Why Acupuncturists Look at Your Tongue

Picture of a normal tongue from acupuncturist's chart : pink red tongue with thin white coatWhy do acupuncturists look at your tongue?

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine began thousands of years ago. The early practitioners had no x-rays, no blood tests, no easy way to find out what was going on inside the body. But they did have the tongue.

Your tongue is in your mouth – inside your body – but it’s visible from outside. It’s the only muscle you have which isn’t hidden by skin. What’s more, it doesn’t hurt or harm you in any way to show someone your tongue. That’s an important factor for holistic healers like me who want to make things better, not worse.

If you look at them, tongues are actually very varied. Here’s a chart I still have from when I studied acupuncture. Everyone’s tongue is different! And if you look at your tongue once a day for a week or so, you’ll find your tongue changes over time too. That’s what makes it such a good way to look at your overall health.

Here’s a chart I got as an acupuncture student which shows a wide range of tongues – none of them healthy except the one at top left!

Tongue chart with photos showing how the tongue looks for various conditions.

Main elements of tongue diagnosis

There are three main elements acupuncturists consider when they look at your tongue – its shape, its colour and the coating on it.

Tongue Shape

Is your tongue long and thin, Diagram of tongue showing which parts relate to which part of the bodyor shorter? Is it stiff, or does it move easily? Can you touch the tip of  your nose? (Only some of us can, but it’s always fun to watch kids trying!)

If your tongue is swollen, it might be because your fluid metabolism is off-balance, which can affect your emotions.

Or maybe the coating of your tongue is cracked, meaning heat or dryness. What that means depends on the size, quality and location of the cracks. Just like the foot, different parts of the tongue relate to different parts of your body. So when an acupuncturist or Chinese medicine practitioner examines your tongue, they can tell which part of your body is out of balance.

Tongue Colour

A deeper colour in the tongue means more heat. That might mean inflammation, infection or hyperactivity in one organ.

If your tongue is very light in colour, you may have the opposite problem. Often it means your immune system is low. That’s often a result of overstress and overwork. It often happens if you’re having chemotherapy too – the chemicals take a lot out of your body and it shows!

Tongue Coating

There’s a number of things to look at here:

  • How thick is the coating?
  • What colour is it?
  • Is it consistent across the whole tongue or does it have spots?

When an acupuncturist looks at your tongue, they assess all these things. As for me, I work holistically so I often find out many things simply by asking you. But sometimes your body knows better than you do what the problem is, so checking your tongue can be really useful.

Also just for fun, check out this article about Miley Cyrus’ tongue. It certainly shows how one person’s tongue can change when their health does!

So if your tongue feels or looks different, get in touch. It might mean you need to tackle a serious health issue.

Picture of a bright red crimson tongue without coat (mirror tongue), symptom of severe internal heat damaging the Yin, Yin deficiency
Symptoms may include strong emotion, fatigue, insomnia
Picture of a red tongue with red spots on the tip, yellow thick coat symptom of heat, fire or toxicity accumulation
Symptoms may include insomnia, burning pain, strong emotions
Picture of a pale tongue with thin white coat, symptom of spleen Qi deficiency or Yang deficiency with cold retention
Possible symptoms: lack of energy, fatigue, bruising and sweating

Acupuncture for Menopause – as part of a Holistic Natural Treatment Plan

Woman Balancing during Menopause
Achieving Balance Naturally during Menopause

Menopause affects all women, so of course there’s great interest in treating it naturally. And the best natural treatment is a combination of acupuncture, aromatherapy and massage. All three are equally useful in very different ways. Let’s start with a quick discussion of acupuncture for menopause.

Why use acupuncture for menopause?

When we use acupuncture, what we’re doing is balancing the body’s energies a bit like giving  your car a tune up. The is usually a bit topsy turvy during menopause, because there’s so much change going on.

The main meridians used in acupuncture for menopause are the liver and the spleen. It’s interesting to look at the emotions they relate to.

