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Western society prides itself on our technological advances in the health sciences, but for many in China, they rely on ancient medicinal practices that go back at least five millennia.  One of the essential diagnostic tools of the ancient Chinese system is how a person’s tongue looks. The colour and surface of the flexible muscle indicates how your “zheng” is; your overall physical state.

Now, however, developers from the University of Missouri have created an “app” for that. They have produced an automated system that uses pictures of a tongue to analyze your zheng based on information from practitioners of the ancient discipline.  They hope to bring the “app” to market by next year, which would allow smart-phone enthusiasts to take pictures of their tongues and email them off for analysis.

"Knowing your zheng classification can serve as a pre-screening tool and help with preventive medicine," claims the chair of the university’s computer science department in the College of Engineering, Dong Xu, who co-authored the report. "Our software helps bridge Eastern and Western medicine, since an imbalance in zheng could serve as a warning to go see a doctor.” 

The analysis will determine if your tongue is as it should be or in states described as “hot” or “cold” which aren’t necessarily indicative of temperature, but a range health issues that may be present. Both “hot” or “cold” can be symptomatic of gastritis and in either case, a trip to a health practitioner is required.

The study entitled "Automated Tongue Feature Extraction for ZHENG Classification in Traditional Chinese Medicine" appeared in the holistic health journal, Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Xu’s co-author in the report, Ye Duan, is an associate professor at the university and is excited about the future of the program.

"As we continue to work on the software we hope to improve its ability," explained Duan. "Eventually everyone will be able to use this tool at home using webcams or smart-phone applications. That will allow them to monitor their zheng and get an early warning about possible ailments."


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