Check Your Tongue!

Every morning when you wake up, check your tongue. If you have a tongue scraper, scrape it a few times to get the night time slop off of it. After that, look again. If it is pink you are doing great! Our entire digestive system is reflected on the tongue. It’s the quickest way to see what’s happening on our insides! But you have to know what to look for – so I’ll carry on.

If you see a whitish coating, that is a sign of ama, which means there are toxins in the digestive system. We can get ama for a number of reasons, but mainly because we have weak agni. Agni is our digestive fire and there is plenty that we can do during our daily routine to keep agni strong.

There are different degrees of ama. Ama can show up on our tongue simply because we had a big meal the night before and we are not done digesting it yet! Our biggest screw up is when we eat breakfast because we think we should and then we pile more food on the undigested food, creating a big pile of maldigested goo, which creates yet more ama. Bleh. SO! The best thing we can do when we see that our tongue is white is to fast. We have to let our body catch up to the food we put in it and the only way it can do that is if we don’t give it any more food.

I don’t mean a crazy fast for days. I mean, sipping ginger (or herbal, but ginger is best because it aids digestion) tea and not eating until our tongue turns mostly pink again. It could be a full day or even a couple hours, but let your body catch up. If you try it, I think you will find it fun to watch! When you are really hungry, I bet your tongue will be nice and pink. Try it!

Besides a white coating, there are other things we can look for on our tongue. If there is redness, it can indicate that there is too much heat in the body and that maybe our digestion is TOO hot, therefore burning the food before it gets absorbed to become nutrients. If there are cracks on the tongue, that means a vata derrangement which could be dehydration or not enough oils in the diet. If the tongue is shakey, that is a sign of anxiety and/or fear. If there are little teeth marks on the side, it’s a sign of ama in the colon and/or unabsorbed nutrients.

For more tongue diagrams and other fun stuff, there is a book by Dr. Lad called Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing. It’s a good crash course. Or you can send me pictures of your tongue and we can have a field day. Tally ho!

16 Responses to Check Your Tongue!

  1. […] add ghee to the top (vatas and pittas can have a nice amount of ghee, kaphas have less). If your tongue is not pink (yet, it will be soon), wait to add extra ghee until your tongue is pink. • You can sip herbal […]

  2. […] do you oil-pull as a daily practice? • Wake up • Scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper seven times to get off any night crud, check for ama. If there is ama, do not […]

  3. cajeta says:

    i’ve had all of those my entire life, lol! Cracked, teeth marks, white coating…i was born with really severe asthma and was constantly really sick growing up.
    How do you tell the shaking of the tongue?
    i really enjoy your site!

  4. bint says:

    Hi Monica!

    Thanks for all the great work!

    Is there a ghee recipe on your blog?


  5. Nina Chana says:

    I really enjoyed the information given on the tongue. My tongue is always coated so I will try sipping the CCF waters and giving my stomach a break. I have just suffered from a virus and now have cracks on my tongue – quite painful. What would you suggest

    • Monica says:

      Hi Nina! CCF tea should help your tongue. Cracks indicated dehydration so while water is good, don’t forget about healthy oils and fats too! Between the two, your tongue should be back to normal soon!

  6. Cory says:


    Just noticed that my tongue indicates unabsorbed nutrients. What should I do? Fast? Clean my gut?

    • Monica says:

      Hi! Good question. Well, that’s totally not uncommon. It’s likely from old food-stuffs from hard-to-digest foods like meat, cheese, old veggies. Those undigested foods are hanging around in your colon. Yummy! The treatment would depend on the person and the severity of how long they’ve had this problem. But I can give you a general cleanse you can try. It’s easy, tasty, and I think you will like it.

      For you, you can try a mono-diet of kitchari for 3-5 days (eat nothing else..) and see if they go away. The spices in the kitchari will help digest that old food. If you get hungry for a snack, watery fruits (apples, pears, citrus, but no banana) for a snack are great.

