(Mibyo) Half-Sick

I would like to introduce the concept of Mibyo. The literal translation of the word is “pre-disease.” It is the period between health and serious disease, when you feel as if something were off, although there is nothing wrong with you clinically. The practitioners of Eastern Medicine take Mibyo quite seriously because the prevention of serious diseases is the best form of medicine.

Traditionally, a feudal lord in Japan had a doctor whose job entailed examining the lords’ stool every day to check the conditions of his digestive system. (I am sorry if you are eating while reading this.) This is of course an extreme example of disease prevention, but the lord’s health affected the livelihood of tens of thousands of people who lived in his province.

Nowadays, none of you (as far as I know) has a doctor checking your stool daily, but your health is as important as the lord’s to yourself, your family, and people around you. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of self-maintenance, especially since all kinds of health information is readily available to everyone. You should take advantage of it and live a full, healthy life. To help you with that endeavor, I would like to show you one of the diagnostic techniques that acupuncturists use to check your health conditions.

Tongue diagnosis is one of the routine examinations to view quickly what is happening in your body. The tongue is a microcosm of the entire body, with each portion of the tongue representing each organ. For example, the tip represents the heart, the middle portion indicates the digestive system, the back (or root) shows the condition of the kidneys and bladder, and the area on the sides between the tip and the middle portion represents the lungs (just like the anatomical locations).

We observe pretty much everything about the tongue: its color, shape, moisture, dryness and furry coating. If your organs are healthy, your tongue should be bright pink, with a thin white coating. There shouldn’t be any cracks on the surface or scalloped shaping on the sides. When you look at your tongue in front of the mirror, you have to be in a natural light, and try to relax your tongue as much as you can. The following are some pointers. I hope they are helpful.


Purple indicates the stagnation of blood in your body. Are you perhaps stressed or lacking exercise? Pale color is indicative of a blood deficiency or the sluggish functioning of organs as a whole. Do you get tired easily? You might need to rest well and nourish yourself with a healthy diet. Red color always means inflammation in the body. If you experience heartburn and your tongue is dark red and swollen, maybe you should adjust your diet to avoid ulcers in the future. Menopausal women often have a red and thin tongue, which means that the body is lacking sufficient body fluids and blood, as a human body becomes drier as one ages. If you experience hot flashes, you should know that acupuncture and Chinese herbs are great natural ways to restore hormonal balance.


It is perfectly natural to have a thin white coating. However, when the coating is so thick that you can’t see the tongue color, you are not digesting food properly. You might want ask yourself if your diet is too high in dairy products. You might have indigestion. Again, acupuncture and herbs can help. When you have a fever, the tongue color becomes yellow. Be very careful when the coating is yellow for a long time and you don’t have a cold or the flu; something is inflamed in your body.


The scalloped shape on the side means that there is excess fluid in the body, which is due to indigestion. If you are also experiencing diarrhea, your digestive system is weakened. Adjust your diet or try acupuncture. When you see cracks, it is good to understand the locations of them (see above), since the cracks appear over the location of the corresponding organ that is not functioning perfectly. If the cracks stay in the same place for a while, there will be a problem with the corresponding organ in the long run.

When the tongue is healthy looking, it means that the organs are well nourished and functioning well. If you want to see a perfect tongue, look at a healthy child’s. Comparing it with yours should give you some sense of what needs to be done to achieve optimal health. If the above is too much information and too much work, please remember one thing: acupuncturists can help your tongue look better and help you live a long, healthy life.