Purple nails according to Chinese Medicine

Purple nails can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like purple nails here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here purple nails is often associated with purple lips, painful period and dark clots in menstrual blood in the pattern “Blood Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause purple nails.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of purple nails we’ve identified four herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat purple nails.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause purple nails

In Chinese Medicine purple nails is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a formula used for Blood Stagnation

Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian), Firm (Lao)

Tongue color: Reddish-Purple

Blood Stagnation, like the name indicates, is when Blood flow becomes Stagnant. It can happen in the whole body or in specific Organs.

It is one of the most important diagnostic conditions in Chinese Medicine because it is frequently the cause of intractable pain syndromes anywhere in the body.

In addition to purple nails, other symptoms associated with Blood Stagnation include purple lips, painful period and dark clots in menstrual blood.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Scanty Menstruation, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Blood Stagnation is often treated with Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Tao He Cheng Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dispels Heat and".

Read more about Blood Stagnation here

The Heart is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Heart in Chinese Medicine

Heart Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Knotted (Jie)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

This is a severe pattern deriving from other Heart patterns such as Heart Yang or Blood Deficiency, or Heart Qi Stagnation. Prolonged emotional stress such as grief, worry, resentment, anxiety or anger can seriously harm the Heart's functions of controlling Blood and Blood vessels as well as housing the spiritual Mind.

In addition to purple nails, other symptoms associated with Heart Blood Stagnation include purple lips, palpitations and chest pain.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Heart Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Postpartum Depression.

Heart Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Heart Blood Stagnation here

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Liver Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple sides

Liver Blood Stagnation usually develops from Qi Stagnation, Cold and Heat. It has great influence over the Directing and Penetrating Vessels and thus the menstruation functions.

In addition to purple nails, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood Stagnation include purple lips, painful period and dark clots in menstrual blood.

Liver Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Liver Blood Stagnation here

Four herbal formulas that might help with purple nails

Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dispels Heat and. Eliminates Blood Stagnation.

Why might Tao He Cheng Qi Tang help with purple nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation' of which purple nails is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Blood Stagnation include purple lips, painful period and dark clots in menstrual blood.

Read more about Tao He Cheng Qi Tang here

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Why might Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with purple nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heart Blood Stagnation' of which purple nails is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Heart Blood Stagnation include purple lips, palpitations and chest pain.

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with purple nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Stagnation' of which purple nails is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Blood Stagnation include purple lips, painful period and dark clots in menstrual blood.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines. Reduces swelling and disperses lumps.

Why might Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang help with purple nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation' of which purple nails is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Blood Stagnation include purple lips, painful period and dark clots in menstrual blood.

Read more about Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat purple nails

Why might Peach Kernel (Tao Ren) help with purple nails?

Because Peach Kernel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat purple nails as a symptom, like Tao He Cheng Qi Tang or Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Peach Kernels is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood and breaks up Stasis. Moistens the Intestines. Relieves coughing.

Read more about Peach Kernels here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with purple nails?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat purple nails as a symptom, like Tao He Cheng Qi Tang or Xiao Yao San for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Mudan Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi) help with purple nails?

Because Mudan Peony Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat purple nails as a symptom, like Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang or Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan for instance.

Mudan Peony Bark is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Cools the Blood, activates Blood circulation and resolves Blood stasis.

Read more about Mudan Peony Bark here

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with purple nails?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat purple nails as a symptom, like Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with purple nails?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat purple nails as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here