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What Your Fingernails are Trying to Tell You About Your Health

  • Published on: 04 January, 2016
  • Last update: 21 April, 2018

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Oh, the human body! Sometimes I sit back in amazement at how cleverly we are designed (and how well we can adapt to almost anything that comes our way). While studying the body through an ‘alternative’ or traditional lens, I have learned (and seen in myself) that there are many external ‘clues’ that can serve as a guide to our internal health. According to one of the classic Chinese medical texts, “If something happens in the interior of the body, it must be reflected in the exterior of the body.” Traditional Chinese Medicine can tell you a lot about your organs/meridians by looking at your tongue, which you can learn all about here. Ayurvedic Medicine on the other hand, which originated even earlier in Ancient India, is very well known for nail assessments. Areas of imbalance that Ayurveda looks for in the nails include bone health, malabsorption, inflammation, parasites, digestive issues, and more. I give the same disclaimer here that I give in my tongue posts: this does not mean anything is “wrong” with you and is not meant to diagnose disease. It’s simply giving you a picture of where you may be prone to imbalance, and at the same time allows you to make tailored changes to your daily health regimen (such as drinking specific teas or avoiding certain food allergens that encourage inflammation).
no-moons-on-nails
In Ayurveda, it is said that the lunula (moon) of the nail represents one’s “agni,” or ‘fire’ in the body. If you look at your nails and notice there are no moons or extremely small moons, you may want to incorporate foods that support your digestive fire and circulation such as ginger tea.
ETH_pic-agni
Weak digestive fire can lead to a potential build up of toxins in the system that are created when food is poorly digested, called “ama.” This buildup, which often centers in the lower bowel and colon is a common root cause for many disorders and should be the first thing you look at when treating the body as a whole. If you haven’t already, check out my article on how to clean/strengthen the bowels and digestion!
ama
On the other hand, if you have nice large moons on your thumb to pinky, this represents a strong, healthy fire that is capable of breaking down and absorbing the nutrients from food. Chinese Medicine believes that clearly defined lunulas should take up around one-fifth of each nail for the best sign of health, although they feel that the pinky lunula is not as important as the others and can be absent. TCM agrees with Ayurveda otherwise, teaching that people with small/absent lunulas are often bothered by “pathogenic cold” (yang deficiency) and weak immunity. Again, it is wonderful to drink ginger tea in the mornings, especially if you have symptoms of yang deficiency which can include menstrual cramps, aversion to cold, lack of circulation, poor appetite, fatigue, achy joints, cold hands and feet, poor digestion, depression, etc.
lunula-thumb

There are several other abnormalities that may show up in your nails, which can be found in the following chart. I’ll elaborate on each individually below!

nail guide

1. Absence of moons

I explained this in detail above, but in summary this can be related to low immune system, poor circulation, “cold” invading the body (lack of heat and vigor), and weak digestive fire. A great way to build your ‘yang’ energy and defenses back up would be drinking hot ginger tea every morning and all throughout the day if possible (bring a thermos to work with extra from the morning batch!) You can also try out my cinnamon weight loss elixir recipe if you’re looking to add in some slimming benefits to your daily warming drinks. It’s important to never drink beverages on ice – in fact, try to keep your liquids at a warm room temperature or above! Add more soups to your diet, and use warming spices such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, and cayenne. Never eat meals while watching TV or browsing your phone. If you’re looking for even more ways to improve your digestive fire, check out the rest of my 11 unconventional tips for improved digestion here.

increse-digestive-power
Ayurveda’s traditional solution to weak internal fire is to consume a small piece of fresh ginger with a few drops of lemon juice prior to eating a meal (similar to TCM’s ginger tea prescription!) This slowly and gradually awakens the flames of agni, preparing it to digest the main course. In addition to ginger, other aromatic spices that assist digestion include black and cayenne pepper; cardamom; and licorice. They are believed to make foods more digestible by “predigesting” the food during cooking—heat combines and awakens their aromatic qualities, making the nutrients easier to digest once eaten.

digestive-fire-agni
These spices also stimulate the secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines, doing some of the work for us. The less work ‘agni’ needs to do while digesting food, the less fatigue one will experience after eating. It’s equally important to only eat when you are hungry – eating out of boredom will result in undigested food, diluted fire and “ama” due to poor digestion.