  • The liver is associated with anger and frustration – and we’re all quite aware that menopausal women have a reputation for being a little angry sometimes!
  • The spleen is even more interesting. We have the phrase ‘to vent your spleen’ meaning to get rid of anger, but in acupuncture, the spleen is actually associated with the emotion of worry.
    Potentially the link here is that you might be worrying about your life and your future and how things are changing. For many women, menopause is a time of change – almost the end of an era. You lose the capability of having children, something which many women think is just core to being a woman. So it’s easy to worry about your purpose in life after menopause. Often it is a time of the empty nest & finding new life, lifestyle, child free which may have been the main purpose of living for many woman.

In case you’re wondering, Western scientific research has confirmed the value of acupuncture in managing menopause.

Other natural treatments for menopause

Geranium oil for hormonal balance

Moving on from acupuncture, aromatherapy is very useful during the hormonal changes of menopause. Many of the essential oils will help with settling  your hormonal balances and making you calmer. A great oil to use for this kind of thing is geranium oil. Geranium is good as both a hormonal balancer, it is also good for balancing oily/dry skin & helps with emotional balance when on the “roller coaster” ups & downs in life.

Sage tea to treat night sweats

Interestingly one thing I should mention is sage tea. I like to get mine in bulk from the Indian Herb and Spice Shop, but you can also get sage tea in most health food shops.

Use sage tea specifically to treat hot flashes and night sweats. I remember one client who had the most terrible night sweats. She didn’t have very many hot flashes in the day but she was soaking the bedsheets every night, having to get up and change them. I gave her a number of treatments, including aromatherapy and acupuncture for her menopausal symptoms, then I provided her with sage tea to take home as well. Within two to three weeks, her night sweats were gone. Of course she still had to change the sheets sometimes, but only the way all of us do! It was a very effective treatment.

Another thing I do for menopausal patients is to put together a cream with a number of ingredients. It includes wild yam, which has natural progesterone. According to Dr. John Lee, most doctors give women oestrogen for bone density loss that is common at this time, where what they need is progesterone. As long as you take natural progesterone, your body can convert it to oestrogen, if needed. Whereas synthetic progestins in HRT can’t be converted.

Finally, I use some balancing aromatherapy oils at this time – geranium, rose, lavender, a bit of rosemary for remembrance, and maybe a bit of clary sage (the natural high oil).

Reducing forgetfulness

The rosemary gives another link to using acupuncture for menopause here – because the spleen meridian is associated with memory as well as worry. We all know that one of the things women experience in menopause is absent mindedness – a loss of short term memory. They find it hard to keep up with the multitude of different things that they have to keep in their heads the whole day multi-tasking.

Thyroid issues and weight gain

Another common issue during menopause is weight gain. This is often related to an underactive thyroid. So how do we treat thyroid issues naturally?

Metaphysically the thyroid is about starting to do what you want to do with your life instead of sacrificing yourself for family. Menopause is a time when a lot of women rediscover themselves and spread their wings. It’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. It can be painful and you may need some help through the immediate symptoms of menopause, but any time of change is a time of opportunity.

And finally…

The more balanced you are, the better you are with your diet, your life, and your lifestyle, the better! The most balanced women experience far less extreme symptoms as they go through menopause. If that’s you, congratulations and keep it up! Or maybe, like so many of us, menopause has you a bit out of control? That’s fine too. We all need help at some stage of our lives – and that’s often menopause, because of all the change going on. But we’re all still different. That’s why I like to spend a bit of time discussing you, your concerns,  your experiences, so I can work out a treatment just for you.

If you’d like a personalised treatment of aromatherapy, massage and acupuncture for menopause, just get in touch. I’d love to help you feel better. About the world. And about yourself.

Natural Treatments for Depression

Picture of stone angel bowed down with despair, next to a floating sculpture of Winged hope
Release the pressure of depression and fly free again!

Over the years I’ve had a good number of people come to me with depression and depression-related symptoms. So today I’m looking at the best natural treatments for depression.

