Your color of the tongue indicates the healthy conditions of your body. It is perfectly fine with a healthy and sound body but with a diseased condition it changes color to signal out abnormality.

Stay tuned with this article to know the wide range of color palate our tongue can transform into to highlight the damage body states.

Getting to know the normal:

Before moving on to the pathological changes, let’s begin with the normal morphology and the functionality of our tongue.

Normal Morphology:

Tongue is a multidimensional organ with no skin and abundant blood supply which imparts it that pinkish red color. The upper surface is rough with uncountable papillae hiding thousands of taste buds among themselves.


This unique organ is not only the organ of taste but is also responsible for talking, engulfing food, chewing and mastication.

Abnormal conditions:

The abnormal body states are first depicted through our tongue but due to its least exposure, we normally ignore the warnings that the changing states of our tongue are being thrown at us by our body. Remember those doctor checkups you use to have…

Many techniques are being used and practiced by doctors and medical practitioners but one of the most reliable and basic one is the general physical examination of the whole body, starting from mouth and tongue. Following features are observed:

  • Color of the tongue
  • Texture
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Moisture

Of these all, color is the most fascinating. The drastic color changes are sometimes alarming and sometimes mild reactions. Let us start with them

1. White

Whitish discoloration is by far the most common and most benign of all the abnormalities. It is mainly caused by infections like

  • Oral thrush- a fungal infection caused by candida albicans
  • Lichen planus- an autoimmune skin rash which may be itchy and painful
  • Leukoplakia- a benign condition of the tongue caused by chewing tobacco and other such products. With time, this can also convert into cancerous growth if not checked.

2. Blue:

A subtle and calming this color might seem, but a blue tongue is a red signal of emergency. It is an indicator of cyanosis: a disconnected blood supply case which if not restored as soon as possible may cause death in no time.

This indicates an underlined lungs, heart or blood problem which needs to be fixed urgently.

3. Black:

Black tongue results from the keratin build up in the skin tissues. This is often a result of poor oral hygiene or bacterial growth. In other cases, drinking dark beverages like coffee or tea or chewing tobacco can also lead to this. At times, radiations can be a cause of black tongue too.

In rare cases, medical conditions like diabetes and HIV can cause black discoloration too. Also some poisons can cause the tongue to turn black too.

At times medications like antibiotics and bismuth may produce side effects of discoloring the tongue to black.

4. Purple:

As strange as fairies this might sound, but at rare times, our tongue can change its involvement or Kawasaki syndrome- a rare disease causing severe inflammation of blood vessels of the body.

5. Red:

This might sound normal, but never confuse the normal pinkish color of the tongue with a red glossy one! You might be suffering from a vitamin B deficiency or scarlet fever, or a heavy glossitis– inflammation of the tongue.

Doctors mostly refer to this as “strawberry tongue”. This may sound interesting but remember that too good is not always good!

6. Orange:

Our tongue can change its color to orange when proper oral hygiene is not followed properly. Sometimes, eating certain food like carrots or beta carotene rich food can cause this too.

A famous drug, Rifampinan anti tuberculosis drug, is also famous for its orange discoloration of body secretions and tongue.

7. Yellow:

A yellowish or greenish discoloration tongue is a clear indicator of jaundice. Jaundice occurs due to deposition of pigment called bilirubin- a breakdown product of blood, in various parts of the body. This is a serious requisite of an underlying liver disorder which could be anything from mild inflammation, to hepatitis, liver failure or even hepatic cancer. 

8. Gray:

A gray discoloration is suggestive of underlying digestive issues like peptic or duodenal ulcers. It is normally accompanied by tongue swallowing and flakiness.

At times eczema– a chronic inflammatory condition often associated with allergies can also produce such discolorations.

The takeaway:

Apart from all these fascinating facts, next time don’t overlook the signals your tongue is giving you. Try to look at your tongue at least once a day, while brushing to keep this vital organ of yours in check too.

Visit a doctor if you notice any changes in color, size or texture of your tongue. And in case, any lump appears or any change occurs, get let a doctor see this if it does not resolve within 2 weeks. Stay happy, Stay healthy and keep smiling!