2. White Spots

White spots on the nails are very common, mainly due to the fact that more and more people are becoming deficient in minerals such as magnesium and zinc. An example of why I believe this is occurring is increased pollution, which contains heavy metals. Heavy metals (like cadmium) and beneficial minerals (like zinc) bind to the same receptors in the body, which means the metals can ‘kick off’ the good guys by binding in their place. You can read my article here on the widespread epidemic of magnesium deficiency – it is one of the most important articles I’ve written on this site. I don’t go a day (well, night!) without my magnesium oil, especially on days that I work out and stress my muscles.

white-spots-on-nails-pictures
Although magnesium deficiency is indeed a huge issue, I do feel that spots on the nails are more often a sign of missing zinc. This may be due to a poor diet, stress (which depletes both zinc and magnesium) or could also be the result of the body not being able to absorb the zinc you’re already eating. This is often because of poor digestion, low stomach acid, inflammation in the GI tract, intake of allergenic foods, chronic loose stools, etc. Although I now take a maintenance dose of zinc that is included in my multivitamin, when I was first replenishing my levels (while working on acne/digestive issues) I consumed zinc supplements in the highly absorbable form of zinc picolinate. If you have other symptoms of mineral deficiency that go farther than zinc alone, it may be wise to check out a broad spectrum liquid mineral supplement like “Concentrace” that you can add to your water. I use Concentrace sometimes when I have a headache, since I find that headaches are often triggered for me by dehydration and low electrolytes/minerals.

MM

3. Vertical Lines/Ridges

These lines are all too common for many individuals and may indicate malabsorption of nutrients in the body. Many websites say they are normal and occur naturally with aging, however my theory here is that aging prompts them to arise is because the efficiency of blood circulation decreases with age. This means nails get less and less nutrition and may become pale and ridged. Young or old, you want your circulation to be strong so that your blood can bring nutrients to every nook and cranny of your body. The reason why circulation is decreased can be a very complex topic and is usually different for everyone. Thyroid issues, gut dysbiosis, and heavy metals can all create an internal environment where nutrients are not processed properly.

long-lines-on-nails
Very mild lines that are hard to see without the proper light shows a very mild case. The deeper the lines however, the stronger the deficiency. The very first step needed to correct this imbalance (no matter the individual cause) is the daily intake of ginger tea. Eating or drinking ginger improves the absorption and assimilation of ALL essential nutrients in the body. Many people suffer from nutrient deficiencies despite eating the healthiest of diets because of an unhealthy digestive tract – especially a damaged gut that cannot properly absorb nutrients. Ginger helps improve gut health and balance gut bacteria, which are needed to break down your food. It also kills parasites and viruses (especially in tea form), which as I mentioned can be a reason why we aren’t absorbing our nutrients properly – the bugs are getting to them first and using our food to get stronger. Drinking ginger tea consistently and a parasite protocol if you have a history of gut dysbiosis can do wonders for increasing your vitamin/mineral levels.

Other courses of action I would take with vertical ridges include cutting out inflammatory/allergenic substances from the diet, including cheese and gluten. Look for the root cause of your particular malabsorption: do you have low thyroid symptoms? Do you have any signs of leaky gut, showing up as food allergies or discomfort during digestion and undigested food in stool? Treating the body as a whole and looking for ways to strengthen your immune system (and thus your entire organism) is the best bet.

UPDATE 2018: If you are someone who runs extremely hot and gets agitated/heated when drinking ginger tea, try licorice root tea as an equally healing substitute. Licorice root is a mucilaginous herb that can soothe, heal, and ‘seal’ the gut by providing moisture, nutrients and inflammation control. If your nails are signaling malabsorption, this may simply stem from your intestines being irritated, dry, or inflamed. Licorice root tea can soothe and calm your digestive tract so that you are able to absorb the nutrients from your food. (Do not use licorice root, however, if you have hypertension! It is contraindicated for this condition). I would also include plenty of healthy, healing fats in your diet such as ghee to nourish and lubricate.

