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Orange Tongue: Why it happens and what are the best treatments

Updated: Jul 8, 2023

Orange Tongue

A pink tongue should be the normal color, with a thin white coat and regular standard moisture. The Orange tongue usually is an oral yeast infection that occurs when too much of the fungi Candida grows and collects on the tongue, causing the coat to overgrow and turning the color from standard white to yellow or orange.

Why does my tongue look orange?

Oral thrush or Yeast overgrowth can affect patients of all ages. Still, it is more common in those with a poor immune system or those who have been taking medications like steroids or antibiotics, but there are more possible reasons for the Orange tongue. For example, the orange color may come from foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupes for oral decay, excess bacteria, excess acid reflux, etc.

Western Medicine:

- Thrush or Yeast growth

There are many possible reasons for producing oral thrush, from poor oral hygiene to side effects from medications.

Thrush is a condition produced by a buildup of the fungus Candida Albicans on the tongue and gums inside your mouth. It has a white color, cheesy-looking.

There are different reasons why it can turn orange. For example, if the sores bleed, they could give you an orange tongue. Also, it can turn orange for eating foods rich in beta-carotene, like mashed carrots.

Candida is a normal organism that lives in our mouth; the problem is when it gets out of balance and overgrowth. It usually happens to kids or elderly people, and people with a low immune system.

"Oral thrush affects people with a low immune system."

Usually is not a dangerous issue unless your immune system is compromised.

Doctors might prescribe antifungal medications to control the overgrowth of yeast.

- Bacterial infection

Bacterial Infection

Especially in patients with poor oral hygiene, the bacterial balance in the mouth can become compromised, and this can grow out of control producing pigments that turn your tongue into an orange color or even a yellow tongue.

Often orange tongue can be confused with yellow tongue.

To have a healthy tongue, use a tongue scraper and regularly brush your teeth after every meal to remove excess bacteria.

It might be worth it to get professional teeth cleanings regularly to prevent this problem and also to prevent tooth decay.

- Steroid or Antibiotic use

Many medical drugs can affect your immune system, making it unable to fight back or control the overpopulation of normal yeast or bacteria. Medications like prednisone, inhaled corticosteroids, or antibiotics that disturb the natural balance of microorganisms in your body can increase your risk of oral thrush.

These medications may affect oral health and cause the tongue to turn orange.

- Stomach Acids

Not specifically orange tongue, but conditions that produce inflammation of the gastric lining, like GERD or Acid Reflux, make yellow tongue coating. In addition, many studies are proving that a yellow, thickened tongue coating appears in chronic cases of gastritis, mainly when caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.

This condition definitely would change the tongue color.

- Dry Mouth

Severe dry mouth prevents bacteria balance and also can give you an orange tongue, causing the tongue to have an orange coating.

- Diabetes

Diabetes is another common underlying medical condition that can produce an orange tongue. In addition, an excess of glucose in the mouth will easily induce the overgrowth of oral thrush, which may turn your tongue orange.

Tongue Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine:

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, observing the tongue is one of the most important ways of diagnosis. We observe the body tongue colors, the body shape, the coating color and characteristics, and the moisture of the tongue.


Body Tongue Color:

A healthy human tongue color should be pale red and reflect the state of Blood and Nutritive Qi of the Yin Organs ( Spleen, Lung, Heart, Liver, and Kidney).

If your body color is too pale, the patient may have blood deficiency. If you see a purple tongue, that means the patient suffers congestion of blood stasis, and if you find a black tongue would mean a terrible prognosis in the evolution of their health problem. (A black tongue may also appear while taking antibiotics).

Body Shape

The body shape of the tongue would give us information about the Blood and Qi and will reflect the Full or Empty characteristic of the condition. This is essential to prescribe an efficient treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

For example, a thin body shape could indicate a tendency to anemia, toothmarks in the tongue indicate weak digestion, etc.

Tongue Coat Color

The coat of the tongue reflects the state of the Stomach. A normal tongue should have a thin white coating. That indicates that the Stomach is healthy and digesting food properly.

If the tongue has white patches will indicate phlegm accumulation which means a latent infection.

Here is where we can see a tongue orange or the oral thrush. If the patient is using a tongue scraper would be more challenging to diagnose.


Reasons For Having an Orange or Yellow Tongue in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Most of the reasons for Orange - Yellow tongue that we see in Western Medicine have a different explanation in Chinese Medicine and a very effective way to treat it, often with fewer side effects.

Here we see just a few examples of why a patient might have color changes in their tongue and an example of how to treat it with Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture.

Stomach Fire

Clinical manifestation

Nausea, epigastric pain, hiccup, irritability, belching, intense thirst, bleeding gums, bright red tongue with a thick yellow-orange coat, dry stools, GERD, acid reflux, etc.


Drain Fire from the Stomach and promote the normal descending Qi mechanism from the Stomach.

Herbal Medicine

Da Cheng Qi Tang, Qing Wei San, Da Huang Gan Cao Tang, etc.

Chinese Medicinal  Herbs


Li 11 + Li4 clear Heat from Stomach

Sp 15 reduces constipation and helps to reduce heat in the Stomach.

St 34 Xi-Cleft point is very useful in Full Heat conditions like this case.

Ren 11 clears Stomach Heat.


Clinical manifestation

In severe cases of belching, nausea, epigastric pain, and irritability, here we will find tongue regularly with no significant changes. Only in extreme cases will we see red color on the sides of the tongue.


We should move Stomach Qi, dissipate the stagnation, and recuperate the normal descending flow of the Stomach Qi.

Herbal Medicine

Zuo Jin Wan, Ban Xia Hou Po Tang, Chen Xiang, Jiang San, etc.


St 21 + St 19 to promote the descending of Stomach Qi.

Sp 4 + Pc 6 to promote digestion and eliminate stagnation

Gb 34 + Ren 12 to move Qi and eliminate stagnation in the abdomen.

Damp Heat in The Stomach

Clinical manifestation

The patient will have a sticky yellow tongue coating, nausea, epigastrium pain, heaviness, oral thrush, thirst but inability to drink, sticky nasal mucus, and facial pain.

The patient needs to eat healthy food.


The principle of treatment is to clear the Heat, disperse the Dampness and promote the descending of Stomach Qi.

Herbal Medicine

Lian Po Yin or Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan


St 44 to clear Stomach Heat

Ren 12 to tonify Spleen and reduce Dampness

Li11 to remove Heat from Yang Ming

Li4 reduces Heat and promotes normal function of the Stomach

St 40 to reduce Dampness

Ren 9 promotes a correct fluid metabolism and reduces Dampness.

Retention of Food in the Stomach

Clinical manifestation

Discomfort in the epigastrium is relieved by vomiting, nausea, belching, sour taste, and bad breath. In addition, the patient will have a thick coated tongue that often will turn yellow.


We need to resolve food retention and promote the normal descending of Stomach Qi.

Herbal Medicine

The classic herbal remedy for the retention of food is Bao He Wan.


Sp 4 + Pc 6 to stimulate the descending of Stomach Qi and resolve the food stagnation.

St 44 + St 45 to resolve food stagnation, reduce Heat from the Stomach, and calm the mind.

Ren 13 + Ren 10 to move the food forward and promote digestion.

Chinese tea

Come and visit us at Soul Acupuncture & Herbal if you are interested in what Traditional Chinese Medicine can do for you!

We offer complete programs customized for the particular needs of our patients with Chinese Herbal Medicines, Acupuncture, and Nutritional advice.

You will get a personalized plan to help your body recuperate its natural balance and get the best of yourself!


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