Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Tongue Diagnosis Pattern Found For HIV

Acupuncture and herbal medicine are used in the treatment of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) patients to alleviate suffering. HIV shows on the tongue body and coating according to New York University researchers. Licensed acupuncturists commonly use tongue diagnosis. A recent study of 159 patients by New York University researchers reveals that HIV patients demonstrate common tongue diagnosis signs. Tongue diagnosis is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to evaluate a patient’s health. 

Tongue diagnosis involves the inspection of the color, shape, size, texture and coating of the tongue. In TCM, this is used during differential diagnostic procedures. Tongue diagnoses help to determine the health of the internal organs. Tongue diagnoses are also helpful in determining if there are pathogenic factors affecting patients. 

The New York University study of tongue diagnostics was part of a randomized, double-blinded, controlled clinical trial investigating the treatment of chronic nausea. The study was conducted in New York City (NYC) at a large academic health facility and consisted of 159 patients with HIV infections and chronic nausea. 


The researchers check for 7 tongue characteristics: color, shape, body quality, coat color, coat weight, coat surface and tongue action. A general pattern emerged. The researchers note, “The overall tongue picture seen in these patients was that the tongue was swollen and toothmarked, had a pink body with cracks, and had a thick, dry white coat.” 


Anastasi, Joyce K., Michelle Chang, Jessica Quinn, and Bernadette Capili. "Tongue Inspection in TCM: Observations in a Study Sample of Patients Living with HIV." Medical Acupuncture 26, no. 1 (2014): 15-22.