Brittle Nails (Holistic)

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About This Condition

Put your best fingers forward by restoring nail strength. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Try biotin

    Increase nail thickness and strength by taking 2.5 mg of this B vitamin every day

  • Get a checkup

    Talk to your doctor to find out if your brittle nails are caused by a treatable medical condition or a nutritional deficiency


About This Condition

Brittle nails can be weak, thin, nails that peel or break easily, and/or grow slowly.

The common condition of brittle nails is often not definitively linked with any known cause. Nonetheless, natural medicine may be able to help strengthen brittle nails.

Most conditions that affect nails are unrelated to nutrition; they are caused by a lack of oxygen associated with lung conditions, hemorrhage due to infection, or inflammation around the nail due to infection. If there is any question about what the problem is, it is important to get a diagnosis from a healthcare practitioner.


People with brittle nails may have frequent or easy breaking, cracking, splitting, or tearing of their nails.


What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Supplement Why
2 Stars
2.5 mg daily
Biotin has been shown to improve nail firmness and thickness and to reduce splitting in several studies.

Biotin , a B vitamin, is known to strengthen hooves in animals. As a result, Swiss researchers investigated the use of biotin in strengthening brittle fingernails in humans, despite the fact that it remains unclear exactly how biotin affects nail structure. An uncontrolled trial of 2.5 mg biotin per day found improved firmness and hardness in almost all cases after an average treatment time of 5.5 months.1 In a controlled trial using 2.5 mg of biotin per day, women with brittle nails, who had their nail thickness measured before and at six to fifteen months after, found their nail thickness increased by 25%. As a result, splitting of nails was reduced. In an uncontrolled study of people who had been taking biotin for brittle nails in America, 63% showed improvement from taking biotin.2 Although the amount of research on the subject is quite limited and positive effects do not appear in all people, those people having brittle nails may want to consider a trial period of at least several months, using 2.5 mg per day of biotin.

2 Stars
Refer to label instructions
Many people have reported success using gelatin to strengthen brittle nails.

Gelatin has been marketed as a remedy for brittle nails since the turn of the twentieth century and has been mentioned in medical journals at least since the 1950s.3 , 4 , 5 Gelatin is a slaughterhouse byproduct, made from the hooves and other inedible connective tissue of cows. While some people claim success using gelatin to strengthen brittle nails, others claim that the remedy is ineffective,6 , 7 and that the real cause of brittle nails is lack of moisture, not protein deficiency.

2 Stars
1,500 mg daily
One doctor has observed that taking glucosamine sulfate can increase the nail growth and strength.

One doctor has observed that supplementation with glucosamine sulfate (amount not specified) can increase the growth rate and strength of fingernails and toenails;8however, no controlled trials have been done.

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Anecdotal reports suggest that horsetail may help treat brittle nails, possibly due to its high content of silicic acid and silicates.

Anecdotal reports suggest that horsetail may be of some use in the treatment of brittle nails.9 This may be due to the high content of silicic acid and silicates in horsetail, which provide approximately 2 to 3% elemental silicon.


1. Floersheim GL. Treatment of brittle fingernails with biotin. Z Hautkr 1989;64:41-8 [in German].

2. Hochman LG, Scher RK, Meyerson MS. Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis 1993;51:303-5.

3. Halliday C. A new treatment for brittle nails. Canad Nurse 1959;55:348.

4. Rosenberg S, Oster KA, Kallos A, Burroughs W. Further studies in the use of gelatin in the treatment of brittle nails. AMA Arch Derm 1957;76:330-5.

5. Derzavis JL, Mulinos MG. The brittle nail. Its treatment and prevention with gelatin. Med Ann DC 1961;30:133-7.

6. Mirkin G. Gelatin doesn't cure brittle nails. Health Topics from The Dr. Gabe Mirkin Show and [accessed 3/20/01].

7. The Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books, ed. The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Women. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.

8. Swinburne LM. Glucosamine sulphate and osteoarthritis. Lancet2001;357:1617 [Letter].

9. Hamon NW, Awang DVC. Horsetail. Canadian Pharm J 1992;September:399-401.