Fingernails – What Do They Say About You?

The appearance of the fingernails can be quite a surprising indicator of health or disease.

by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCPfingernails

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.

When the nails separate painlessly from the bed, it is called onycholysis. This, again, is a broad symptom that can be indicative of any one or more of several potential problems. Injury, psoriasis, drug reactions, fungal infections, reactions to nail hardeners or acrylic nails, and thyroid disorders are on the list.

When nailbeds bulge and the nails curve down around the fingertips, this is a potential indication of oxygen deprivation, lung disease (including lung cancer), heart disease or liver disease.

Beau’s lines
Nail growth is susceptible to stress. When a body undergoes severe illness or trauma, including major surgery, general anaesthetic, or even a serious flu, the nails may stop growing. The result is a crosswise indentation in the nails. This generally will grow out with time.

Spoon nails
When nails create upward spoons as they grow out, an iron deficiency can be suspected. Good sources of iron include green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, red meat, and poultry.

Flat nails
Raynaud’s disease can cause flat nails. As mentioned in a previous article, Raynaud’s can be controlled/corrected with strong adrenal gland support.

Dark, thin, flat, or spoon-shaped
These symptoms can indicate a Vitamin B12 deficiency. Hawthorn Berries and spirulina are great sources of B12. Of course, B12 can also be found in beef, chicken, and egg yolk.

Thick, discoloring nails
This is often an indication of psoriasis. Doing cleanses alternated with building programs, and focusing on reducing the acid levels of the blood and body through diet, are usually very helpful in correcting psoriasis.

Thick nails
This is a cardiovascular indicator. It indicates a weakening of the vascular system and poor circulation. Using MC (mega-chel), HSII, CoQ10 and other cardiovascular supporting supplements would be wise.

Lengthwise grooves
Kidney disorders, aging, and iron deficiency can all contribute to lengthwise grooves. For aging concerns, use IGF-1 or colostrum.

Lengthwise ridges
This is a strong indication of arthritis. Lowering the acid levels in the diet and supporting the kidneys and adrenals are very helpful in controlling arthritic symptoms.

This is a strong indication of rheumatoid arthritis. This is apparent when lengthwise ridges look like rows of tiny beads. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder that creates inflammation throughout the body. Omega 3 is a well-documented anti-inflammatory.2 Vitamin D has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory and may be helpful here.3

Pitted and dented
Nails that resemble hammered brass portend of total or partial hair loss, or may be the result of having your hands in detergent frequently or for long periods of time.

Chipping, cracking, peeling, breaking easily
Nails that are this fragile indicate general nutritional deficiency, insufficient hydrochloric acid in the stomach, and deficient minerals and protein in the diet. Poor digestion has a major impact on total body wellness. Improve the digestion and you’ll often fix many other symptoms.

Brittle, soft, shiny, no moons
These symptoms point to an overactive thyroid. Since the thyroid is controlled by the pituitary, working with the pituitary is often helpful. Parsley and alfalfa are good choices here.

Thinning nails accompanied by itching skin
These are symptoms of lichen planus, a skin condition with itchy, purple, angular bumps. Medical science reports that causes can include drug reactions, color film developers, polymyositis, malabsorption syndromes and lymphoma. Cleansing and general nutrition support are indicated. Liver support is also important.

Raised at base with small white tip
This can simply be hereditary, or it can be an indication of respiratory disorders.

Red skin at base of nail
While this is not really a fingernail symptom, red skin around the base of a nail can indicate connective tissue disorders. Collatrim and colostrum are key therapies here.

Fingernails are more than just jewels or tools. As you can see, the appearance of the fingernails can be quite a surprising indicator of health or disease.

What do your nails say about your health?

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 EnzymesProactazyme
Iron-rich I-XI-X
Three Combination HerbHerbal Trace Minerals
Kidney SupportKB-CKB-C Chinese
K-CKidney Activator TCM
Heart SupportHawthornHawthorn Berries
Blood Sugar BalanceGlucoRegSugarReg
NourishingUltimate Greezone CapsGreenzone Ultimate Caps
Zambroza with Acai and PomegranateThai-Go
Heavy Metal Detoxifiers
Heavy Metal DetoxHeavy Metal Detox
Calcium-richHerbal CAHerbal CA
Respiratory supportAL-CBreathe Activator TCM
LH-CLung Support, Chinese
Liver supportingLIV-GDMilk Thistle Combination
Hormonal supportMaster G FormulaMaster Gland
Zinc-richZinc & Vitamin C LozengesZinc Lozenge
Essential OilsLemon Essential OilLemon Authentic Essential Oil

SymptomCategory of supportNature’s Sunshine Products CANADANature’s Sunshine Products USA
Onycholysisyeast/fungal issuesYF DTXYeast/Fungal Detox
Tea Tree OilTea Tree Authentic Essential Oil
Olive Leaf ExtractOlive Leaf Extract
Silver Shield GelSilver Shield Gel (20 ppm)
low thyroid functionTS IIThyroid Support
Clubbinglow oxygenVitamin E with SeleniumVitamin E with Selenium
lung supportLH-CLung Support Chinese
heart/circulation supportHS-CNervous Fatigue TCM Conc.
liver supportLIV-JLIV-J
Spoon nailslow ironThree Combination HerbHerbal Trace Minerals
Ultimate Greezone CapsGreenzone Ultimate Caps
digestionDigestive EnzymesFood Enzymes
absorptionUC3-JIntestinal Soothe & Build
CLT-X 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).
Flat nailsadrenalsAdrenal SupportAdrenal Support
AD-CMood Elevator TCM Concentrate
Stress FormulaNutri-Calm
Dark, thin, flat, or spoon-shapedlow B12Methyl B-12 PlusMethyl B-12 Complete, Liquid
HawthornHawthorn Berries
Thick nailscardiovascular supportMCMega-Chel
HS-CNervous Fatigue TCM Conc.
Arginine PlusSolstic Cardio
Lengthwise grooveskidney support
low iron
Lengthwise ridgeskidneysKB-CKB-C Chinese
adrenalsAdrenal SupportAdrenal Support
AD-CMood Elevator TCM Concentrate
Stress FormulaNutri-Calm
Beadingomega 3Krill 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)
Krill Oil w/K2 (stronger than other omega 3)
Vitamin DVitamin D3Vitamin D3
Pitted and dentedhair lossHSN-WHSN-W
Protein Digestive AidPDA
household/dishwashing cleanser that won’t eat your fingernailsEssential Shield Multi-purpose CleanerEssential Shield Multi-purpose Cleaner
Chipping, cracking, peeling, breaking easilygeneral nutritional support, mineral support, protein supportUltimate Greezone CapsGreenzone Ultimate Caps
low stomach acidProtein Digestive AidPDA
Brittle, soft, shiny, no moonshyperthyroidUC3-JIntestinal Soothe & Build
Thinning nails accompanied by itching skingeneral nutrition supportUltimate Greezone CapsGreenzone Ultimate Caps
gut supportCLT-X 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).
Garden Essence EnzymesProactazyme
liver supportLIV-JLIV-J
Raised at base with small white tiprespiratory supportLH-CLung Support, Chinese
Red skin at base of nailconnective tissue supportCollagenCollagen

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

Copyright © 2018 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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