Tongue Assessment: A Key Tool for Understanding Presentation and Choosing Herbs

Larken Bunce, MS

Clinical Herbalist, Executive Director of Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism

Session Description

 Tongue Assessment: A Key Tool for Understanding Presentation and Choosing Herbs: 11 am PST

As we navigate the unknowns revealed by a new virus, it can be helpful to root ourselves in the more familiar landscape of our bodies and our traditional practices. Traditional assessment methods, such as reading the tongue, face or pulse, provide invaluable doorways to our inner terrain, giving us clues about qualities such as moisture and heat, as well as a sense of tension, circulation, tissue integrity, and overall vitality.

With this information, you can better understand the general conditions of your loved ones and clients, as well as the specific patterns of illness they’re experiencing. Tongue assessment can help you select herbs effectively, craft individualized formulas, track their impact, and adapt your approach over time–all with more confidence and success!
This presentation will cover foundational theories of tongue assessment and energetics and guide participants in the basics of selecting herbs and other interventions (food, lifestyle choices) based on tongue presentation, with examples and time for questions.

  • Have you been wondering if your condition would respond best to heating/stimulating or cooling/calming herbs?
  • Are you confused about when it’s time to change up your protocol or which direction to go next?
  • Are you unsure about using “building” herbs, like astragalus, during an acute infection?
  • Are you curious about where you might be in the stages of an illness or how your body is responding to your efforts?

The tongue can be a great guide in answering these questions and more!

Using basic tongue assessment, you can learn to:

  • assess an individual’s qualities of temperature, moisture, tension, tissue integrity, circulation and overall vitality
  • determine broad personal constitution, as well as specific organ function
  • recognize simple patterns and understand appropriate goals to address them
  • match plants (and other strategies) to people based on pattern recognition
  • create individualized and effective protocols for yourself, family and clients

An individualized approach has always been the cornerstone of good herbalism. But, the highly variable and individual presentations of COVID-19 highlight the need for low-tech, effective and time-tested methods of assessing each person’s needs and progress. To this point, tongue assessment–a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine–is currently being used in the assessment of COVID-19 patients in China in hospitals where herbs are also being given. This integrative example reminds us of the value of using all of the tools available to us–both traditional and technological–to improve our collective success.

Basic tongue assessment is relatively easy to learn and apply and can provide a valuable starting point for crafting effective, individualized protocols based on the specific energetic and functional presentations of each client. This is a great opportunity to get started with adding tongue assessment to your toolkit and promises to be interesting and useful for beginners and practitioners alike!

About Larken

Larken Bunce, MS is a clinical herbalist, educator, writer, gardener, and photographer. She is Executive Director and core faculty at Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, which runs a full-time sliding-scale community clinic and intensive training programs spanning self-care to clinical practice. Her current clinical focus is on trauma and somatic studies, informed by ecopsychology and liberation studies. Her practice and teaching draw equally from science and spirit, novel practice and tradition, clinic and garden, reflecting her diverse experiences in over 25 years in the field. She is committed to the ongoing work of social and ecological justice and repair, especially as these relate to herbalism. She holds a Master of Science in Clinical Herbal Medicine, as well as certificates in Zen Shiatsu, Swedish/Esalen Massage, and Mind-Body Skills and will complete her Somatic Experiencing Practitioner training in 2020. Larken is passionate about clinical mentorship, bridging traditional healing models with biomedical sciences, and restoring Nature to culture through herbal medicine. 

Tongue Diagnosis: A Key Tool for Understanding Presentation and Choosing Herbs: 11 am PST