The Color of Your Tongue -- What It Means
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October 28, 2009, last updated December 8, 2014

By Arthur Stevens, Contributing Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and
other members of our Editorial Board.]

If the eyes are a window to your soul, then it may be that your
tongue is a window to your health. My tongue is white, what
does this mean? My tongue is black, should I be concerned?
One of the first things we notice in our day is our tongue.  
Standing in front of our bathroom mirror, we almost always
take a quick survey of our tongue landscape.  Most mornings,
the news is good. A healthy tongue is pink with tiny bumps
called papillae.

But sometimes, the news is bad. Or at least, it's puzzling. And
that discovery leads to some of the best clues to your overall
health. The color of your tongue, in a very real sense, is a road
map to your health.  Just by examining your tongue -- as when
your doctor asks you to stick out your tongue and say "ah" --  
can help you identify several possible infections, including in
some cases deadly ones.  For example, oral cancer is most
often found on your lips or your tongue. (Read more about
what causes dark lips and natural remedies for this condition.)

Tongue color, then, is something you should pay close
attention to whenever you brush your teeth.

So, here is a chart of the tongue colors you might see and what
they mean:


Why Your Tongue Is Black

Black hairy tongue occurs when the papillae (tiny nubs) on our
tongue become enlarged and elongated. Black hairy tongue is a
benign condition but it is unsightly and can be distressing.
What causes black hairy tongue?

When we eat normally, we shed tiny bits of the surface of our
tongue, much like we shed a few skin cells when we scrub
ourselves when we have a bath or shower.  Some medical
conditions can cause you to avoid using parts of your mouth or
tongue, and , as a result, a black hairy tongue can appear.  

Medical conditions that can make you avoid using your mouth
and tongue in a normal way include toothaches, abscesses, jaw
dislocations, tongue ulcers, TMJ (temporomandibular joint
disorder also known as jaw popping or jaw clicking),
mouth syndrome and trigeminal neuralgia, a painful condition
also known as polypasia.

Usually conditions which can cause you to avoid exfoliating
your tongue normally are very painful ones such as trigemical
polyphasia. A 2004 report from Dr. W.P. Cheshire of the Mayo
Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida reported a severe case of black
hairy tongue in a patient with trigeminal neuralgia.

Black hairy  tongue can be caused by certain drugs, according
to a 2010 study from Oklahoma State University, Department of
Pharmacy Practice. Antibiotics and drugs which can
dry mouth
(xerostoma) are the usual culprits. (Read more about
remedies for dry mouth.)

Black hairy tongue usually disappears when you resolve the
underlying medical condition. However, a 1990 study from
researchers at Wright State University School of Medicine in
Dayton, Ohio recommend that you brush your tongue gently to
help reduce the appearance of black hairy tongue. Most doctors
recommend meticulous oral hygiene to combat the condition.
(Read more about
how to effectively control the growth of
bacteria  in your mouth.)


Zinc Deficiency Promotes Tongue Cancer Growth?

Chronic zinc deficiency has been associated with rapid growth
of oral (mouth, tongue) and throat cancer, new studies have
found. One study, conducted by researchers from Thomas
Jefferson University and Ohio State University, found that, if
you have low levels of zinc, found that mice that are deficient in
zinc display a unique marker for pre-cancerous inflammation.  
More studies are needed, first because the existing studies are
on lab animals and because the total number of studies that
suggest a link between zinc deficiency and cancer is small.

In the meantime, making sure that you have normal healthy
zinc levels can't hurt. Add foods rich in zinc such as oysters to
your monthly diet.


Tongue Sore?- Causes and 10 Remedies
How to Stop Bad Breath

How to Kill the Bacteria Between Your Teeth

Are Diet Sodas Bad for Your Health?

Foods That Lower Your Blood Sugar /Thrush-Natural Remedies
Sugar-The Disease Connection

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Tongue Color
Food That
Produces Color
What You
Should Do
Brown or Hairy
Brown tongue or
hairy tongue is
caused by poor diet
and, most often, by
poor dental
hygiene. The area
at the back of the
tongue catches food
debris, and over
time, the debris
builds up, causing a
brown or brown hairy
Almost all foods can
potentially cause
brown, hairy tongue.
Brush your tongue
gently with a soft
bristle toothbrush or
a tongue scraper.
Use baking soda on
the brush once a
week. Rinse with
hydrogen peroxide
3% solution, as
control oral bacteria.

For your diet, eat
with fiber and
White, Can Be
Rubbed Off
If the white on your
tongue can be
rubbed off, possible
causes of white
tongue include,
candida albicans
Reduce the sugar in
your diet as much as
possible. In addition
to reducing sugar
itself, reduce refined
carbohydrates such a
white flour, rice,
pasta and starchy
vegetables such as
carrots and corn.
Follow the diet
changes and other
remedies for thrush,
including reducing
the amount of
in your diet to a
bare minimum.
White, Cannot
be Rubbed Off
If the white on your
tongue cannot be
rubbed off, the
causes can be
serious, incuding

-Epstein bar virus
-HIV and AIDs
- dysplasia
-Hepatitis C
-diseases caused by

-chronic ulcerative
- keratosis
- erythematosus
-materials used in
dental procedures
Not diet related
See your doctor
Purple tongue can
be caused, f course
by eating blue or
purple foods.
Serious causes of
ourple tongue
lesions include
Kaposi's sacrcoma,
a form of cancer,

Smoking can also
turn your lips and
tongue purple
If food is the cause,
purple tongue can be
caused by beets,
Kool-aid or other  
colored drinks, and

Some natural
herbalists believe
that purple tonges
circulation or a diet
too high in sugar but
no research studies
have confirmed this
See a doctor to rule
out sarcoma and
other diseases; stop

Red tongue, pink or
magenta  tongue
and geographic
tongue (patches of
red or white looking
like a map) can be
caused by:


-Folic acid and
vitamin B-12
Diets poor in iron,
folic aid and Vitamin
If dietary in origin,
eat foods rich in iron
such as liver and
spinach or condier a
multivitamin with
iron, folic aicd and
Vitami B-12 (Read
more about
causes and
Yellow tongue is
typically caused by
inflammation of the
papillae (the tiny
bumps) of the
tongue. The papillae
reease a substance
called porphyrins,
which is what turns
the tongue yellow.
Yellow tongue
usually goes away
on its own and is
If the discoloration
bothers you, try
gently brushing your
tongue with a
solution that is 1
part hydrogen
peroxide and 5
parts water.
Foods that make you
congested can cause
yellow tongue, such
as milk and dairy.
Other causes



-mouth breathing

Follow the
recomendations  for
reducing congestion

Also, rinse with
hydrogen peroxide
1% solution
Causes include
foods with bismuth,
such as Pepto
Bismol. Serious
causes include black
tongue disease.

If the black tongue
is hairy, it is caused
by same conditions
that produce brown
tongue (see above)
black candy licorice
and products with
bismuth can turn teh
tongue black. Excess
bacteria caused by
food debris also can
turn teh tongue dark
brown or black.
If it is caused by
bismuth products
such as Pepto
Bismol, it is
harmless and will go
away on its own.

If the black tongue
is hairy, use
hydrogen peroxide
rinse and gently
brushteh tongue
with bicarbonate of

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