What Does An Absence of Fingernail Moons Mean About Your Health?
- Published on: 29 May, 2020
- Last update: 04 May, 2021
Nail health is something I’ve paid close attention to ever since I began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). What I love most about TCM is that it teaches you how to play a detective role in your own health by looking for key signs and signals from your body – whether that’s through your tongue, eyes, skin, or nails. (If this sounds cool to you, click on tongue and skin to learn what they mean too!) Today we’ll be talking about what your nails can tell you about your health — specifically the meaning of an absence of moons.
Before I begin, I like to give the same disclaimer I provide on my tongue posts: this does not mean anything is “wrong” with you and is not meant to diagnose or treat disease. My goal is to give you a picture of where you may be prone to imbalance, which allows you to make tailored changes to your daily health regimen (such as drinking specific teas, supporting liver detoxification or adding in a targeted nutritional supplement).
WHAT DOES AN ABSENCE OF FINGERNAIL MOONS INDICATE?
In Ayurvedic Medicine, the ancient Indian “science of life,” the lunula represents one’s “Agni” or “fire” within the body. This is right in line with Traditional Chinese Medicine, which views these lunulas as a representation of one’s “Qi,” also known as energy, metabolism, etc. Essentially, Qi and Agni are the exact same thing (energy, vigor, life force), which to me is beautiful because both systems discovered the same innate energy that drives us and our bodily functions.
When you look at it this way, it can be understood that strong, white moons at the base of each nail indicate strong “Qi” or “fire”: strong digestion, solid immunity, a sharp and energetic mind, a fiery metabolism and a healthy thyroid gland. The more energetic a person is, the whiter (and more present) their moons will be.
It’s normal for the pinky nail to have a small or absent moon, but if you find that moons are absent across most of all of your fingers, it’s a sign that you may need to support this inner fire that governs your digestion, energy and metabolism. If you don’t have moons, let me know in the comments if you suffer from a slow metabolism, fatigue, low energy or poor digestion!
The less moons on a person’s nails, the more likely they are to feel tired and suffer from poor immunity.
Moons, and the deeper underlying Qi, can recede for many reasons: staying up too late several nights of the week, poor diet, poor digestion/chronic hidden gut infections, anemia, and low thyroid function. This is tricky because anemia can be a cause of low thyroid function, staying up too late can be a cause of poor digestion, etc. Everything is related because the body functions as a whole, not as individual parts.
Because there are so many factors that can contribute to this low Qi/energy manifesting in the nails, let’s go over my top tips to get your moons, fire, energy, and immunity back! I tried to include as much information as possible, which I know can be overwhelming. Take out a notebook or your phone and write down the top 5 tips from this next section that a) resonate with you the most, and b) feel the most applicable and practical for your real life. In other words, what will you stick to? Even if you incorporate just a few things from my solutions section, you will strengthen your Qi and feel better in no time. (I definitely suggest ginger tea as a non-negotiable!)
PART 3: HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR BODY + SOLUTIONS
1. Strengthen your digestive fire.
Because the lunulas represent one’s “agni,” or ‘fire,’ they are directly related to your digestive fire and ability to break down/absorb nutrients from food. 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. This slowly and gradually awakens the flames of agni, preparing it to digest the main course. It’s hard for me to remember to bring a knob of ginger everywhere I go, so I do it the TCM way by drinking ginger tea first thing in the morning and again with my largest meal.
The easiest way to do this is to make a full batch in the morning and keep it hot all day long in a stainless steel thermos.
Other tips to strengthen your digestion in order to extract more Qi/energy from your food include:
- Take a tincture of digestive bitters 15 minutes before meals. I created my own as part of my “herbal first aid kit” that I recommend everyone have in their home or purse! It’s called Digestive Juice and all you have to do is spray it on your tongue, taste the flavors for a moment, and wash down with water. A low dosage of bitter taste taken before a meal stimulates “Agni” by increasing the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
- Eat slowly in a relaxed environment where the only focus is food and good company.
- Chew food thoroughly.
- Decrease intake of or eliminate coffee, tea, alcohol, sugar, tobacco, fried foods and minimize hot sauce/spices since these can all deplete your stomach acid and thin the lining of the gut.
- Avoid drinking cold liquids before or during meals. (Honestly, avoid iced drinks altogether. TCM says it creates nothing but stagnation in the body)
- Take a 10-15min walk after meals.
