Withered and brittle nails according to Chinese Medicine

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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, insomnia and numbness in the limbs in the pattern “Liver Blood Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause withered and brittle nails

In Chinese Medicine withered and brittle nails is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

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, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

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

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

Liver Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Wiry (Xian), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red points on the sides

This is a type of empty Fire pattern arising out of Liver Blood Deficiency or Kidney Yin Deficiency. It shares similar symptoms as Liver Blood Deficiency, but with extra signs of Dryness and Yin-Deficient Heat. It can be caused by excessive activity, overwork, 'burning the candle at both ends' without sufficient rest, and poor and irregular diet.

In addition to withered and brittle nails, other symptoms associated with Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Qi Ju Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Qi Ju Di Huang 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 Kidney and Liver Yin".

Read more about Liver Yin Deficiency here

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

Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency

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

In addition to withered and brittle nails, other symptoms associated with Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency is often treated with Gui Pi Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Gui Pi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi and blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood".

Read more about Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency here

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

Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency

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

In addition to withered and brittle nails, other symptoms associated with Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency is often treated with Gui Pi Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Gui Pi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi and blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood".

Read more about Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with withered and brittle nails

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.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

Read more about Si Wu 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.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney And Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan 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 'Liver Yin Deficiency' of which withered and brittle nails is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

Sheng Yu Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Preserves the Blood.

Why might Sheng Yu Tang help with withered and brittle nails?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver And Heart Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

Read more about Sheng Yu Tang here

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 'Spleen and Liver Blood Deficiency' of which withered and brittle nails is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Spleen And Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and numbness in the limbs.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang 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 Zuo Gui Wan 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 Yam (Shan Yao) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Yam 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.

Yam is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing.

Read more about Yam 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 Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with withered and brittle nails?

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

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Milkvetch Root (Huang Qi) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Milkvetch Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat withered and brittle nails as a symptom, like Gui Pi Tang or Sheng Yu Tang for instance.

Milkvetch Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Wei Qi and stops perspiration. Tonifies the Spleen Qi and the Yang Qi of the Earth Element. Tonifies the Qi and Blood. Expels pus and assists in the healing of wounds. Helps to regulate water metabolism in the body and reduce edema.

Read more about Milkvetch Roots here