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Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine ›› 2011, Vol. 9 ›› Issue (1): 29-35.doi: 10.3736/jcim20110106

• Original Clinical Research • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Quantitative analysis and classification of tongue inspection based on the visible reflection spectrum

 Meng Kong1, Chang-chun Zeng1(), You-zhang Liu2, Song-hao Liu1,3   

  1. 1. Lab of Photonic Chinese Medicine, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, Guangdong Province, China
    2. Department of Internal Medicine, First Affiliated Hospital, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou 510407, Guangdong Province, China
    3. School for Information and Optoelectronic Science and Engineering, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, Guangdong Province, China
  • Received:2010-10-25 Accepted:2010-11-23 Online:2011-01-20 Published:2011-01-15
  • Contact: Zeng Chang-chun E-mail:gzzysys@scnu.edu.cn

Objective: In this study, optical data on color of tongue tips were collected by using a visible reflection spectrum system. Quantitative method of tongue inspection and classification of tongue states including pale, pale red, red and crimson manifestations were investigated.
Methods: Chromaticity coordinates of the tongue tips from 98 subjects were calculated on the basis of the visible reflection spectrum. The tongue color was quantified and classified by the visible reflection spectrum in the range from 590 nm to 780 nm, based on the higher red-band energy distribution on the tongue tip color.
Results: It was found that comparison and analysis of tongue tip color from different samples would be well-suited after spectrum vector normalization, and the difference of tongue tip color between different samples could be observed easily when the tongue tip optical data were sited in CIE 1931 chromaticity diagram. The tongue tip colors were analyzed quantitatively and classified by the spectral energy intensity at the wavelength of 670 nm and (or) spectral energy ratio of red bank from 590 nm to 780 nm. The results of classification showed that there was sound corresponding accuracy with the clinical diagnosis of pale tongue, pale red tongue, red tongue and crimson tongue.
Conclusion: In this study, based on the collection of the information data on tongue tip characteristics with the visible spectrum from 380 nm to 780 nm, the quantitative analysis of tongue inspection for pale tongue, pale red tongue, red tongue and crimson tongue was established. The quantitative value for tongue tip color is an effective method for classification of the condition of the tongue tip, which provides a useful tool for the modernization of tongue inspection in traditional Chinese medicine.

Key words: tongue inspection, tongue proper, tongue color, visible reflection spectrum, objective tongue inspection, quantization, classification, chromaticity coordinates

Figure 1

Visible reflectance spectroscopy system"

Figure 2

Monitoring point of tongue tip for visible reflectance spectroscopy"

Figure 3

Distribution of tongue tip color in chromaticity coordinates There were a standard CIE 1931 chromaticity coordinate in Figure 3(1), and magnified part of the coordinate in Figure 3(2). The color hues of tongue tip color from 98 subjects were analyzed and marked accurately into the CIE 1931 chromaticity coordinate by dots. The digits in Figure 3(2) are chromaticity coordinate sites of tongue tip color from the corresponding serial number subject, and the background color tone of the digits represented the tongue tip color from the corresponding serial number subject."

Figure 4

Normalized visible reflection spectrum of tongue tip manifestation X-axis is wavelength of visible light from 380 nm to 780 nm and Y-axis is the normalized reflectivity. 1 to 5 represented the normalized visible reflectance spectrum of tongue tip manifestation from five random patients. This figure showed that the spectrum curves were similar, for there were characterized hemoglobin reflection spectrum peak at 576 nm and higher spectrum reflectivity at the red-band."

Figure 5

The red-band from 576 nm to 780 nm spectral energy curve of tongue tips X-axis is wavelength of red-band from 576 nm to 780 nm and Y-axis is the relative spectral energy intensity to the hemoglobin reflection spectrum at 576 nm. The spectral curves represented the spectral energy distribution of tongue tip from subjects on the red-band from 576 nm to 780 nm. From spectral curves, it was found that the spectral energy intensity was increased with the extension of wavelength from 576 nm and came to topmost value about at 670 nm."

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