We love it when a bit of ancient wisdom can help get our nails sorted. And Chinese medicine is totally ticking the boxes for it.
Nail diagnosis has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for about a million years (ok, maybe a thousand or so years, yeesh). So if you’re looking for new (ancient) insights about what the hell is going on with your nails rn, look no further.
In Chinese medicine nails are considered to be an excess of Qi, aka vital energy, and blood. Good circulation of qi and blood = good general health. If your nails aren’t doing too well, there’s a solid chance something’s not going quite right somewhere else in your body. What could your nails be telling you?
Hold up! Before we get into it, we’d just like to say a little something about animal rights. We all know Chinese medicine hasn’t had a great track record with protecting endangered species and treating animals with respect. These days, especially in the western world, inhumane ‘medical substances’ are no longer used. We’re grateful to be able to access this amazing medical tradition and support its evolution into a completely Cruelty Free practice.
Now let’s talk about nails!
Here’s the Chinese medicine DL on some common nail issues.
Pale, brittle nails
Ok, so you know how we were talking about nails being a surplus of blood and qi? Well, healthy nails (think pink, supple and strong nails) mean your qi and blood are in good form. Pale and brittle nails are a sign your blood is ‘deficient’.
Yep, it sounds totally tragic. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as all that. It basically means your blood isn’t nourishing and moistening your nails. When you compare it to what we know about nail structure, this is actually spot on. Nails get all their nutrients from blood flow to the nail plate. So, what can you do about it? Chinese medicine recommends building your blood with iron rich foods, avoiding excessive exercise, and getting in some R&R. Sign us up.
Who doesn’t have these? They are so common it’s crazy. White spots are caused by mild trauma to the nail, like getting it caught in a drawer. That’s why you see them slowly grow out. It’s also a sign of magnesium and zinc deficiency. In Chinese medicine, this is usually because of weak ‘spleen qi’.
Whaaaaaaat? Each organ has its own special brand of qi. In Chinese medicine the spleen is the major digestive organ. So when its’ qi is under par you get nutritional deficiencies. Like magnesium and zinc, for example. Boost your spleen qi by eating at regular times, don’t eat too late at night, eat root vegetables, and slow down on the liquids.
No moons at the bottom of your nails
If ya want to get technical they’re actually called lunulas. They’re the white curved semi circle at the base of your nails that mirrors your nail tips. If you’re missing yours get onto the ginger tea, especially in the mornings.
Chinese medicine puts the missing moons down to weak digestive fire, also known by the catchy name ‘pathogenic cold’. You’d more likely know it as bad digestion, a sluggish metabolism, and weak immune system. If you want your moons back or to fix your gut (probs more likely), do all the things we mentioned to fix your spleen qi, then add some spice. Black and cayenne pepper, cardamom and licorice root, to be exact. And don’t forget the ginger tea.
You may have heard this happens naturally with age, and you would have heard right. Because, as we age, our blood circulation gets crappier and stops delivering adequate nutrients to the nail bed. Chinese medicine has this thing with immortality, true story. So the vibe is to keep your qi and blood strong with appropriate diet and exercise (and a few mystical practices that get waaaaaay out there) and you can live to a very ripe old age. As can your youthful, unridgey nails.
On a more practical level, ridged nails can sometimes indicate a serious underlying problem. So check in with your GP if you’re concerned.