Dry tongue according to Chinese Medicine

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 dry mouth, dry throat and dry skin in the pattern “Body Fluids 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 five 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.

Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren) is the king ingredient for Xing Su San, a formula used for Body Fluids Deficiency

Body Fluids Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue shape: Cracked

If Body Fluids - all liquids in the body other than Blood - are Deficient, then this leads to many symptoms of Dryness.

In addition to dry tongue, other symptoms associated with Body Fluids Deficiency include dry mouth, dry throat and dry skin.

Body Fluids Deficiency is often treated with Xing Su San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Apricot Seeds - Xing Ren - as a key herb). Xing Su San belongs to the category of "formulas that disperse dryness and moisten", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Dry-Cold".

Read more about Body Fluids Deficiency here

Mulberry Leaves (Sang Ye) is the king ingredient for Sang Xing Tang, a formula used for Dry-Wind

Dry-Wind

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

In addition to dry tongue, other symptoms associated with Dry-Wind include dry mouth, dry throat and dry skin.

Dry-Wind is often treated with Sang Xing Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Mulberry Leaves - Sang Ye - as a key herb). Sang Xing Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear dryness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears and disperses Dryness".

Read more about Dry-Wind here

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

Heat in the Large Intestine

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Full (Shi)

In addition to dry tongue, other symptoms associated with Heat in the Large Intestine include dry stools, constipation and anus swelling.

Heat in the Large Intestine is often treated with Ma Zi Ren Wan, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Hemp Seeds - Huo Ma Ren - as a key herb). Ma Zi Ren Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that moisten intestines and unblock bowels", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Moistens the Intestines".

Read more about Heat in the Large Intestine here

Five herbal formulas that might help with dry tongue

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Why might Xing Su San help with dry tongue?

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

Read more about Xing Su San here

Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Source date: 1573 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Lung and Kidney Yin. Lubricates the Lung and clears phlegm.

Why might Bai He Gu Jin Tang help with dry tongue?

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

Read more about Bai He Gu Jin Tang here

Zeng Ye Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin and Essence. Lubricates Dryness.

Why might Zeng Ye Tang help with dry tongue?

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

Read more about Zeng Ye Tang here

Sang Xing Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears and disperses Dryness.

Why might Sang Xing Tang help with dry tongue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Dry-Wind' of which dry tongue is a symptom.

Read more about Sang Xing Tang here

Ma Zi Ren Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Moistens the Intestines. Invigorates Qi. Unblocks the bowels. Drains Heat.

Why might Ma Zi Ren Wan help with dry tongue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat in the Large Intestine' of which dry tongue is a symptom.

Read more about Ma Zi Ren Wan here

Acupuncture points used for dry tongue

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 Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Xiao Chai Hu Tang for instance.

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

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 Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Zuo Gui Yin for instance.

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

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 Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with dry tongue?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome 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.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with dry tongue?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry tongue as a symptom, like Dang Gui Di Huang Yin or Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here