Nails are a vital part of our body that serve multiple functions. They protect the sensitive tips of our fingers and toes from trauma, injury, and infection. They support the surrounding tissues and are essential to our appearance. Overall, nails are an important part of our body and play multiple essential roles in our daily lives. However, our nails are often overlooked by us. We are here to help you understand why your nails are more than just a protective requirement of the human body and how they can help identify a potential dosha imbalance or health issue.
Ayurveda's take on nails
A healthy nail is supposed to be shiny, smooth, and uniform in consistency. Such a nail will have attached cuticles, nail folds, and nail plates. Healthy nails are not cracked, rigid, or broken in any way. The visible nail bed is supposed to be pink, and the free margin of the nail is white in color.
To maintain and keep the nails healthy, it is important to adapt grooming habits such as cutting ﬁngernails straight across and then rounding the edges. However, the edges of toenails shouldn’t be rounded in excess as it may increase the risk of ingrown nails. Cuticles should not be cut or pushed back, because they are significant when it comes to keeping the pathogens out. Especially, avoid filing the nail surface because this thins the nail plate and makes it prone to splitting.1
In Ayurveda, when dhatu (a basic constituent element that provides support and structure to our body) and updhatu (secondary tissues of the body, which are formed as a result of the transformation of the primary dhatus) are formed in the body, mala (body waste) is formed as a by-product of that metabolic transformation. As per Ayurvedic wisdom, nails are said to be the mala of asthidhatu i.e bones.2 The primary function of asthidhatu is to hold the body straight. The asthidhatu gives solid structure and stability to the body as it is the firmest and hardest dhatu. It is believed that the health of your bones will reflect the health of your nails.
As per Ayurveda, a healthy person's nails should be pink, thin, and elevated. According to Ayurvedic wisdom, the raktadhatu3 gives luster and redness to the nails, and the asthidhatu2 is associated with its firmness, and hardness. Apart from this, shukradhatu4 is associated with the white color of nails. Thus, if there is any imbalance or a defect in the metabolism in these dhatus, it will reflect on our nails. Since our nails are easily accessible and visible, several potential troubles can be determined on close examination. Since rakta, asthi, and shukradhatus are closely associated with nails, these dhatus directly impact their health and appearance.
Kunakha5: According to Ayurveda, kunakha refers to the diseases or disorders of the nails that come under the broad umbrella of kshudraroga (ancient science of cosmetology). These diseases may be characterized by rough, hard, or discoloration of nails. Modern-day science has a different approach to these nail diseases. Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the nail bed or nail plate which is yellow and thick and crumbles easily. This disease of the nails can be co-related to kunakha in Ayurveda.
Upnakha or Chippa: Paronychia6, 7can be related to upnakha or chippa, which can be understood as pain, swelling, and redness around the nails due to trauma, irritation, or bacterial infection of the broken skin near the cuticle and nail fold. Upnakha, too, comes under the spectrum of kshudraroga.
Our doshas and nails8
In Ayurveda, nails (nakha) are considered an important diagnostic tool for assessing an individual's overall health. The appearance and condition of the nails can provide insight into the dosha imbalances and any underlying health issues in the body. Here's how to know your nail type depending on your dosha:
Vata: According to Ayurveda, nails are considered a by-product of bone tissue, which is governed by the Vata dosha2. Therefore, any imbalance in the Vata dosha can affect the health of our nails. An imbalance in Vata dosha can cause dry, brittle, and cracked nails. Vata predominant individuals also have the tendency to bite their nails because of nervousness. They may be prone to malabsorption of nutrients which may lead to vertical lines on your nails.9
Pitta: Pitta dosha is associated with heat, and excess heat in the body can lead to nail problems. Ordinarily, a person with balanced Pitta dosha would have typically pink and medium-sized finger nails9.
Kapha: Kapha dosha is associated with the earth and water elements, and excess Kapha in the body may lead to a variety of nail problems. Normally, kapha individuals have strong and white nails.9
Therefore, to maintain healthy nails, it's important to keep all three doshas balanced.
Nail Abnormalities and What They May Mean
Longitudinal Lines on the Nails10: These long, vertical lines are often observed in many individuals and may indicate the malabsorption of nutrients such as iron, folic acid, and protein deficiency. They typically cover the entire nail, from the bottom to the top, and may be a sign of collagen vascular diseases or rheumatoid arthritis.
Beau’s Lines or Transverse Groove10: According to modern research, a deep depression on the nail is called beau’s line. Its exact cause is not known but it may be caused due to trauma to the nail, severe illnesses such as fever or exposure to extreme cold, psychological stress, and poor nutritional status.
Red Lunula10: Small or missing lunulae are not usually a cause for concern as they are hidden underneath the cuticle or skin at the base of your finger. Large moons on the thumb or other fingers represent a strong and healthy fire. However, if it turns red, it may signal underlying conditions such as collagen vascular disease, heart-related issues, or psoriasis.
White spots on the nails11: White spots are very common. If the spot is just a one-time occurrence, it could be due to trauma to the nail or due to inflammatory diseases. However, if it is seen on multiple nails, covers a a wider area, and is a recurring issue, it could mean a potential deficiency or sign of severe underlying illness.
Yellow nails10: Yellow nails can be a potential indication of a wide array of complications. However, it is mostly an indication of a fungal infection12, lymphedema, or compromised respiration. Other causes of yellowing of nails may include cases of jaundice, liver issues, tuberculosis, etc.
We can assume that, by examining our nails, we can gain valuable insight into our overall health and wellness. It can also help us to identify any dosha imbalances or underlying health issues and determine the appropriate course of treatment. Ayurveda offers various natural remedies and treatments to deal with any problem that we may have with our nails or any underlying cause triggering such a condition. Therefore, including some vital herbs in our routine, making necessary dietary and lifestyle modifications, and practicing Ayurvedic rituals can help us maintain a healthy body and nails.
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