Association of depression with the liver

Depression, according to one mind-body and connection expert, is caused by anger. Anger because you don’t have what you want. Anger at the difference between your ideal of how your life should be and your reality. So it’s a matter of looking at where in your life this is the case and empowering you to look at the particular problems causing your depression, then helping you to address those issues. That’s the metaphysical point of view.

From an acupuncture point of view, suppressed liver energy is often a trigger for depression. Which is funny because the emotion of the liver is anger and frustration.  So the metaphysical and the acupuncture theory align very well.

Western scientific studies also support the idea that acupuncture can assist with managing depression.

Then there’s herbal remedies like St. Mary’s Thistle, which is very good both as a liver protectorant and a liver detoxifier.  So many natural treatments for depression are about the liver.

The importance of diet and stress management in managing depression

A lot of people these days are eating too much or drinking too much. There are also a lot of toxins in the food that we eat, or in the environment. So I try to inquire about diet and I may recommend dietary changes as well. Sometimes people only come for an hour, so it can be too much to cover. Of course if people are having a longer treatment, or if they’re having a sequence of treatments, then we can deal with different things as part of our holistic course of treatments.

If there isn’t time to discuss diet in detail, it’s always worth considering a multi-vitamin. Stress can deplete vitamins in the body, especially the B-vitamins. Modern lifestyles filled with junk foods are vitamin-deficient..

Why acupuncture and massage work as natural treatments for depression

When you treating depression holistically, you can see how the mental and emotional stuff goes down to the physical body. It gets locked in certain places depending on what you’re feeling. If it’s in the shoulders, you’re feeling overburdened. If it’s the right shoulder it’s concerning all that needs to be done. The left shoulder, by contrast, is connected to your creative, nurturing side. If the neck stiffens up, then you’re seeing things in a certain way and other people are trying to implement another way of doing things. So the tensions get caught in various parts of your body and manifest according to where you’re mentally and emotionally stressed with what’s happening in your life. That’s where the acupuncture and massage come in.

Looking at natural treatments for depression, there are some very good essential oils too.

  • Clary sage is one of the most euphoric and antispasmodic oils, and very relaxing.
    Bergamot is another good one.
  • There’s also rose. Rose is the most balanced between the branches, the roots, and the leaves. It feeds the heart, plus it’s hormonally balancing and quite uplifting.
  • Frankincense is a good oil to use in treating depression too. In the olden days, frankincense cast out evil spirits – in today’s time, it casts out negative thoughts & helps people go into a meditative space.

How many treatments will you need for depression?

As a general rule, depression is quite hard to solve with one treatment. The number of treatments needed depends on how long and how badly depressed you’ve been. It’s always a very individual thing.

There are times when no one can cure depression. All you can do is manage it. The circumstances causing the depression may be too complex, or impossible to resolve.  For example, I had one client who was in a very bad family situation.  She came from a culture with arranged marriages and her parents had actually given her to one of her cousins, but something happened and she ended up with his brother. Only she had an affair with the one that she was supposed to marry in the first place and had an illegitimate child too. Then there was another falling out with the family some years later, and some money issues… Unsurprisingly, she was suffering from very severe depression. She would come for a few treatments, the depression would be resolved, and then new family issues would come up. But her situation was quite extreme.

For her, the treatment included acupuncture and massage – and a lot of counseling. A lot of hugs.

My practice is truly holistic and treats the whole person, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. When you’re using natural treatments for depression, it’s important to have a space where people can open up. So they can share stuff they can’t share with other people – because they know you’ll keep it truly confidential. Of course it may take a few treatments to reach this stage, but it’s a good feeling when clients trust me. And it helps me to help them.


Getting the best treatment for you

It’s important to remember that depression is very individual. The best treatment depends on your circumstances. What’s happening in your life. How you react to it. Even Western medicine recognises this – there are so many different medications out there. Doctors will often try you on two or three different ones before they find one which works, which can take ages. By treating depression with natural therapies, not only do you avoid all those medications upsetting your own personal balance, much of the time you experience relief from depression much more quickly.

