Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)

Hello Dr. Gary,

What vitamin or mineral should I take to help with my brittle, soft nails?


Hi Anne,

While it’s not a vitamin or mineral, the best supplement for your nails is the essential fatty acid, gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Dietary sources are limited, but GLA can be found in a variety of plant seed oils, including borage (22-25% GLA), black current (15% GLA), and evening primrose (8-10% GLA). Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae rich in GLA, has been recommended by some, but unfortunately there exists the possibility of neurotoxins and/or contamination with heavy metals, and I don’t consider it safe under any circumstance.

Potential issues: 1) If you take antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs, such as aspirin, Plavix, coumadin, or Eliquis, GLA supplements may increase the risk of bleeding. 2) Borage oil can contain amabiline, which is a pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA) toxic to the liver. If you choose borage oil as a GLA source, find one that is PA free. 3) The side effects of GLA supplementation are generally mild and may include belching, upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea.

Besides helping with nails, GLA can promote healthy hair and skin. Because it has significant anti-inflammatory activity, GLA can potentially benefit arthritis, PMS, and autoimmune diseases. Like many natural remedies, don’t expect overnight improvement, rather, be patient and give supplementation a trial of at least six to eight weeks.

The medical/health information is provided for general educational and informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for personal, professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any recommendations based on the information here, please consult with your primary care provider and/or appropriate professionals.    

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