Swollen Tongue

Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use tongue diagnosis to assess the patient in regards to digestive capabilities, Qi (energy), blood quality, nutrient assimilation and excretion. Tongue diagnosis is a tool used to assess a patients weaknesses and strengths. A practitioner will perform tongue diagnosis by looking at the color, shape and coating. A healthy tongue is a reddish/ grey color and should appear moist and clean after eating food. The tongue is an indicator of the state of the digestive system and the organs associated with digestion from the rectum to esophagus including the stomach, small intestines, colon (large intestines), pancreas, spleen, liver and gallbladder. It reflects the health and activity of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract.


A tongue which appears swollen, puffy or engorged can be related to a spleen qi deficiency and more commonly liver congestion (Liver Yang excess) and a decrease in its ability to actively detoxify wastes from the body. This results in an accumulation of wastes in the circulation and the tongue may swell due to congested blood. This causes the swelling of the tongue and is linked with excess heat/ fire production in the liver if it is burdened due to dirty blood.

SYMPTOMS OF SPLEEN QI DEFICIENCY – a pattern of illness in Chinese medicine linked to such symptoms as bloating, gas, and indigestion.

SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH A DECREASE IN LIVER FUNCTION are skin inflammation, biliousness, indigestion, acid reflux and constipation.

Each individual organ needs balance between the energies of Ying and Yang, this is a sensitive balance and often foods, diet, lifestyle and supplements can influence each organs behaviour. In Chinese Medicine the liver governs muscle contraction and integrity of connective tissue (tendons, ligaments and cartilage). An excessive storage of Yang in the liver results in liver heat and overstimulation (too much energy). This is also a Yin organ however if there is excessive Qi/ heat stored in the liver the production of heat causes many symptoms of irritability. The gall bladder and digestive system are influenced by the heatlh and balance of the liver and you may also be presenting with digestive sensitivity also. You need to clear the heat and promote Liver Yin to cool the organ down and relieve complaints of excess.

Fortunately the cells of the liver are able to regenerate (up to 2/3) if the health of an individual is improved. The primary function of the liver is to liberate toxic wastes from the circulation and
eliminate them from the body. Improving the health of the liver will ensure that this organ can properly perform this task as well as others such as blood cleansing, production of bile (digestion of fats), cholesterol (synthesis of hormones) and proteins, processing of nutrients via digestion and producing new energy via glycogenesis.


Symptoms of excessive Liver Yang include:
– inflammation
– red tongue
– digestive sensitivity
– intolerances
– skin irritations
– heat
– redness
– excessive perspiration
– diarrhea
– digestive reflux and indigestion
– malabsorption problems
– inflammatory bowel conditions
– allergies
– fatigue
– strong emotions (irritability and anger)


  • Betaine found in beetroot, spinach, grains and shellfish contains enzymes to support liver function and raise S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) – a potent liver anti-oxidant needed to detoxify
  • Start each day with some warm water and lemon juice
  • Introduce vegetable juices such as carrot, celery, beetroot and ginger as these will help to cleanse the blood and support liver function
  • Drink plenty of filtered water and herbal teas such as Dandelion, Burdock, Chicory, Red Clover, Chamomile, Ginger and Peppermint as these teas may assist with digestion and increase liver processes
  • Take 5ml of Apple Cider Vinegar 15 minutes prior to meals especially if you suffer from any digestive complaints such as reflux or constipation. Apple Cider Vinegar is a bitter and may help to increase digestive capabilities
  • Herbs such as St Marys Thistle, Dandelion, Gentian, Fennel, Bupleurum, Globe Artichoke and Meadowsweet, have been used for centuries to increase the effectiveness of the livers detoxification processes
  • Eat protein at every meal and increase vegetables as a source of carbohydrates. Reduce animal protein consumption as this may slow down bowel transit time, instead choose quality protein sources, such as tofu, eggs, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Introduce super foods into the diet such as Barley Grass, Wheat Grass, Spirulina or Chlorella as these foods are rich in chlorophyll, which is a blood cleanser
  • Use ginger and garlic in your cooking
  • Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, using as many green and yellow vegetables. Fruits such as pineapple, banana and paw paw will also help digestion
  • Use oils and balsamic vinegar on salads such as cold pressed virgin olive oil, olives, avocado, unsalted raw nuts and seeds
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, drinks containing caffeine, cordial and sugary drinks and soft drink
  • Don’t eat late at night
  • Avoid Dairy foods such as milk, butters and yoghurt
  • Avoid Yeast and breads made from gluten flours such as wheat, rye, oats, barley, kamut and spelt
  • Avoid foods containing sugar and glucose
  • Avoid Refined, processed and tinned foods and also preservatives (includes dried fruit containing sulphur preservative 202)
  • Avoid saturated fats, trans-fatty acids (margarine, butter, deep fried fatty foods, cakes, biscuits, canola oil)


  • The amino acids Taurine, Cysteine and Carnitine may improve the functioning of the liver in its role of detoxification thereby reducing inflammation. Foods which contain these nutrients are avocado, beef, chicken, fish, milk, cottage cheese, eggs, sardines and animal protein
  • Herbs such as Globe Artichoke, St Marys Thistle, Bupleurum, Golden seal Dandelion, Garlic, Green Tea, Grape Seed, Cordyceps, Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum), Rhubarb, Chamomile, Golden Rod, Spirulina, Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) improve liver function, triglyceride digestion and detoxification
  • B Vitamins, Choline, Folic acid, Inositol – all essential nutrients for the production of the amino acid Methionine another potent liver detoxifier
  • Anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, Zinc and Selenium – may help to reduce inflammation and also provide hepatoprotective (liver protective) effects
  • If constipation is a problem for you, using supplements with Acidophilus, aloe vera juice or slippery elm and psyllium may help to keep you regular


  • Choose organic foods over non-organic food sources as these are grown using pesticides and chemicals, which will adversely affect any detox program
  • Make healthier diet choices for a long term change not just a two week liver detox
  • Consider a long term liver and bowel cleanse
  • Avoid cigarette smoking and the use of recreational drugs