If you’re feeling depressed or down, why not consider natural therapies? Some things you can try at home – like changing your diet or using essential oils. If you need more, contact me to book some treatment.

Acupuncture Side Effects – What You Need to Know

Model head showing acupuncture pointsA lot of people who haven’t had acupuncture are scared about the side effects.

If that’s you, there’s no need to worry. Acupuncture side effects exist, but they are very minor. Read the list and you’ll see what I mean.


People often associate acupuncture and needles with the doctor’s hypodermic. So they think of them as being very painful. In truth, acupuncture needles are extremely fine. If they’re inserted properly, mostly they’re totally painless. Occasionally you feel something, but it’s just like a little mosquito bite at the worst.

Lots of people are scared of needles – me included! When I first studied acupuncture, my main fear was because I hated needles myself. How was I going to stick needles into other people?

I remember the very first person who actually asked me for acupuncture.

As far as I’m aware, he’d never had acupuncture anywhere else. I was still studying. I had my 2-year old son running around the place, and this man was lying on my  couch ready to go.  He was my very first acupuncture client, so I was a little bit nervous.

Then he said, ‘You’ve done practicals at college, haven’t you?

And I said, ‘No. No I haven’t.

But he still let me treat him, which was very brave of him. And it turned out great.

I gave him four or five treatments in all. He’d been having knee problems – and he was a painter who had to be up and down ladders all the time. Sometime later he dropped in and told me that he didn’t have knee problems any more. So even for two complete newbies, it worked!

Other Feelings When the Needles Go In

When the needle goes in, usually you don’t feel it. Sometimes you might get like a little mosquito bite or a twitch. There are some other things which can happen too.

Numbness, cold or heaviness

Sometimes you get a numb feeling. A heaviness, heat or cold.

That numbness and heaviness can feel like you’ve been anaesthetised. In China they actually do operations on people when they are fully  conscious. Just using acupuncture rather than an anaesthetic drug. This is particularly good for older people who would not tolerate an anaesthetic or if say the surgeon is working on the brain & needs the patient to be conscious & give them feedback. Obviously, acupuncture doesn’t have the same risks of anaesthesia. Or the after effects when an anaesthetic drug is wearing off.

Shocks and tingling

Sometimes you get a feeling a bit like an electric shock.

This can happen if the energy’s blocked in a meridian and you put a needle in a specific acupuncture point that gets the energy moving again. You can get a shoot of energy in that meridian which feels like a little electric tingle.

If you do get that little shock, it usually goes away. Sometimes after a treatment, people feel those little tingles of energy. It’s because things are very different in the meridians. The energy is starting to flow again, so you might be more consciously aware of that.

But all things that you might feel, none of them are actually harmful.

Just by the way, all the needles I use are sterile and individually packaged. I only use each needle once. So you don’t need to worry about cross-contamination either!

Acupuncture Side Effects After Treatment

Bleeding or Bruising

On occasion an acupuncturist can hit a vein or a blood vessel. Sometimes it bleeds. You might end up with a haematoma or a small bruise where you’ve hit a vein, but that should usually clear within a short period of time.

So just be careful if you’re having needles in the face and they might show! Or you might not be worried. On the rare occasions I’ve seen this, the mark has been tiny.

You’re more likely to get bruise marks if your acupuncture treatment includes cupping. Cups are rarely used where the marks will show. I do have cups but I very rarely use them, so there’s little risk of that in my practice. You can always discuss this with your acupuncturist.


You can end up tired as a side effect of acupuncture. Ideally it’s good if you can go home and have a bit of a rest and relax. If you can just go with the flow, it lets the energy systems readjust.

Of course, the tiredness may just be because you were tired already but you haven’t admitted it to yourself.

So many people these days are pushing themselves to do more and more and trying to keep up with more and more. The adrenals are pushed to the utmost. The energy systems are pushed to the utmost. Sometimes what they really need is just to rest and relax, but they are unable to or don’t give themselves the time to do so. If a treatment helps you allow yourself that time, it’s another good acupuncture side effect!



