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, amenorrhea and scanty periods in the pattern “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.

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 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, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

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, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

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

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the king ingredient for Gui Pi Tang, a formula used for Qi and Blood Deficiency

Qi and Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Slowed-down (Huan), Weak (Ruo), Fine (Xi)

In addition to withered and brittle nails, other symptoms associated with Qi and Blood Deficiency include dizziness, dry skin and dry hair.

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Blood Deficiency include dizziness, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

Read more about Si Wu Tang 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.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

Read more about Bu Gan Tang 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, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

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, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang here

Ba Zhen Tang

Source date: 1326 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and augments Qi. Tonifies and augments Blood.

Why might Ba Zhen Tang help with withered and brittle nails?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi And Blood Deficiency include dizziness, dry skin and dry hair.

Read more about Ba Zhen 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 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 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 Bu Gan 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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat withered and brittle nails as a symptom, like Gui Pi Tang or Bu Gan Tang 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 Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with withered and brittle nails?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat withered and brittle nails as a symptom, like Gui Pi Tang or Ba Zhen Tang for instance.

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here