4. Horizontal Line/Transverse Groove

According to Ayurveda, a deep line that runs horizontal to the nail is an indication of a strong illness, infection or depletion that occurred during the time that specific part of the nail was growing.  It’s common for this line to occur after a viral infection, heart attack, severe fever, etc. If there are multiple horizontal lines on the nail, this indicates a reoccurring issue and most likely is showing a chronic condition, so you should see an integrative or naturopathic physician just to be sure.

5. Pale Nails

Pale nails typically show a tendency towards anemia (low red blood cells/iron deficiency) in the system. This can be due to excessive blood loss (heavy menstruation or injury); an iron, folate or B12 deficiency; an ulcer, a parasitic/viral infection, certain medications (including NSAIDS), malabsorption, etc.

pale
In TCM, pale nails is said to be caused by “blood deficiency,” which isn’t always identical to anemia but certainly can be.

TCM_Syndrome_Blood_Deficiency
Anemia can cause fatigue, weakness, poor circulation, frequent bruising, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat and cognitive issues. If anemia is suspected, one can look to see if other symptoms are involved (or not); as well as the tongue and the pink under the eye (when stretched down) to see if these areas are also pale.

If anemia is suspected, check out my posts here on iron deficiency & hair loss, and the top 3 iron-rich herbs.

6. Nail Bed Inflammation/Red Cuticles

red-cuticles--300x204
If you notice a red, puffy border along the nail fold, this is said to be a sign of parasites and/or viral infection in the system. Parasites are not just a third world country issue and have multiple causes, which you can read about in my article here. A few common causes are traveling, low stomach acid, uncooked meats, not washing hands properly after elimination, unwashed raw food, etc. We treat parasites in our pets several times a year, but somehow don’t do the same for ourselves! You can read my free e-book about parasite cleansing here, and why I made my very own cleanse after a parasite protocol was integral to my healing process from IBS and cystic acne.

Parasites often come into our systems when we are already compromised with some sort of viral infection, especially mono or Epstein Barr Virus. The absolute best ways to treat chronic viral issues are through a) diet, b) anti-viral herbs/supplements such as cat’s claw, lemon balm, colloidal silver, licorice root, and zinc and c) cutting out foods that feed viruses such as processed/refined sugar, gluten, sugar, factory farmed dairy/cheese, etc.

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112 Comments

Omato

Reply
Its very educating and helpful. Thank you

Poteet

Reply
I found this article most interesting and informative but one condition not mentioned is nails that split..a thin layer of the nail lifts from the bottom layers. What could cause this to happen.please email me info and thank you

Rifda

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Your article is clear and simple, which i love very much❤ but I seem to be fine even though I have pale+no moon nails, is that normal?

Mrs.Deannd Dillard

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Thanks for all the information to answer a lot of our questions. Greatly appreciate the detailed photos for a visual as well. Great job! I will continue to be a follower.

Ann

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I have deep ridged nails and found this very helpful. Thank you

Michelle Lawrence

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is the ginger tea best made with the fresh root or dried? Thanks

Rae Mares

Reply

I changed my diet and I just saw your thing on nails and I just noticed I don’t have
the ridges on my nails anymore! I am going to start on the ginger tea too!
Thanks for the info…..really helpful

Allison

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Thank you for offering this information . I have been having digestive problems for quite awhile. I am going to start the ginger tea today! I have a question , what is parasite cleansing?

Dana

Reply

Hi Allison, you can read more about parasite cleansing in our free ebook found here: http://bit.ly/paraproformulaebook – Dana @ Team Organic Olivia

Shashi

Reply
Very informative.. thanks

Mary L

Reply
Very good information! Thank you for sharing it!!!!

Amanda

Reply
Thank you for this!! I’ve noticed I’ve had some ridges and my moons were getting smaller 🙁 despite taking my prenatals and extra vitamins that are plant based even . I do have genitic poor circulation and digestion since becoming pregnant. I’ll try some herbal chia tea I love because it has the cardemom ,cinnamon and ginger it should help.

Fiona

Reply
Very informative, thank you for sharing x

Hope

Reply
Thank you so much for all of the wonderful information. You hit head on!

Ash

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I noticed horizontal lines each time I was pregnant. I’m surprised that wasn’t mentioned as I know of others who notice it while pregnant too.

