HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS – An Introduction
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© January 2016, The Center For Development
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Table of Contents
A unique test
Not a medical diagnostic test
History and development
Why measure minerals?
Why use hair?
C. Simple patterns
D. Complex patterns
Which minerals are tested?
How are the levels reported?
A. Not at all.
B. Toxic metal assessment
C. Replacement therapy
F. Nutritional balancing
B. Trace minerals
C. Toxic minerals
A. The 1979 EPA Report
1. Metabolic typing
2. Stages of stress
3. Oxidation rate
4. Ratios and patterns
A. Should the hair be washed at the laboratory?
B. Is environmental contamination a serious problem?
C. Can hair analysis be used to set up healing programs?
A. Age and normal values
B. Gender and hair testing
C. Race, hair color, and testing
B. Medical journal articles
Hair tissue mineral analysis or HTMA is a soft tissue mineral biopsy that uses hair as the sampling tissue. A biopsy is an analysis of a body tissue. Hair is considered a soft tissue, and hence hair analysis is a soft tissue biopsy.
The test measures the levels of 20 or more minerals in the hair with an accuracy of plus or minus about 3%. This is about the same level of accuracy as most blood tests, or a little better.
For accurate measurement of the water-soluble elements, the hair sample must not be washed at the hair testing laboratory. The preparation of the hair sample at the laboratory is a debate that exists among the laboratories that offer hair mineral testing. Most laboratories, unfortunately, wash the hair with powerful detergents and toxic solvents such as acetone or alcohol.
As an aside, hair is extremely useful for testing many things besides minerals. These include drugs, toxic chemicals and DNA. These, however, are not the focus of this article.
At times I have heard people say that hair is not helpful for testing the body. In fact, the very opposite is the truth. Hair is frequently used in forensic medicine, and in drug testing clinics. It is also used worldwide for biological monitoring of many animal species for toxic metals.
Radiance. When performed and interpreted as suggested in this article, hair mineral testing is quite amazing. It is not just “another test”. It is a measure of the radiance of the body, and of the brain, in particular. This is not easy to explain, but somehow the mineral deposition in the hair tissue reflects the vitality of a human being or animal.
The hair mineral test’s ability to assess and predict physical and psychological states of the body is quite unlike blood, urine, feces and every other method of testing the body that I have encountered. I encourage any practitioner to look into this.
The keys to using the hair test in the way I am describing are:
1. One must not use a laboratory that washes the hair at the laboratory
2. The mineral values must be graphed on the calibrated chart used by Analytical Research Labs, and no other lab of which I am aware.
3. One must perform a lot of tests - at least 100 - and interview the clients to see if the tests reflect what I suggest they reflect in this and many other articles on this website.
Not a medical diagnostic test. Confusion often arises when doctors or others compare hair testing to other medical tests. The hair mineral test, as performed and interpreted as suggested on this website, provides a window into the whole body system. It provides a tremendous amount of information about the system, but not so much about “diseases”, which are of a different paradigm that I call the conventional or allopathic medical paradigm.
For example, the hair mineral test provides indicators of inflammation, but inflammation can manifest as any of 20 or 30 medical diagnoses. Another example is the hair test can provide information about calcium deposition in the soft tissues. However, calcium deposition can manifest as any of at least 10 or so medical conditions such as arteriosclerosis, arthritis, spondylitis, bursitis, gall stones and more.
History and development of hair mineral testing. Mineral testing by atomic absorption spectroscopy was developed almost 100 years ago. It has been, and continues to be, the standard way to test for minerals in geology, agriculture, plant, animal and human tissue studies. It is also the standard method of environmental mineral testing used throughout the world.
Human hair tissue mineral analysis became widely available in the 1970s. The development of computer-controlled spectrometers advanced the accuracy and reliability of testing, and reduced the cost.
Dr. Paul Eck was a pioneer in this area, and began researching the use of the test in the mid-1970s. I started working with him in 1982, and continued until his passing in 1996. Since then, I have continued and expanded on his basic ideas about how to interpret a hair mineral test, and how to correct imbalances revealed on the test. Many new patterns have been identified that expand the usefulness of the test.
Why measure minerals? Minerals are sometimes called the ‘sparkplugs’ of the body. They are needed for millions of enzymes as co-factors, facilitators, inhibitors and as part of the enzymes themselves.
As a result, minerals have a great deal to do with the health of our bodies. By analyzing mineral imbalances in the body, one can learn a lot about the causes and correction of hundreds of common physical and mental health conditions.
A specific class of minerals, the toxic metals, are also extremely important today due to a nutritionally depleted food supply and the presence of environmental toxicity almost everywhere on planet earth. Studying toxic metals is thus very important today to monitor their spread and learn about their many damaging effects upon the bodies of human beings, animals, plants and other organisms.