      You can also make some CCF tea (cumin corriander fennel, all seeds) and sip that during the day. Add 1tsp of each and boil for 5 minutes, then strain and drink. You can also drink this room temp. It’s not bad!! It tastes good and clean, I promise! Other herbal teas are great too, feel free to have those also.

      You will poop nice, you’ll feel energized and clear headed. Yoga will help “massage” your innards to help things move along nicely. Be sure to look at your tongue daily and watch it change – you’ll love noticing the difference! Hit me up with questions if you have them! Otherwise, good luck and enjoy the little cleanse.

  7. Brittany says:

    Oh! I didn’t know that fermented things were bad for me, because I was using them for extra probiotics! So, I should even avoid kefir? What about dairy, like milk? I haven’t been drinking milk because of the milk sugars. Also, how do I know what fruits are ok, and not too sweet?

    • Monica says:

      Yah fermented foods are both heating and wet, so they will increase your problem of wet/heat which is a pitta/kapha combo. Good on staying away from dairy for now too. Fruits…you sort of have to know the quality of fruits so choose “astringent” fruits as opposed to sweet – just for now until you feel better. You won’t know what fruits are okay on your own, but I can tell you :) OKAY fruits for you: blueberries, strawberries (I know they are totally not in season right now :/), cranberries (there ya go!), pomegranate, lemon (tridoshic, always okay), cucumber, avocado. NO tomatoes – they are more heating than we realize.

      I don’t know anything about probiotics since that speaks a different language than Ayurveda. I’m an Ayurvedic purist with NO medical background (good and bad I suppose) Lay off yogurt/kefir too until you feel better – it’s also fermented. Oh! You can make a lassi though if you want! That is okay for you.

      If you stop the fermented foods and yogurt, you will probably feel better in no time :)

  8. Brittany says:

    I will definitely try that! I will let you know how it goes. I’ve been dealing with a bunch of issues lately and I’ve decided to not put any more drugs into my body that the docs kept giving out because it was getting me nowhere, except back to the docs office. I find your site very informative, and I’ve been trying to find a way of balancing all of my body issues. I know I left a few comments around your site, sorry for bombarding you!

    Quick Question…Do you have any knowledge of using dosha balancing to help get rid of a possible candida problem? I’ve been thinking I may have candida overgrowth because of the previous medicines.

    • Monica says:

      Yay! Try it for sure. I think your intuition on not taking more drugs is right in harmony with nature. And that’s great!! Your bod is telling you the drugs are not going to solve your problem on a root level. The best thing is that you are actually listening to what your body is telling you and that’s the best place to start to get healthy on your own. No worries on the questions – it’s helpful for others to read as well! Candida problem is yeasty – wet heat. So you will want to avoid all sugars and anything with yeast (breads) until it goes away. Again, it’s hard for me to give you proper instruction without knowing more details about you and your imbalance, but try it for a week or so and see if you feel better. Have warm veggies, rice, quinoa, barley, grapefruit, cranberries, squashes…things aren’t sweet or yeasty. :)

      • Monica says:

        Oops and watch fermented things like pickles, olives, alcohol! Those are heating. No salsa or beer either ;)

  9. Brittany says:

    I’ve been combatting a slight case of dry mouth ever since I’ve got my sinus congestion issues. (the sinus congestion is getting better with aid of a chiropractor). I sometimes get a slight white coating on my tongue, but cannot tell if its from ama or the dry mouth. The white coating tends to get better if I do something like hydrate a lot of chew gum. Thoughts?

    • Monica says:

      Sinus congestion and white tongue are related. There is stagnation which is also causing the dryness. I would recommend sipping ccf (cumin, corriander, fennel, 1 tsp of each in a boiling pot, boil for 5 min, strain & drink) tea in the morning and throughout the day until your tongue clears. It will work pretty fast – you should notice a difference in a day or two. Chewing gum is aggravating for vata and will cause more dryness – so start with the tea.

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