MaryLou

Reply
Thanks. Saving this to my prepped, medical notes.

Reet

Reply
Very insightful article and thanks for sharing your knowledge with us☺

Fonda Owen

Reply
Love the clarity and simplicity of this artical. Mega Thanks!

Rebecca

Reply
Great article thank you for taking the time to put this up.:)

Lotus Flower

Reply
Extremely informative. Thank you!

Jane

Reply
Very interesting…….I will start on the ginger T

Karen

Reply
Lots of good information.

Debbi

Reply
I found this information to be very helpful and informative. The nail info fits with my medical dianosis.

Dr Tina Bauer-Goldsmith

Reply
Outstanding information!

Vivi

Reply
Thank you for sharing…^_^…. >^_^<

Diane

Reply
Some great information. My mother’s GP many yrs ago diagnosed kidney dysfunction just by looking at her nails on first visit due to her nails. And its accurate with my health issues as well. Thank you again

Manju

Reply
Very informative. Helfull read. Thanks.

Nohemi

Reply
Incredible! Finally I got the information you wanted. All what is mentioned here on nail goes with my sufferings. Interesting!

Mayra

Reply
Thank you for all the information very helpful

À. Elthakeb

Reply
Informative & interesting.

Selina

Reply
Excellent article!

Cristiana

Reply
Interesting ! Thanks for all information 😊😊😊

Peric

Reply
Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Karla Tessitore

Reply
Thank you for this great, very helpful information!

Ulka

Reply
Very informative and sorted remedies ,already a follower of Ayurveda and Organic Olivia 😊🙏🏻 Thanks

mohammad ali

Reply
awesome article😊

Elianna

Reply
You are the absolute greatest. Thank you for this!

Shannon

Reply
What about flaky nails that break off and peel? Mine get to a certain length and I can literally peel layers of nail away! I’ve also noticed of late that my big toe nails snag and break rather easily. I take a women’s multi, calcium, b12, vitamin c daily.

Sharan

Reply
This’s was very informative!! Thank you for sharing!

Vijayalakshmi

Reply
Nice information

harx

Reply
Thank you fore these wake up call.

Yakachy

Reply
Awesome I love you thank you so much ❤️❤️❤️

Antonia

Reply
It explains everything, finally I found answers, thank you very much 🙂

Mary

Reply
Intresting information thank u

Judy

Reply
Very good information, thank you.

Jodi

Reply
Thanks so much great information posted. I have the ridges & Hashimotto’s. I’m definitely starting the ginger tea drinking no doubt.

Jean lyons

Reply
I found it to be a great article , keep these articles coming.

Tanya

Reply
Thank you so much! Can’t wait to try the wheatgrass! I’ve had Anemia all my life and not once has anyone suggested wheatgrass! All the best.

DebC

Reply
Great Article !! Thanks for the information

Sithobekile

Reply
thanks very much for sharing, I have learn t a lot

AJ

Reply
What would be the reason for my nail nails separating from the skin? The white part of my nails is getting to be irregular and growing into the nail, not growing because my nails are getting longer. Thank you

Abetz

Reply

Fungal infection

Mary

Reply
wow. so interesting. thank you

Mrs. D hunt

Reply
I am registered blind with very low vision but I enjoyed the article thank you very much and by the way I’m going to get a couple of the books that are suggested in here

keke

Reply
Found this article to be very informative and interesting. Thanks a million.

Lara

Reply
Thank you so much for this excellent article.

Alana

Reply
Very helpful 🙂

Colleen Clifton

Reply
Very informative, thank you.

Liz

Reply
Fabulous info that I needed, thank you

Patricia

Reply
Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

Kathleen Lentz

Reply
Thank you for explaining the reasons for vertical ridges in the nail beds.

Nadine

Reply
that totally describes what I have…………thank you

Llewelyn T

Reply
This is such good information to help me continue good self care.Thank yuou.

marcy

Reply
This was a very interesting and informative read. Thank u very much for sharing.

