Fingernails Part 1 – What Your Fingernails Say About You

by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCP

This article is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. It is meant for educational purposes only. Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health, and Nature’s Sunshine Products accept no responsibility for results you get, whether good or bad, from using this information. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

Note: More information about the products mentioned can be found at the end of the article.

Tradition has it that in ancient Egypt it was illegal for a man to see a woman who was a member of another man’s harem. When a harem member fell ill, the physician was sent for. His assessment of the woman’s problems had to be done based on what he could learn from her hand as she revealed it between the breaks in the curtains.

While fingernails may not provide the complete and thorough diagnostic base of more modern, scientific and holistic methods, they can certainly point us in the right direction. Medical doctors Psoriasis on Fingernails Isolated White Backgroundeven learn a few select fingernail symptoms in medical school (as outlined in Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking1), so we, as people who have a holistic bent, certainly can’t be accused of being archaic or unscientific! Nails are simply a specialized extension of skin.

Fingernails are dead keratinaceous/epithelial material that is firmly attached to richly vascular nail beds. Because they grow rapidly in healthy people – up to .1 mm daily, toenails less quickly – they can provide fairly good recent history of physiological imbalances throughout the body. Also, changes in the vascularity of the nail bed will change the color of the nails and indicate other clinical problems in various areas of the body. Fingernails that grow slowly and/or have deformities indicate potential problems.

Let’s look at fingernail symptoms in categories of color change, texture change, and combination changes. Obviously, when an organ system or specific disease process is listed below, the way to correct the accompanying fingernail problems is to address the organ system or disease process directly. This information is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. Please seek the services of qualified health professionals if you feel you need to.

First of all, let’s look at how a normal fingernail should appear. The nail itself should be smooth, with a satin gloss and white tip. The lunula, or half-moon that should appear at the base of each fingernail, should be white. The color of the nail itself is pinkish-white, regardless of ethnicity.

Color changes can be the result of changes in blood supply to the nail bed, changes in organ chemistry, or toxic infiltration from the surface of the nail. Color changes may be in the nail bed (the part directly beneath the nail – what we see through the nail) or in the nail tissue itself.


White nails can indicate liver diseases, kidney diseases, and anemia. Anemia can be caused by iron deficiency in the diet, inadequate digestion of iron bearing foods, or poor absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract. Adding digestive enzymes and increasing iron-rich herbs are possible solutions for anemia.


Swelling in the hands; respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis; lymphatic problems; diabetes; and liver disorders can all cause nails to appear yellow, especially at the nail bed.

If the white tips of nails appear yellow it can be tinting from using nail polish frequently. Massaging the fingernails with lemon essential oil will help to prevent polish-induced yellow tinting.

Pink and White

When nails appear partly pink, partly white, suspect kidney diseases.

Red nail bed

The nail bed is directly beneath the nail – what we see through the nail. When this appears red, heart conditions may be present or building in the body.

Pale nail bed

Pale anything almost always means poor blood supply or poor oxygenation of the blood. The same is true here. Anemia is often the cause of a pale nail bed. Consider using digestive support and iron-rich herbal supplements.

Yellowish nails with a slight blush at the base

This is a potential indicator of diabetes. Consider using supplements that support the body in balancing blood sugars. 

Terry’s nails

“Terry’s nails” are opaque white nails with a dark band at the end of the finger. This is a somewhat ominous sign. It often indicates that a serious illness is in progress. Possibilities include cancer, cirrhosis, congestive heart failure and diabetes. But don’t panic – simple aging can also be the cause of Terry’s nails. Consider using supplements to nourish the entire body.

Slate blue lunula (the white half-moon that should appear at the base of each fingernail)

This indicates potential lung problems or over-exposure to silver, including colloidal silver. (Note: Nature’s Sunshine Products contain nano silver, not colloidal silver.)

Deep blue nail beds

Pulmonary obstruction, asthma, and emphysema – all conditions that reduce oxygenation of the blood – can create deep blue nail beds.

Half white with dark spots on tips

This type of coloring is yet another indicator that the kidneys may be in serious trouble.

White with pink near tips

This color combination can indicate cirrhosis.

Nails pitted with red-brown spots, splitting at tips

This complex set of symptoms can indicate a broad range of potential conditions. Consider psoriasis, nail injuries, dish soap, vitamin C deficiency, folic acid deficiency, and protein deficiency.

“Mee’s lines”

These white lines run across the nail following the shape of the lunula. These do not resemble white spots at all. The nail bed appears white and opaque in a band or stripe across the nail. They are a strong indication of arsenic poisoning or acute or serious illness. They will generally grow out when the problem is corrected.

White lines

White lines that don’t necessarily follow the shape of the lunula can indicate heart disease, liver disease, or history of a recent high fever. These look like the traditional ‘white spots’ that run together across the nail. 

White spots

Traditionally, holistic practitioners have recognized white spots on fingernails as being an indication of low zinc. Additionally, white spots can indicate low calcium or injuries to the fingernail. 

White, square nails

When the nails are very white and square, look towards hormonal disorders as the cause.

As you can see, the appearance of the fingernails can be quite a surprising indicator of health or disease. For more information, see Fingernails Part 2 – More of What Your Fingernails Say About You.

If you have concerns about your nails or your health in general, or just don’t know where to begin making improvements, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available.

I also invite you to Like us on Facebook (Cobblestone Health Ltd) and to visit my other websites:

Products referred to in this article:

Category of supportNature’s Sunshine Products CANADA
Nature’s Sunshine Products USA
Digestive EnzymesDigestive EnzymesFood Enzymes
Garden Essence EnzymesProactzyme
Iron-rich I-X I-X
Three Combination HerbHerbal Trace Minerals
Kidney SupportKB-C KB-C Chinese
K-CKidney Activator TCM
Heart SupportHawthorn Hawthorn Berries
Blood Sugar BalanceGlucoRegSugarReg
NourishingGreenzoneUltimate Greenzone
ZambrozaThai go
Heavy Metal Detoxifiers
Heavy Metal Detox Heavy Metal Detox
Calcium-richHerbal CA CA, Herbal
Respiratory supportAL-C Breathe Activator TCM
LH-C Lung Support, Chinese
Liver supportingLIV-GDMilk Thistle Combination
Hormonal supportMaster G Master Gland
Zinc-richZinc & C LozengesZinc Lozenge
Essential OilsLemon Authentic Oil is available through the
Sunshine Direct program (contact Nature’s Sunshine
Canada at 1-800-265-9163 for instructions)
or by special order from Cobblestone Health or 403-850-5503)
Lemon Authentic Oil

1Bickley, Lynn, MD, Bates Guide to Physical Exam and History Taking, 7th edition, Wolters Kluwer, 2012

Copyright © 2015 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).

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