Article by Dr Manasa, BAMS & Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
Nakhabheda has been mentioned as one among the Vata Nanatmaja Rogas i.e. special disorders which are caused by only vata. It is one among eighty such conditions.
The word Nakahabheda is made up of two terms –
Nakha – nail
Bheda – splitting, breaking, cracks in
So, Nakhabheda is a condition in which there is cracking or splitting in the nail. It may occur on one nail or many nails.
Causative factors of Nakha Bheda
Vata Prakopa – severe aggravation or imbalance of vata is the main cause for the splits and cracks to occur in the nail or nails or for ‘breaking of nails’.
Below mentioned are the causative factors which can cause aggravation of vata which in turn can cause nakha bheda –
- injury to the nails,
- consumption of excessive dry or non-unctuous foods,
- use of less fats or totally avoiding all kinds of fats from food,
- excessive exposure to cold climates or seasons responsible for vata increase – varsha rtu – monsoon or rainy season,
- excessive exposure to dry climate,
- excessive exposure to heat of sun as in summer,
- too much manipulation of nails like pairing,
- habitually scratching the surfaces with nails or biting the nails,
- deficiency of nutrition leading to rasa dhatu kshaya – decrease of rasa tissue,
The asthi connection
Nakha – nails are the mala i.e. excreta or waste product or appendages of bone tissue. So, the bone and nail health are interrelated. Therefore when bone tissue is vitiated or contaminated, the nails are also afflicted.
केश लोम नख श्मश्रु दोषाः च अस्थि प्रदोषजाः॥(च.सू.२८/१६)
Deformities or diseases of hairs, body hairs – including disorders of hair roots and skin pores, nails & nail-bed and moustache are counted by Master Charaka amongst asthi pradoshaja rogas i.e. disease occurring due to contamination of bones. So, when there is contamination or longstanding diseases of the bones, nail deformities may occur as symptoms or complications.
Causes for asthivaha sroto dushti – vitiation of bone transporting channels
व्यायामात् अति संक्षोभात् अस्थ्नां अति विघट्टनात्।
अस्थिवाहीनि दुष्यन्ति वातलानां च सेवनात्॥(च.वि.५/१७)
The contamination of asthivaha srotas is caused due to –
- Vyayama – indulgence in excessive exercise
- Ati sankshobha – excessive irritation (of nails in this context)
- Asthi vighattana – bones being crushed and subjected to repeated trauma
- Vatala ahara – excessive consumption of vata aggravating foods
These can become indirect causes for nakha bheda.
Pathogenesis of Nakha Bheda
When vata increases, the dryness and roughness qualities of vata also naturally increase in the body. These increased attributes of vata can in turn cause dryness and roughness in any part of the body. When this occurs in the nails, the nails would lose their natural moistness and start getting dry and brittle. When this is not addressed or neglected it may lead to cracks, splitting and breaking of nails.
Treatment of Nakha Bheda
Nidana Parivarjana – avoidance of causative factors is one of the important strategies in treating nakha bheda. Patient should avoid vata aggravating factors, manipulating and mishandling nails, applying unknown colors or chemicals to the nails and any known causative or trigger factors.
Treating Vata – Aggravation of vata should be controlled and its balance achieved by use of vata balancing foods, activities and medicines. Regular intake of vata mitigating snehas – medicated ghee or oil and proper hydration will keep the nails moist, unctuous and healthy.
On the lines of ‘treatment of asthivaha sroto dushti’
अस्थि आश्रयाणां व्याधीनां प्ञ्चकर्मणि भेषजम्।
वस्तयः क्षीर सर्पिषि तिक्त कोप हितानि च॥(च.सू.२८/२७)
The vitiation / contamination of bone carrying channels and the diseases resulting therein should be treated by the administration of –
1. Panchakarma – 5 cleansing treatments skillfully administered as and when needed. They include –
- Vamana – therapeutic emesis
- Virechana – therapeutic purgation
- Asthapana Vasti – decoction enemas
- Anuvasana Vasti – oil enemas and
- Nasya – nasal medication
All therapies may not be needed for asthi bheda. If nakha bheda is caused due to contamination of bone channels and bone deformities and diseases, these therapies will come in handy.
2. Vasti – Medicated enemas – for vata balancing and controlling it at its root.
3. Tikta ksheera and sarpi – Milk and or ghee processed with medicines having bitter taste should be administered. This is said to be the best medicine for diseases of bone and bone marrow. Along with these tissues, these enemas will also have a healing effect on the nails and would help to keep them healthy.
Modern Correlation of Nakha Bheda
A condition called as ‘brittle nails’ can be compared to nakha bheda.
The most common causes for brittle nails are injury, trauma or damage to the nails, excessive exposure of nails to toxins in nail polish and to extremes of cold and hot weather. All these causes lead to vata aggravation and can cause nakha bheda.
Related Reading – “Brittle Nails / Onychoschizia – Causes, symptoms, prevention, treatment, Ayurveda Understanding”