C.F

Reply
Thank you!

genevieve boutros

Reply
thanks for sharing the incredile knowledge

dominika nicolaides

Reply
Very interesting and explained to me why the appearance of my nails meant at thst time. Thank you

Mothusi Sedumedi

Reply
Naturopathy is our ultimate health solution

clov

Reply
thanks for sharing and now have full idea about .it….

Rabia

Reply
Very informative (y)

Chandrashekhar Latkar

Reply
Very interesting and informative article

Celeste

Reply
Thank you for sharing

ari cooper

Reply
Misspelled thanks for sharing ☺

farhi

Reply
very informative i wanted to read all stuff u post how can i keep posting stay bless

Anita

Reply
Very interesting and informative.

Valli

Reply
Very enlightening! I do have digestion problems and the no moons sign clearly helps me understand it. Hoping to solve it and the mild vertical lines too. Thank you

Sharon

Reply
Good Information!

Denise

Reply
Very interesting and informative. As a newly retired lady, I’m looking to improve my overall health and this is certainly astep in the right direction.

Lourdes

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Wow! I never knew looking at your nails and making sure their in perfect condition could matter so much! I now know what my body is lacking!

Annie ains

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Yes I have been noticing my horizontal lines since last month and I am very ill . Thanks for letting us know

G

Reply
Best site ever! Thank you!

Trish Taylor

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Thank you for posting this article. I will be adding to my diet a number of the foods/teas mentioned.

George

Reply
Very informative

Athena

Reply
It was very useful…Thanks

Maureen

Reply
This is wonderful information and very informative. Thanks

nikki

Reply
Very informative.. Thanks

Minto

Reply
Very vital information.

Rhonda L.

Reply
This was very informative and i will take heed.

rajesh

Reply
very helpful for me

Pualani

Reply
Thanks for all the info! Have pinned it to my Pinterest board

Anne

Reply
I found out something reading this article that is very helpful.

Leena

Reply
Thank you for sharing. Amazing and very very interesting info

Beverley Fergar

Reply
Thank you. One of the simplest and most informative – not to mention incredibly helpful – articles that I have read regarding this.

Shirley R.

Reply
This was great info, I have no moons, and have big issues, with digestion, and other Heath problems, so your article seemed right on. Thank you, sure wish doctors actually paid attention to such things. Knowledge is power, but I’m sure my doc would all but roll his eyes, if I pointed this out. I do have chronic pancreatitis, and after being so sick, on feedingube supplement over a year and weighed 72 pounds they finally removed a septic gallbladder …but still my digestive issues, are a big problem, that often takes me to the ER. Where I may add, they treat me beyond cruel. Anyways thank you for the info.

Ann

Reply
Incredibly interesting, thanks for sharing.

Daniela Pineiros

Reply
Verte complete and Informative! Thank you

Manju lal

Reply
Wonderfully educative and interesting. Needs to be shared by everyone. Thank you.

JEREMIAH

Reply
I developed ridges , faint moons, redness at base of fingernails, and horizontal creese on forehead head. after consuming lugol’s iodine. in hopes of healing adrenal fatigue. I’d like your input on how I can achieve wellness again. thx

Linda Mcfarland

Reply
very interesting

M.G desVignes

Reply
thanks. Very informative. Had known some of these when in NUrsing school many years back, but this was a great refresher!

Diane

Reply
Absolutely loved your information. Thank you so much.

Lisa

Reply
I look forward to reading book.

Jane

Reply
Thanks for the info. My doctor always looked at nails when I came in when I was little!

Ellon Peterkin

Reply
Useful info, thanks.

Linda

Reply
Thanks for the information. I don’t have half moons, as well as I have vertical ridges.

Kay

Reply
Thank you!

arlana

Reply
Very helpful information Thank you

Anne Kirkbride

Reply
I find this so interesting and look forward to using your suggestions along with reading the book

Pat

Reply
This is fantastic. I have had vertical lines forever and sometimes they are horrible then I put that to my thyroid. Will try the ginger as I love ginger anyway

Rajni Ramanee

Reply
This was quite informative … As I Hv vertical lines on my centre n ring finger . Once o had fungal infection on my ring finger .. Now ok … But I Hv brittle nails … Loose stomach … Pls guide..!

Dr Samm Pryce

Reply
Great ARTICLE!!!

Dana

Reply
Amazing!

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