Similar in composition to hair and made up primarily from a fibrous protein called keratin, the nails are considered one of the body’s hardest and strongest tissues. A number of problems can however, cause easy breaks in the nails or they can be weakened due to disorders and some underlying conditions may also slow their overall rate of growth-all of these problems can be seen classified collectively as being nail problems. A fungal infection is one of the most common form of nail problem, this fungal infection which produces horny and unsightly nails may be evident in as many as one in twenty five individuals afflicted with nail problems.
The proper growth of nails and its appearance is controlled in a major way by proper diet and nutrition-the amounts of nutrients in the body is a major factor in the health of nails. As an example, the formation of ridges or ridging in the nails can often result due to an insufficient intake of the B vitamins; at the same time, a deficiency of the essential mineral calcium will also bring about dryness and brittleness in the nails.
Hangnails are partially caused by too little vitamin C or folic acid within the body, perhaps because of insufficient absorption of these nutrients from the diet. Insufficient oxygen absorption by the blood and low levels of it in the circulatory system arising as a result of an underlying illness like asthma can also lead to various types of nail problems. Nails can also become very weak and brittle if they are continually exposed to solvents which may dry them out-such chemicals can greatly weaken the nails.
Toenails may also be infected by the same fungus that gives rise to the infection known as athlete’s foot in some individuals. This fungus grows and multiplies well in humid areas of the body and thrives in sweaty shoes and socks, the fungus also invades any tiny breaks in nails which are present due to strenuous physical activities such as jogging-once it invades the nails, it will give rise to nail problems similar to those caused by other conditions.
Supplements and herbs
Different nutrients and various types of supplements can be utilized as nail strengtheners which act in a general way if nails have been weakened by disease. To notice any results from supplementation, the supplemental period must last for at least an uninterrupted eight weeks of therapy.
Nails are strengthened by supplemental use of vitamins like the biotin along with the other B complex vitamins, they must be taken in combination with an amino acid complex and the vitamins C and E, these will help the body manufacture keratin and other proteins that strengthen nails in a synergistic manner-all these supplements act together in maintaining strong nails and must be used in combination. Nail growth is also aided by the presence of an essential mineral sulfur, in fact nail growth cannot proceed with a deficiency of this mineral as it is an essential constituent of keratin.
Nails also gain benefit from ingesting a bone building combination formula which is rich in calcium and other minerals-these minerals strengthen the bone at the same time. Nails are also prevented from cracking and are better nourished by consuming the oil of the flaxseed along with the evening primrose oil; these essential herbal oils are very rich in two different types of essential fatty acids considered necessary for proper nail strength and growth.
Fungal infections of nails leading to nail problems are much harder to treat than other nail conditions. One good remedy is to use supplemental doses of oral vitamin C, when this is taken along with the vitamin E, it leads to an increased immunity within body-this factor can aid the body in fighting off the infection and decreases the chance of the fungal problem causing other nail problems. Nails can also be topically treated by regular rubs of the tea tree oil, along with some garlic oil, or even some calendula ointment-these oils can be rubbed into the affected nails two times a day for several months at a stretch.
Commonly used essential oils for nail problems:
Additional things you may do
Affected cuticles must not be trimmed at any stage. Whole cuticles protect the nails from all types of infections that can come about by fungi or some bacteria. Remember to wear good quality rubber gloves whenever you’re doing any type of household chores especially if it involves the use of any type of chemical or acrid compound. If the nails are immersed in water for any length of time, rubbing or applying petroleum jelly to the nails immediately after will maintain nail health. Nails must, if at all possible, be short-long nails are much more prone to breakage and injury. To prevent sudden splitting and peeling away of nail, before you trim any nail make sure to soak them in some warm water.
Evening primrose oil, 1,000 mg thrice daily. Evening primrose oil can be substituted with 1,000 mg borage oil one time daily.
Flaxseed oil, one tbsp. or 14 grams of flaxseed oil daily. Flaxseed oil should be taken in the morning with food.
Tea tree oil, for fungal infections, rub tea tree oil into affected nails two times daily. Never ingest oil of tea tree.
Vitamin E / Vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E a day; 1,000 mg vitamin C thrice daily.
Biotin, 600 mcg two times daily for period of eight weeks. Always take biotin with food.
Amino acid complex, one pill two times daily. Take it on empty stomach for best absorption.
In children affected by nail problems an infected nail injury must be treated by a topical application of green clay along with a poultice made from the goldenseal, this topical application will help draw out all the infection from the infected nail. Till such times as the infection goes away, the poultice must be applied for treatments lasting fifteen minutes, two times every day. If an infection develops at the site of injury, give the child one dose of a combination formula made from the Echinacea and goldenseal herbs, thrice every day, for a treatment period lasting three days at a stretch.
Other beneficial herbs