Dry tongue according to Chinese Medicine

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Dry tongue can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like dry tongue here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here dry tongue is often associated with dizziness, night sweats and dry throat in the pattern “Kidney Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause dry tongue.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of dry tongue we’ve identified four herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat dry tongue.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause dry tongue

In Chinese Medicine dry tongue is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

In addition to dry tongue, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and dry throat.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

The Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

When the transportative and transformative functions of the Middle-Burner are damaged (often by Cold), Phlegm-Fluids accumulate in the Stomach and epigastric area. This leads to the symptoms such as the vomiting of watery fluids or splashing sounds in the stomach.

In addition to dry tongue, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine include vomiting of watery fluids, splashing sound in the stomach and feeling of fullness in the chest.

Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine is often treated with Xiao Chai Hu Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Chai Hu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize lesser yang-warp disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer)".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to dry tongue, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and hot flushes.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Vaginal Itching.

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency here

Four herbal formulas that might help with dry tongue

Zuo Gui Yin

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Tonifies the Kidneys.

Why might Zuo Gui Yin help with dry tongue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which dry tongue is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Zuo Gui Yin here

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Why might Qi Ju Di Huang Wan help with dry tongue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency' of which dry tongue is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Why might Xiao Chai Hu Tang help with dry tongue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine' of which dry tongue is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Fluids In The Stomach And Small Intestine include vomiting of watery fluids, splashing sound in the stomach and feeling of fullness in the chest.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang here

Dang Gui Di Huang Yin

Source date: 1640 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Blood. Tonifies Kidney and Liver Yin. Regulates the menstrual cycle.

Why might Dang Gui Di Huang Yin help with dry tongue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which dry tongue is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Dang Gui Di Huang Yin here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat dry tongue

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with dry tongue?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry tongue as a symptom, like Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Zuo Gui Yin for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with dry tongue?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry tongue as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Yin or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with dry tongue?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry tongue as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Yin or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Jujube Date (Da Zao) help with dry tongue?

Because Jujube Date is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry tongue as a symptom, like Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang for instance.

Jujube Dates is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach Qi. Tonifies the Blood. Calms the Shen (spirit). Moderates the actions of other herbs in formula.

Read more about Jujube Dates here

Why might Cornelian Cherry (Shan Zhu Yu) help with dry tongue?

Because Cornelian Cherry is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry tongue as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Yin or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Cornelian Cherries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Read more about Cornelian Cherries here

Conditions associated with dry tongue

Menopausal syndrome