The fingernails say much about a persons overall health. Many conditions and diseases can be detected by changes in the nail. The most common health conditions that nails can reveal are nutritional deficiencies.

Nutritional deficiencies can often result in fingernail changes or abnormalities as well as injuries, illness or external mistreatment. Nails are composed of keratin (hardened protein) and sulfur and they require optimum nourishment from a well balanced diet.

Iron deficiency may be responsible for weak, pale, thin, flat, lengthwise ridging, spoon shaped nails or that peel, chip, crack or break easily. Iron is best absorbed from complete proteins, such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Dietary sulfur includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, dried beans, garlic and onions.

To strengthen the nails drink a cup or two of horsetail or oat straw tea and try soaking the fingertips in a bit of the tea for 10 minutes.

Nail soaks using warm vegetable or nut oil will help restore flexibility to a brittle, soft or splitting fingernail. Do this at night before bed, wipe off the excess oil with a tissue and do not wash off until morning.

When using detergents or household cleaners wear protective gloves to help prevent peeling and splitting. Rubbing the nails and cuticles with petroleum jelly or other moisturizers after lengthy immersions in water, after bathing or swimming, will additionally offset potential harm.

Adding a few drops of castor oil to a bottle of nail polish remover and washing with soap and water afterwards will help counteract the drying effect that polish remover frequently causes.

Cuticles protect your nail base from harmful bacteria and fungi. After applying lotion, push the cuticles back to help prevent drying and cracking. Rubbing cuticles with fresh lemon juice is said to strengthen them.

A hangnail should be softened with water or lotion before clipping it off. Pierce a vitamin E capsule and coat the area will help speed healing. Frequent hangnails may indicate an under supplied amount of protein, vitamin C and folic acid in the diet. Other possible causes are over exposure to water and paper, which both absorb moisture from the skin.

Brittle, weak nails may be corrected by taking 1 tablespoon desiccated liver powder or 2 tablespoons of brewer's yeast stirred into a glass of tomato juice. Others have benefited from 2 capsules daily of evening primrose oil. Filing dry fingernails from the outside toward the center with a rounded slanting edge discourage splitting.

Constantly breaking nails that do not improve with home remedies may indicate poor circulation or thyroid dysfunction, which require medical attention.

Soft, weak fingernails can be the result of the chemicals used in nail cosmetics, an inadequate diet or excessive contact with water. For people with calcium and magnesium deficiencies, taking 1,000 milligrams of the mineral dolomite daily for one month has strengthened frail nails. Other options you might try include gulping a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with each meal or coating polish free fingernails with vinegar or fresh lemon juice.

Horizontal ridges (from side to side) move upward and grow out with the nail in 5 or 6 months. This may be a result from a severe illness, injury, stress or by a chronic B vitamin deficiency. Recurrent ridging may be prevented by consuming adequate protein, vitamin A and brewer's yeast.

Vertical ridges (from top to bottom) can be an indication of iron deficiency anemia or insufficient amounts of vitamins A, B vitamins and calcium. In many cases these lengthwise lines can be either hereditary or gradually developed.

Pitted fingernails usually result from deficiencies of protein, calcium or sulfur, which can be corrected by correcting the diet. Pitting may also occur in conjunction with psoriasis or indicate the presence of rheumatoid arthritis or muscular inflammations.

Spoon nails are depressed in the center and raised at the edges. This could be caused by an injury, but, most often occur in older children and middle aged women due to iron deficiency anemia or B12 deficiency. They usually return to normal once the diet is adequate or the anemia is treated.

White spots in fingernails are attributed to everything from telling little white lies to minor injuries, pockets of air, mineral deficiencies or infection. Holistic practitioners recommend daily supplements of calcium (800 mg), magnesium (500 mg) and zinc (15 mg). Other options include stirring 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and honey in a glass of water and drink with each meal.

Fungus found around and under the fingernails can be caused by the use of artificial nails. They can trap moisture, bacteria and fungi. Taking a B complex tablet plus 15 mg of zinc everyday and acidophilus capsules with each meal may correct the problem. Soaking the nails in a strong solution of vitamin C crystals and water twice a day and squeezing vitamin E oil under the nails has shown improvement in some cases.

Author's Bio: 

Edith Lingenfelter - creator, owner and webmaster of Age-old Herbs - is dedicated to heightening the awareness of the natural healing powers of "herbs" and "herbal nutrition supplements". It is her goal to provide enough interesting information to stimulate interest in learning how to use safe natural supplements and remedies for preventive health care. For more information visit