Of course this just happened. It's springtime. Spring correlates
with the Liver and its interior-exterior partner in crime -- the
Gall Bladder. I'm unfortunately already prone to the ridiculously
difficult to eradicate pathogen known in TCM as "Damp-Heat." My
protective wei qi was still struggling to recover from the exotic
array of assailants it managed to fend off in Central America last
month. "Oh, Juli, did you get Dengue Fever again this year?" "Well,
not that I know of..."
The pathogenic stars had aligned. The signs and symptoms
appeared over the course of 2-3 days. First, it was just a
seemingly innocent wiry Liver pulse. OK, OK, it's springtime; I'm
irritable and I know it. No big deal. A quick tongue check in the
mirror confirmed that yes, of course, I'm teeming with damp heat in
the lower jiao. What would I be without my characteristic tongue
coat? (A healthier person, for one!)
I go about my day only to realize that by afternoon I'm starting
to feel weird. Really weird. There's no valid excuse for the sudden
and growing nausea, accompanied by an intermittent, unilateral
shooting headache that jumped around as if someone was sprinkling
headache pop rocks all over my temples, vertex, forehead, OWW! I
usually don't get headaches, and I'm not usually nauseous. I wanted
to vomit and get further down the road towards recovery. Then the
blurry vision started in, and I noticed I'd been ignoring a
hypochondrial pain all day. And, oh MAN, what is that strong bitter
taste in the back of my mouth? Did I just crack a filling and let
the poison ooze out? Gross. I'm getting dizzy and don't feel like
lifting the phone to call the dentist.
Aaaaaand it finally dawns on me. It's
all over me, from head to toe. I have Damp-Heat in the Gall
Bladder. As I run to the mirror for a tongue progress report, I get
all the confirmation I could ever dream of. There's the Damp-Heat
coating, yep, and now it's grown in size and had two long greasy
arms on display down the sides of my tongue. But, oh no, what…?!
You have to be kidding me. Are thosepurple spotsall over the sides
of my tongue, too? I mentally scanned the other symptoms I'd
noticed over the week, and realized it was true. I also had Liver
Blood Stasis. Great. Hey, it's not like I had anything else planned
for the next few days.
Why do I always get the stubborn pathogenic scenarios? At my
first visit with a doctor of oriental medicine, she struggled a bit
with my diagnosis. Was it yang deficiency? Or, was it yin
deficiency? Maybe it's both. She said I had Spleen deficiency and
Kidney deficiency. Don't forget the Liver Qi Stagnation! Seriously?
I know this is a first-time appointment, but isn't that almost
So, here's when TCM swoops in and saves my holiday weekend.
After doing the dangerous deed of self-diagnosing (never
recommended) on Thursday afternoon, I started in on an
individualized acupuncture treatment plan. Then I repeated it the
next day, too. What points did I use? Don't try this at home, but I
did: LV3, GB43, GB41, GB40, GB34, SP9, LI4, and LI11. Is that
right? Sure, in my limited opinion. Of course, there were more
difficult-to-reach points that I should have added in, but hey, I'm
needling myself here! And judging by the fact that I felt almost
normal again by Friday afternoon, I'm calling it awesome. Sure, I
also made some dietary changes to balance the Damp Heat and give my
overloaded Liver and Gall Bladder a rest from the constant
inundation of delicious fatty foods.
Yes, whole-fat dairy and meat is good for me, generally
speaking, but when my Liver boss and Gall Bladder assistant are
under siege, I have to abstain from the delights of my life. That's
right -- no buttery popcorn this week. Instead, I emphasized the
cooling foods like celery and watermelon, some beverages like green
tea, and I focused on eating really light for a couple of days.
That went surprisingly well, considering I had completely lost my
appetite from the Damp-Heat in the Gall Bladder thing. Western
natural medicine has noticeably compatible suggestions for altering
your diet during the spring to help cleanse and support the Liver
and Gall Bladder. They emphasize a diet of light, sprouty and
shooty foods; must avoid those heavy, greasy foods for a while!
Gall Bladder Springtime
By Saturday, the greasy coated arms of the Damp-Heat beast that
lives on the back of my tongue had receded, as did almost all other
symptoms. I beat you, Springtime. You got me good -- but this time
I was prepared to fight back. Sorry, Spring -- maybe next year!
It's already second
nature. When I see people, I see tongues. I notice when the actor
in the movie on the big screen has a thick white coat. I try to
sneak a peek at my friends' tongues when we're having a casual
conversation. If there's a thick yellow coat, I subconsciously take
a step back and continue our conversation from a safer distance.
I've actually had dreams about analyzing someone's tongue shape,
size, color, and coat.
Why am I haunted by tongues? As a student of acupuncture and
oriental medicine, I've taken classes on how to evaluate various
tongue appearances and use that valuable, albeit gross, information
when formulating a diagnosis about the patient's overall condition.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the tongue and pulse are
integral pieces in the puzzle of health and wellness.
The 2,000 year-old classic "Huang Di Nei Jing", translated as
"The Yellow Emperor's Inner Cannon," offers around 60 quotes about
the tongue. We are instructed to examine the exterior, including
the orifices, in order to gain a clear picture of the interior.
Specifically, the tongue can reveal problematic areas or functional
systems within the body, such as stagnated Liver Qi or an
accumulation of dampness. Not everyone in oriental medicine relies
on the "stick out your tongue" method when diagnosing patients,
though. Different practitioners place a varying amount of
importance on the tongue's appearance. One professor even told us
to treat the tongue appearance as a "tie breaker" if you are
wavering between two diagnoses.
As a result, we students study the tongue diligently, searching
for heat prickles, digging for signs of sublingual dilation. If we
see a thick tongue with a white coat and scalloped edges, we feel
fairly confident suggesting that the patient suffers from Spleen Qi
deficiency. If you see a purple tongue with ventral dilation that
gives you nightmares of giant black caterpillars crawling towards
you, then you check into the patient's Liver Qi stagnation issues.
Unfortunately, what you see in the average person's mouth is a
combination of every diagnosable characteristic you've ever
learned. In other words, it's not as easy as it sounds!
I'll leave you with this tongue conversation that I had today
with my 3-year-old son. Yes, even toddlers are getting in on the
trend of diagnosing tongues these days! Enjoy...
Me: Let me see your tongue, buddy. (I look at the normal
beautiful tongue that only children seem to have.) Thanks, it looks
Him: Thanks, Mom. Show me your tongue now. (I stick out the
mess that we adults always seem to have.) Whoa! Yours looks bad. It
looks like a pirate ship... with windows... and people... and a
volcano... and some beds!
Go ahead...check out some tongue info here: http://www.sacredlotus.com/diagnosis/tongue/
• Jabbing Nerves with Needles
• Mission in Nicaragua
To read older blog posts, scroll to the bottom and click the "Older Posts" button.