Withered and brittle nails according to Chinese Medicine

Withered and brittle 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 withered and brittle 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 withered and brittle nails is often associated with dizziness, amenorrhea and scanty periods in the pattern “Blood Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause withered and brittle nails.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of withered and brittle nails we’ve identified five 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 withered and brittle nails.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause withered and brittle nails

In Chinese Medicine withered and brittle 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.

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Si Wu Tang, a formula used for Blood Deficiency

Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

Someone has a Deficiency of Blood when their entire body, a part of body or a particular Organ is insufficiently nourished by Blood. This can be caused by blood-loss, a lack of of Spleen Qi (responsible to produce Blood) or congealed Blood which prevents new Blood from forming.

In addition to withered and brittle nails, other symptoms associated with Blood Deficiency include dizziness, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Blood Deficiency is often treated with Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Si Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Restores and nourishes Blood".

Read more about Blood Deficiency here

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

Liver Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

The Liver stores Blood, that is the reason any Blood Deficiency often involves the Liver. This pattern has an impact on areas the Liver relates to, such as the tendons, eyes, nails and menstruation. It arises from the same causes of general Blood Deficiency, such as poor diet, hemorrhages or Kidney Qi or Essence Deficiency.

In addition to withered and brittle nails, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

Liver Blood Deficiency is often treated with Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Si Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Restores and nourishes Blood".

Read more about Liver Blood Deficiency here

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

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to withered and brittle nails, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Vaginal Itching.

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with withered and brittle nails

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Why might Gui Pi Tang help with withered and brittle nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Deficiency' of which withered and brittle nails is a symptom.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang here

Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation.

Why might Si Wu Tang help with withered and brittle nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Deficiency' of which withered and brittle nails is a symptom.

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Why might Qi Ju Di Huang Wan help with withered and brittle nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency' of which withered and brittle nails is a symptom.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

Bu Gan Tang

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and regulates the Blood. Nourishes the Liver Yin.

Why might Bu Gan Tang help with withered and brittle nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Deficiency' of which withered and brittle nails is a symptom.

Read more about Bu Gan Tang here

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with withered and brittle nails?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency' of which withered and brittle nails is a symptom.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat withered and brittle nails

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat withered and brittle nails as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Bu Gan Tang for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat withered and brittle nails as a symptom, like Sheng Yu Tang or Si Wu Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat withered and brittle nails as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Bu Gan Tang 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat withered and brittle nails as a symptom, like Ba Zhen Tang or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Cornelian Cherry (Shan Zhu Yu) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Cornelian Cherry is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat withered and brittle nails as a symptom, like Qi Ju Di Huang Wan or Liu Wei Di Huang Wan for instance.

Cornelian Cherries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Read more about Cornelian Cherries here