow coating. 

Fire in the stomach

The painful tongue is accompanied by stinking breath, strong thirst with the need to drink cool drinks, mental unrest, aphthae, gum bleeding, returning sour undigested food, nausea, heat sensations, burning stomach pain, dry mouth and dry stools. The tongue is generally red and covered with a dry and strong dark yellow coating. 

Liver fire

Tongue pain is intensified by headaches and dizziness, tinnitus, irritations and outbursts of anger, reddenedface, dark urine, bitterness in the mouth and thirst. The tongue is especially red on the sides and has a dry yellow coating. 

Fiery mucus in the heart

Pain permeates the tongue and the patient also suffers from mucous in the throat, reddened face, chest tightness, insomnia and wild dreams, nervousness, mental confusion and incoherent speech, hasty or manic behaviour, shouting, thirst and bitterness in the mouth and depression. The red tongue has an even redder swollen tip and a heart groove covered with a sticky yellow coating. 

Insufficiency of the heart yin with empty heat

The tongue pain in this case is rather mild and symptoms include poor memory, anxiety and uneasiness, mental unrest and timidity, inability to fall asleep and wild dreams, feeling of heat in the evening, night sweating, throat dryness especially in the evening, need to sip liquids, heat on the palms, soles and chest. The tongue is red with a deeper tip.


Insufficiency of stomach yin with empty heat

Again, it is a mild pain, accompanied by an afternoon feeling of heat (especially on the palms, soles and chest) and the need to drink constantly, dry stools, gum bleeding, burning or dull pain in the abdomen, dry throat and mouth, feeling full after meals and night sweats. The tongue is either completely red or only red in the centre and uncoated.

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