a natural approach to nail problems

Gardeners, gloves on or not, can be prone to nail problems – here are some cures and tips from my book beauty treatments from the garden

Soft nails – Fragile nails can indicate rheumatism, poor diet or poor general health. Iron deficiency produces brittle nails as does a lack of biotin (vitamin H) or zinc.

Brittle nail syndromes  (Onychoschizia and onychorrhexis) come in two directions – splitting of the nail horizontally is medically known as onychoschizia while vertical splits are referred to as onychorrhexis. Women and older people are most affected by the syndrome – age degrades keratin in the nail structure as does acetone in polish remover.

natural treatment spa for soft nail – mortar and pestle up some horsetail and paint on the liquid extract – rich in nail strengthening silica. Silica is also present in dandelions, asparagus, alfalfa, cabbage and cucumbers. from the kitchen, Biotin from avocados, mushrooms, Swiss chard and sunflowers seeds will strengthen nails from within but topically the natural oils from crushed sunflower seeds can strengthen and an avocado hand mask will treat not just the nails but the whole hand. Silica is available for internal top up or external application from olives, oats, radishes, bell peppers, rice, millet and soybeans

Cracked and splitting nails can beset gardeners as much as it can kitchen porters and it’s the same causative factor – repeated exposure to water and substances (detergents or hot compost) that degrades the keratin – the agent of the structural integrity of your nails. On average healthy nails average hold around 15- 18 percent water content. Less than that leads to brittle nails that split and crack easily but anything approaching 30 percent water content also triggers cracking – the keratin glue dissolves some bonds at that degree of saturation and nails quickly soften and damage.

A natural response – The answer is to moisturise your nails without saturating them- that’s as simple as an olive oil nail bath but if you blitz comfrey and horsetail in the oil base then the extra silicon and phytochemicals can strengthen as well as improve waterproofing. Growing your own garlic and including it in your diet will add several phytoconstituents that help you produce more keratin.

Hangnails are those torn pieces of skin right at the edge of a nail. Easily occasioned if you are a nail biter – don’t worry the dahlias will come up. Just as easily occasioned by cold weather or via water immersion or by exposure to detergents and other harsh chemicals. Pamper your nails and use an antibacterial wash to prevent hangnails becoming paronychia.

Ridges- occasionally raised lines develop in the nail, often harmless and natural disruption to normal cell division/ nail growth patterns – occasional indicative of trauma or a medical condition, they can appear horizontally or vertically. Often they will simply grow out. Any nail nourishment – be that an external horsetail finger bathe or eating zinc rich foods etc.- will benefit the condition of your nails.

Beau lines – not quite a love letter, rather a condition of the nail matrix where/when cells temporarily stop dividing – Nail growth is a result of normal cell division, the renewal/production of new cells from the matrix simply pushes the older cells outwards toward the fingertips. Named after the French physician Joseph Honore Simon Beau, he was the first to describe the condition which presents as multiple horizontal grooves in the fingernails. The groves run parallel to the base of the nail bed and are different to vertical ridges. Beau lines predominantly occur after/during illness or trauma – trauma to the person or direct trauma to the nail (hammer blow etc). The shock of an early frost won’t do it.

Vertical ridges – Running from the base of the nail to the tip. They are not generally occasioned by illness as with beau lines but rather manifest (or increase in prominence) with age.

Yellow nails – Tea, nicotine, turmeric and peaty soils can all stain a nail. But make sure it’s not a medical condition signifier. To whiten stained nails simply paint on a mix of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 table spoon of olive oil.

White spots(leukonychia) commonly occasioned by a minor trauma – it is not a vitamin deficiency. The only effective treatment is to wait for the nail to grow it out – slowly pushing it to the tip as the nail grows. Leukonychia can also manifest as white streaks.

Sometimes an eczema outbreak can dot nails and some fungal infections begin as white spotting but neither are leukonychia – fungal will need treatment see fungal treatments here or in the book. Persistent spotting may indicate a liver or kidney function issue to be highlighted with a medical professional.

White Flecks – flecking can indicate a zinc deficiency or just be the temporary ‘scar’ from a trauma to the nail fold (located just under the cuticle) – as it grows out it become visible. Cereal with milk a few times a week supply’s both zinc and other nutrition that helps recovery or remove deficit. Nuts and seed also aid.

Pitting – when small depressions develop upon or within the nail surface it can be an indication of an underlying medical condition. Pitting can lead to the nail loosening and even nail bed detachment. Psoriasis can occasion pitting.

Curving nails (Koilonychia) is an abnormal growth pattern of the fingernail where the nail becomes thin, develops raised ridges commences to curve inward – it is an indication of an iron deficiency and often accompanies anaemia. Time to eat more brassicas and possibly take a supplement.

Discover more inside the book – available from all good booksellers

About The Holistic Gardener

author of wellness books, columnist, keynote speaker.
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