That’s it for acupuncture side effects. There’s nothing dangerous, there’s really very little chance of discomfort. In my experience, pretty much everyone feels wonderfully relaxed afterwards.

So my suggestion is, come along and give it a go. For first timers, just make sure you haven’t got anything too serious or demanding set up for afterwards, so you can see what it does for you.

Acupuncture for Fertility – My Personal Experiences

pregnant lady holding baby clothesAnxiety and stress are common for women who are having difficulty conceiving. For that reason alone, I believe in acupuncture for fertility problems. If your body is more relaxed, you are more likely to conceive.

It certainly worked for Bianca.

She came to me in June 2015 after a series of miscarriages and IVF treatments. Now, in April 2016, she’s at home with her baby girl, born last month.

Please note, though, that western scientific studies have not found evidence that acupuncture itself improves fertility. There are studies showing it improves the success of IVF, and research is ongoing.

What are the generally received theories around acupuncture and fertility?

Acupuncture works on the energy systems of the body. It’s not just qi, it’s also blood circulation. The whole aim of acupuncture is to release blockages.

Better flow of blood and qi in general means less stress. There’s also a suggestion that acupuncture may improve blood flow to the uterus, release blockage in the female organs and boost the ovaries.

I still remember my very first acupuncture patient who became pregnant, nearly 20 years ago. I was actually treating her for back pain at the time! She was quite a large lady, with 2 prolapsed discs. She was booked in for IVF, and when she went to the doctor, he told her she was already 7 months pregnant! Imagine her surprise! He asked what she’d been doing, and the only change she’d made to her life was the acupuncture with me.

Another interesting case is women who have been on the Pill, but now want to become pregnant. The Pill suppresses the body’s natural hormones and rhythms. Even when you stop taking it, your body is out of sync. Acupuncture can help to realign the body and get natural cycles going again.

Is acupuncture alone enough to treat fertility?

There’s no solid evidence that acupuncture alone can overcome infertility issues – the story of my first patient is just one story and it could be chance! But it’s not really the right question to ask for my approach. As a holistic healer, I aim to treat the whole person, using my training and experience across many therapies.

When patients want help conceiving or bearing a child, I need to know all about them. So many factors affect fertility. Weight. Lifestyle. Diet. Regularity of the cycle. Even how long you’ve been trying to conceive – it affects your stress and your hormones.

Understanding all of these means I can develop a personal plan for you the whole person. Acupunture is likely to be a big part of that. But it may also include massage, aromatherapy, dietary changes and other treatments.

By the time someone comes to me for help with fertility, they are in serious need. Why not do everything possible to help them conceive?

Can you have acupuncture while you’re having IVF?

Acupuncture can be used alongside just about any treatment. It doesn’t interfere or interact in the way a drug might! So combining acupuncture and IVF is just fine. In fact, acupuncture can help manage side effects of the IVF drugs. Some studies say it improves IVF success rates, but the numbers don’t add up to certainty yet.

IVF can be quite demanding for the body. All those injections and hormones. It’s not cheap either. While it works for some, I wish more people were aware of natural alternative treatments and tried those first.

Many of my clients using acupuncture for infertility have come to me after IVF failed. Either the egg didn’t implant, or they miscarried.

Should you continue acupuncture once you’re pregnant?

One lady had lost IVF twins at around 4 – 5 months. She was devastated. After a few treatments with me, she stopped coming. A year or so later I met her by chance – with her little boy! She explained that she had fallen pregnant when I was treating her, but had been afraid to come back for fear the acupuncture might harm her baby.

She shouldn’t have worried!

Think back to that first client of mine – the one I was treating for back pain. She went on having acupuncture treatments right up till she was 7 months pregnant and her child was just fine!

Of course if you do conceive, please do tell your practitioner. I’d far rather know because then I can tailor your treatment to look after both you and your baby as well as possible. Some acupuncture points are not recommended during pregnancy. Using other acupuncture points can help carry your baby safely to term.