- Only eat when you are hungry – eating out of boredom will result in undigested food, diluted fire and “ama” (toxic residue) due to poorly digested food.
- Cook with herbs and ingredients that stimulate digestion such as…
- Thyme – stimulates the production of gastric juice
- Ginger – relieves nausea, heartburn, gas, soothes and relaxes the intestinal tract
- Trikatu – an Ayurvedic blend of ginger, black pepper, and long pepper. Supports digestion & overall gastric function, stimulates digestive enzymes, promotes rapid absorption of nutrients.
- Sea salt – stimulates stomach acid production
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.
2. Reduce “food stagnation.”
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” by Ayurveda. Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to this as “food stagnation” which can create heat in the intestines and liver. 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.
- The most important thing you can do is get your bowels moving daily (Triphala is an excellent Ayurvedic capsule formula you can take in the evenings to ensure morning bowel movements.)
- Drink hot water or tea with every meal, never cold or iced. Hot water helps break down, liquefy and emulsify the fats in your meal. Ever put oil in the fridge and watch it get solid and hard? Don’t do that to your stomach!
- Minimize consumption of: fatty, fried and greasy foods (for example french fries, hamburgers, pizza, and cheese), cold foods and drinks (including raw foods, fruit, tofu, milk or soy/plant milk, iced drinks, salads, ice cream and other refrigerated or iced items), and simple carbs (especially flour products like muffins, pastries, crackers, breads, toast, pasta, cakes and chips of all types).
- Chew on fennel seeds after meals to stimulate proper digestion and avoid undigested food.
- Do not overeat.
- Try drinking hawthorn berry tea with honey at night instead of having dessert, which like triphala really helps to clean your system out and strengthen digestion.
3. Get rid of “the cold”
TCM teaches that people with small/absent lunulas are often bothered by “pathogenic cold” (yang deficiency) and weak immunity.
This can be a direct result of the Western equivalent to “yang deficiency”: low thyroid. When your thyroid is low, circulation is poor and your hands and feet are often freezing. 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. It’s also important to get your thyroid tested if you have these symptoms (here are the labs you should be asking for), and either create a plan with your practitioner to improve thyroid function naturally OR replace the thyroid hormone you’re low in via something like natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). Treating an undiagnosed thyroid condition can change your life, especially if you suffer from mood disorders. A mental illness should never be diagnosed until thyroid issues are ruled out, but unfortunately most doctors only test TSH levels which can mean you easily miss a true thyroid issue. Make sure you read the lab page I linked – sometimes the best indicator of poor thyroid function is high “Reverse T3,” meaning active T3 is not getting into the cells.
To resolve “yang deficiency” from a TCM perspective (and support your thyroid in the process), you want to strengthen digestion (known as “the spleen”) with my tips above. Spleen adaptogens such as Reishi mushroom, Ginseng, and Astragalus can be very helpful – find the one that is right for you and take daily in tincture or capsule form. On top of this, go for more foods that are “yang” rather than “yin.” And most of all, do not be afraid of eating protein. It is crucial for muscle mass maintenance and thyroid function.
4. Support your immune system
This piece is key, as weak digestive fire/Qi will make you susceptible to increased infections only makes you feel even more fatigued than you already are! You want to implement some sort of herbal tool that will provide you with daily immune support to prevent recurrent bugs from delaying your healing process. My best advice would be to choose an immune-boosting herb that is also a Spleen Qi adaptogen like the ones I listed above. This way you can kill two birds with one stone (aka address poor digestion AND immunity with one supplement, haha). My favorite would be reishi mushroom, which I actually have in my Immune Shroom formula via my store. This is my #1 recommendation for those with poor immunity and yang deficiency/spleen Qi deficiency.
5. Test for and treat anemia if needed (iron deficiency)
TCM states that the lunula can disappear when one is experiencing long term iron deficiency. One of the labs recommended in the link above for testing your thyroid would be a full iron panel, which is how I caught my own iron deficiency. Click this post to see the iron labs you should be asking for if you suspect anemia. I was previously taking Douglas Labs brand of iron tablets, but I’ve now switched to Ancestral Supplements grass-fed beef spleen capsules which contain 5x the amount of heme iron as beef liver. In my opinion this is the most natural and absorbable form available in the world, but at the end of the day you have to find what works for YOU to get your lab values back up into range.
I hope you found this article helpful! Thank you so much for reading, and don’t forget to check out the rest of my Nail Signs series HERE.