Anyone who has ever had a hangnail, papercut, scratch or other seemingly minor finger injury that had them recoiling in pain every time they reached for something knows the importance of hand care. With the nails being an especially important part of hand care and preventing painful unsightly injuries, and equally unsightly staining.

In the following excerpt from Secret Food Cures authors Lydia and Joan Wilen discuss their favorite home nail and hand care remedies to keep your hands and nails looking their best.


Like our feet, hands and fingernails suffer a lot of daily abuse. From washing dishes in hot water to typing on a computer keyboard, our hands and nails seem to touch everything. If your hands and nails are feeling a little rough, dry or brittle, some of these remedies may bring soothing relief.

• Chapped hands will be greatly soothed when you massage wheat germ oil into them.

• Red, rough and sore hands (feet, too) should be relieved with lemon juice. After you rinse off the lemon juice, massage the hands with olive, coconut or wheat germ oil.

NOTE: Give a moisturizer time to work by keeping it on your hands overnight. To maximize the moisturizer’s effectiveness, and to protect your bedsheets, put on white cotton gloves after you’ve applied the moisturizer. If you don’t have white cotton gloves, then go to a photographic-supply store and pick up the inexpensive gloves that photographers and film editors wear when handling film.

Rough Hands

• For those chapped hands, try some honey. Wet your hands and shake off the water without actually drying them. Then rub some honey all over your hands. When they’re completely honey-coated, let them stay that way for five minutes. (We would recommend you read the paper to pass the time, but turning the pages would definitely present problems.)

Next, rub your hands as you rinse them under tepid water. Then pat your hands dry. Do this every day until you want to clap hands for your unchapped hands.

• Tired of being called “lobster claw”? Take one teaspoon of granulated sugar in the palm of your hand and add a few drops of castor oil and enough fresh lemon juice to totally moisten the sugar. Vigorously massage your hands together for a few minutes. Rinse with tepid water and pat dry. This hand scrub should leave hands smooth and, in the process, remove stains.

Hand Cleansers

• One simple cleanser consists of scrubbing your hands with a palmful of dry baking soda, then rinsing with tepid water.

• For another cleanser, take a palmful of oatmeal, moistened with milk. Rub and rinse.

Farmer’s Friend

• This remedy for rough, chapped and soiled hands is a favorite among farmers. In a bowl, combine about 1 ⁄4 cup of cornmeal, one tablespoon of water and enough apple cider vinegar to make the mixture the consistency of a loose paste. Rub this mildly abrasive mixture all over your hands for 10 minutes. Rinse with tepid water and pat dry.

This treatment not only can remove dirt, it can also soften, soothe and heal the hands.

• In a jar, combine equal parts of tomato juice, lemon juice and glycerin (available at drugstores). Let one hand massage the other with the mixture. Rinse with tepid water.

• The ideal remedy for people with dry hands is having their own sheep as a pet. This is because sheep’s wool contains lanolin. By rubbing your hands across the animal’s back every so often, you’ll keep them in great shape.

Clammy Hands

• In a basin, combine 1 ⁄2 gallon of water with 1 ⁄2 cup of alcohol and put your palms in the mixture. After a few minutes, rinse your hands with cool water and pat dry. This is especially useful for clammy-palmed politicians on the campaign trail.

Fingernail Remedies

If you’re having problems with breaking, splitting and thin nails, you may need to supplement your diet with a B-complex vitamin and zinc sulfate (follow the directions on the bottle for the dosage), along with garlicraw and/or supplements. Be sure to consult your doctor first!

The following remedies for strengthening fingernails can help if they’re used in addition to a well-balanced diet.

• Daily, soak your fingers for 10 minutes in any one of these oils…

◆ Warm olive oil

◆ Warm sesame-seed oil

◆ Warm wheat germ oil

As you wipe off the oil, give your nails a mini-massage from top to bottom.

• If your nails are very brittle, use a juice extractor to juice parsnip—enough for 1⁄2 cup at a time. Drink parsnip juice at least once a day. Be patient for results—give it a couple of weeks or more.

• While tapping your nails on a table can be very annoying to people around you, it is very good for your nails. The more you tap, the faster they will grow. Which is good because you may need long nails to defend yourself from those annoyed people around you.

Stained Nails

Want natural, healthy-looking, pinkish nails? Some helpful advice from a New York City nail salon…

• Stop using colored nail polish directly on the nail. Instead, wear a protein-based coat under nail polish to protect your nails from the polish’s color pigments, which cause staining and oxidation.

• To get rid of polish stains, toss two denture cleansing tablets into 1 ⁄4 cup of water. Soak your fingertips in the solution for about 15 minutes.

If your nails are not as stain-free as you had hoped, gently brush them with a nailbrush. Rinse and dry

• Put tooth-whitening paste on a toothbrush and gently distribute the paste on your nails. Leave it on for about 15 minutes…then brush as you rinse off the paste. Gently dry

NOTE: It may take several tries, day after day, before the stains are completely gone. But keep working at it—your appearance is worth it!

Nicotine Nails

• If your nails are cigarette stained, we’ll tell you how to bleach them back to normal—as long as you promise to stop smoking, okay? (See “Smoking” starting on page 167.)

Now then…to remove the stains, rub half a lemon over your nails. Then remove the lemon’s pulp and, with the remaining rind, concentrate on one nail at a time, rubbing each one until it looks nice and pink.

NOTE: If you have citrus juice on your skin and you go in the sun, your skin may become permanently bleached or discolored. Be sure to completely wash off the lemon juice before you go outdoors.

Finger Sores (Whitlows)

• When you have a painful inflammation around your fingernail, soak it in hot water. Then heat a lemon in the oven, cut a narrow opening in the middle and sprinkle salt in it. Take the infected finger and stick it in the lemon. After an initial sting, the pain should disappear within minutes.

Be sure to discard the lemon and cover your finger—whitlows can be contagious.

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