Glossitis refers to inflammation of the tongue. This generally appears as a swollen tongue rather than a painful or red tongue, although these may be in association.

It is important to remember that the mouth is the top end of a 30-foot tube that ends at the anus. Like a hose pipe, holes may occur anywhere along its length but the two ends receive most of the attention and can reflect the integrity of the whole pipe.

The Eastern philosophies of medicine pay special attention to the tongue and a swollen tongue may be very helpful in diagnosing any underlying conditions.

The tongue will swell in response to trauma, such as accidental biting or bee stings. Allergic reactions can cause the tongue to swell to such an extent that it may obstruct breathing and very rapidly this may become a serious medical emergency. The tongue may also swell in rare medical conditions. A swollen tongue is viewed by holistic practitioners as being an indication of swelling elsewhere or throughout the bowel. This may occur in any inflammatory problem such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or peptic ulcers. The bowel may also swell when absorption is poor as a reflection of more blood being pushed into the bowel in an attempt to absorb more nutrients. Swelling of the tongue may show as indentations along the edge caused by long-term pressure on the teeth.

A rapidly swelling or persistently swollen tongue needs to be reviewed by a doctor as a potential emergency. It may only take a few minutes or even seconds for the tongue to swell to a level that obstructs breathing.

Review any intake, such as food or drugs recently imbibed before swelling was noticed. Particularly salty or acidic food may be a cause.

Rinse the mouth with a strong salt solution but do not swallow. Gargling, provided that it does not cause retching, is beneficial because the tongue starts halfway down the throat.

The homeopathic remedy Aconite, 6 should be taken every lOmin with an acutely swollen tongue or Apis 6 every lOmin for a tongue swelling secondary to an insect bite or sting.

A more persistent swollen tongue should be reviewed by a complementary medical practitioner with knowledge in either herbal or homeopathic medicine.