Q. I have been struggling with brittle nails. When one cracked, I tried taking powdered gelatin. This worked for me.

A. Taking gelatin has been a home remedy for brittle nails for decades. Although there is no recent research to support this home remedy, we discovered an article in the AMA Archives of Dermatology (Sept., 1957). In cases of brittleness not caused by psoriasis, thyroid imbalance or fungal infection, the clinicians running this test found that gelatin (one package daily) was helpful within three months.

One reader offered her experience: “I am only 55 but have always had weak fingernails. Only gelatin tablets have helped strengthen them. but one has to take them every day. It does take at least a month to see results.”

Readers of this column have also reported that taking Knox Gelatine can help ease arthritis. One wrote:

“Gelatin worked well for me and my aging best-buddy canine. We both had joint problems and were beginning to limp slightly. I make a variety of Knox Gelatine-natural fruit smoothies for myself and mix it plain into my dog’s food daily. It has been a couple of months since I began using it and both my buddy and I have had remarkable success with the gelatin.”

If you are interested in other non-drug approaches to treat arthritis, you’ll find them in The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, available in libraries, bookstores and online.

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  1. Sandee

    This sounds like our dog’s problem also! How much gelatin do you give? Our dog is a 75lb lab.

  2. Sandra D

    The comment about dogs not complaining about splitting nails I needed to disagree with and ask you to remove it, please.
    My dog has nails that do not grow like normal dog’s nails. The outer sheath and the quick do not grow together like most dog’s nails do. That makes his nails very brittle and split at only slight touch. He has been to the doggy emergency room over a dozen times and the regular vet at least another 10-15 in only the 4 years I have had him. Gelatin is the ONLY thing that has helped him. I tried all the expensive dog foods and vitamin supplements and they have all failed to do what only a few months of plain gelatin capsules has done. It kills me to hear him cry out in pain because he has split another nail just chasing a tennis ball in the back yard with his sister doggy. One split nail can cost me over $300 and the pain he goes through during and for 2-3 weeks after is literally heartbreaking.
    I know you meant your comment to be cute and it is for most people and probably dogs, but split nails on our furry friends are extremely painful and definitely something to complain about. And it is far more common than most 2-legged people would imagine. I hope you consider my request and remove that one line.
    Thank you!!
    Sandra, Toby and Sassy

  3. OLIVE W.

    Does neuralgia give a burning sensation???

  4. fbl

    Joan MM, the biotin is great but if you are not assimilating all your nutrients the nails will never be strong.
    Try a digestive enzyme. Most people find it easier to start with a multiple enzyme product that has a little bit of Betaine HCL as well. At least 200 mg of HCL.
    Start with one per meal and as your tummy and body adjusts add another one. Keep adding one weekly (or daily if you are impatient) until you get an acid stomach. Take two big glasses of water to douse the acid and then go back to the last good dose for your next meal. You need to do this challenge test every few years.
    You may find it best to use one multiple enzyme product and then buy the Betaine HCL separately. This is what I do and it works great.
    Things change a lot as you age and it takes me a LOT more Betaine HCL at age 67 than it did at 47. My nails are long and strong, with no polish, and in fact they need to be cut back again. Much different from my peeling, cracking, chipped and quick short nails from 30 years ago!

  5. PP

    The gelatin can be stirred into some sort of juice. Or you can take Certo (liquid pectin) in grape juice.
    For nails, I’ve had success with Biotin, a food supplement. Since taking that, for the first time in my life, my nails were more sturdy. Unfortunately one of the side effects of a newly prescribed BP med seems to counteract that nice effect!

  6. Cindy B.

    Just wondering: Is gelatin the same thing as (or related to) the Certo that many people mix into grape juice to ease joint/arthritic pains? If not the same thing, then surely the gelatin and pectin (Certo) are related somehow? They are both used to make things gel, or “set.” Right?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Gelatin is derived from animals and pectin (Certo) comes from plants, so they are actually different in derivation and structure. They are both used to make things gel, though, and we don’t know if that influences their activity in the body.

  7. Hari

    I am going to try gelatin for my joints, but I sent this to my twin Granddaughters, ages 20, who are complaining about split nails. Thank you so very much!!

  8. BAC

    My nails are soft and prone to tearing, and as a child I bit them. I heard Dr Oz say it does nothing for nails, but I still take a packet everyday first thing in my tea even though the flavor is ruined. They are now more manageable and can grow to a modest length. No longer an embarrassment, at least. Who knows?

  9. fbl

    I had weak, cracked and peeling fingernails until I went to a new Dr about 30 years ago. He looked at my hands and I thought that was weird. I’d never had a Dr. look at my hands before! He had a hair analysis done and discovered that I was low in the very minerals I was taking.
    His diagnosis was low stomach acid. He had me start with digestive enzymes. He said to try different ones and different strengths of Betaine HCL.
    What an amazing result! My fingernails grew for the first time in my life and the other neat thing was I had no more split ends on my hair.
    Every few years I do a challenge test to make sure I’m getting the right amount before I have a major fingernail crisis. I simply increase the Betaine HCL gradually until I get an acid stomach. When that happens I go back to the last good dose. I of course douse the fire in the gut with a couple glasses of water.
    Yes, I’d been through the whole gelatin thing and other remedies that never worked. Stomach acid and digestive enzymes do. As a side benefit I have incredibly strong resilient bones. I’ve had a few serious falls over the years that should have resulted in broken bones and skull. This last year’s fall should have done in my hip, but to the amazement of the ER staff, didn’t. I am 67.

  10. VFC

    I had the thin, fracturing nails we all hate. My cure has been to use generic anti-fungal cream rubbed into the cuticles very night. Problem cured and my cuticles look better too. To the naked eye I had no fingernail fungus but this works for me.

  11. RWP

    I would be interested in knowing why gelatin would help joints and nails. There is something intuitively compelling about the idea but I would be interested in the science if there is any.

  12. Alice

    Are there any disadvantages or undesirable consequences of taking Knox Gelatine daily? Do the gelatin tablets have the same results as using the powdered Gelatine?

  13. Kim H.

    Taking Biotin works fabulous for nails and seems to help hair as well.

  14. Joan MM

    My nails have been splitting and will not grow in spite of trying various oils on them so interested to be reminded about gelatin, what is he best way to take it ?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: One packet a day mixed into your regular food or drink.

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