So if you’re considering acupuncture for fertility issues, remember these key points

  • Acupuncture doesn’t interfere with any other treatment like IVF.
  • It reduces stress – and if you’re more relaxed your body can cope with other treatments better.
  • It’s perfectly safe when you’re pregnant.
  • It’s best when it’s used with other treatments in a holistic approach.

For more information about acupuncture and other natural treatments for infertility, just get in touch.

By the way, there’s another funny story about Bianca. She and her husband didn’t want to know the sex of their baby before birth. But her mother-in-law did. She wanted to start knitting! So I took Bianca’s kidney pulse. It indicated a girl – just as her body shape did. I was able to email Bianca’s mother-in-law and tell her in advance, while keeping the surprise for the happy parents. And little baby Mia has plenty of pink woollens to keep her warm.

Do Acupuncture Treatments Hurt?

Acupuncture TreatmentsOne of the most frequently asked questions from those who are new to acupuncture treatments is about pain. Since an acupuncture treatment involves the use of acupuncture needles, people frequently ask the question, “Do Acupuncture reatments hurt?

The answer to the question about whether acupuncture treatments hurt is… Acupuncture treatments should be painless if the acupuncture practitioner knows what he/she is doing!

Mostly acupuncture doesn’t hurt because the needles used for acupuncture treatments are very fine. Quite often people say they don’t feel the acupuncture needle going in at all, even if they usually have a low threshold of pain.

Sometimes people say that when the acupuncture needle is inserted it feels like a mosquito bite. Sometimes when the needle is inserted into a blocked meridian, you might feel something that feels like a little electric shock. That’s a good sign because it means the energy that was blocked has started to move.

As a comparison, the external practice of acupressure is often more physically painful than an acupuncture treatment using needles.

More About Acupuncture Treatments:

How Does Acupuncture Work?

It’s a common question from those new to alternative healing. ‘How does acupuncture work?’

Great question! Let’s answer it.

What is acupuncture treatment like?

Acupuncture means needles. Most of us don’t like them! But don’t worry. Acupuncture needles are extremely fine. So they don’t hurt.

A few people get tiny twinges. That’s good! It means the needle released a blockage.

Needles must go into the correct acupuncture points. There are hundreds of points. Acupuncturists study for years to learn them. (The UTS course takes 4 years.)

Acupuncture is drug-free. You lie on a massage couch and rest. Most people find it relaxing. We usually combine acupuncture with massage and aromatherapy. Even more relaxing!

The traditional Chinese view of how acupuncture works

Chinese medicine uses the concept of qi, or energy. Qi flows round the body on pathways called meridians. Acupuncture points lie on these meridians.

Qi helps balance yin and yang forces. If qi is blocked, they are unbalanced. The body is unbalanced. So you get sickness or pain.

Acupuncture clears the blocks. Qi flows through the body and restores health.

‘Western’ explanations of acupuncture

Many studies show acupuncture works. But Western science is still not sure how. Most theories say it stimulates signalling systems in the body. For example:

  • It stimulates the central nervous system. This theory makes sense. Many acupuncture points are near neural transmitters. So the needles trigger neural messages to the brain.
  • It produces endorphins, which reduce pain.
  • It releases opioids. These also relieve pain.
  • It increases blood flow. More red blood cells means more nutrients. Better healing.

Conditions acupuncture works for

So much for ‘How does acupuncture work?‘.

There’s a more important question though.

‘What conditions can acupuncture treat?’

If you ask Western science, acupuncture is effective for:

Also, John Hopkins Medicine says National Institute of Health studies support the use of acupuncture for:

  • Nausea after surgery or chemo
  • Dental pain
  • Addiction
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Tennis elbow
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Low back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Asthma

When you use acupuncture, it may be used alone or in conjunction with conventional medicine. So it’s worth discussing with your doctor.

Do you suffer from one of these conditions? If so, why not try acupuncture? Or a combined treatment? Contact Janene to discuss what’s right for you.