Even more can be learned about human and animal health by studying the ratios of the major minerals in the body. This is a more complex area, but a very important and fruitful one. Finally, by studying more complex patterns of minerals in the body, one can learn even more about human health and disease.
Why use hair? Hair makes an excellent testing material for many reasons:
1. The most important reason is that it works for nutritional balancing assessment. Exactly why it works, and why other tests such as those with blood, urine, muscle testing or electronic machines do not work, I don’t know. However, we have not been able to duplicate the hair test results using these other methods of testing the body.
2. Simple and non-invasive. Sampling is simple and non-invasive.
3. A stable biopsy material. Hair is a stable biopsy material that remains viable for years, if needed. It also requires no special handling, and can be mailed easily.
4. Easy to measure mineral levels. Mineral levels in the hair are about ten times that of blood, making them easy to detect and measure accurately in the hair.
5. Rapidly growing tissue. Hair is a fairly rapidly growing tissue. This enables one to obtain a recent biochemical picture of soft tissue metabolism.
6. A non-essential, excretory tissue. The body often throws off toxic substances in the hair, since the hair will be cut off and lost to the body. This is very helpful to identify toxic metals, for example, and other things.
7. Wide variation in the readings. Mineral levels are kept relatively constant in the blood, even when pathology is present. This must be done because blood touches all the body tissues, and too much variation is dangerous. This is the reason many people have normal blood tests even when they are quite ill.
Hair minerals do not circulate, and pose no threat to the body. Values often vary by a factor of ten or much more, making measurement easier and providing a tremendous amount of accurate knowledge about the cells and the soft tissue of our bodies.
8. Easier detection of toxic metals. Toxic metals are easier to detect in the hair than in the blood. The body quickly removes toxic metals from the blood, if it can. For this reason, most toxic metals are not found in high concentrations in the blood, except right after an acute exposure.
In contrast, many toxic metals accumulate in the soft tissues such as the hair because the body tries to move them to locations where they will do less damage.
9. A longer-term reading. Hair testing provides a long-term reading, while blood tests and urine tests provide a more instantaneous reading of the body. Both types of readings have value. For example, blood tests can vary from minute to minute, depending upon one’s diet, activities, the time of day and many other factors. This is beneficial in some instances, but is often less helpful when seeking an overall metabolic reading. At this time, (2015) blood tests do not work for nutritional balancing assessment.
10. Cost-effective, accurate and reliable. Advancements in computer-controlled mass spectroscopy and other technologies have rendered the hair mineral biopsy an extremely cost-effective, accurate and reliable test when it is performed well. The US federal government licenses all hair mineral testing labs in this nation, and similar programs assure quality in other nations, as well.
The test only measures minerals. They are locked into the hair as it grows. One can assess:
1. Mineral levels. These are the actual numbers or readings of the minerals on the test.
2. Mineral ratios. This adds significant complexity and a great deal more information. Dr. Paul Eck found that the ratios are usually more important than the levels of the minerals. This has to do with homeostatic states of body chemistry, which means states of balance or equilibrium. These are represented by ratios between the minerals.
3. Simple patterns. These are combinations of the levels and/or ratios. I use some 20-30 of these, and there are probably more.
4. Complex patterns. These consist of combinations of levels, ratios and simple patterns. I use about 20 of these. We find several more of them each year. They can become very complex, at times.
5. Changes over time and the rate of change. By comparing two or more tests when a person has followed a nutritional balancing program, one can discern changes over time of the levels, ratios, simple patterns and complex patterns. One can also discern the rate of change of all these.
Which minerals are tested? The hair test provides a measure of the
chemical elements deposited in the cells and between the cells of the hair. It provides a reading of the deposition of the mineral
in the hair during the 3-4 months during which the hair grew. It
does not measure the total body load
of any mineral, as some claim.
At least 20 elements are measured, depending on the laboratory. The three groups of elements tested are:
1. Macrominerals include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and phosphorus. Some labs also read sulfur.
2. Trace Minerals include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, chromium, and some labs measure others.
3. Toxic Minerals include lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and nickel. Some labs read others as well. Toxic metals are discussed at length in a separate article entitled Toxic Metals.
How are the readings reported? The mineral values are usually reported in three ways:
1. Milligrams per 100 grams, often written as mg%. This is how Analytical Research Labs reports the numbers.
2. Micrograms per gram or ug/g. This gives numbers that are 10 times higher than milligrams per hundred grams or mg%. To convert the reading to mg%, simply move the decimal point one space to the left. For example, if calcium is reported as 1210 ug/g, it is the same as 121 mg%
3. Parts per
million or ppm. This method
gives the same numbers as when they are reported in ug/g.
Doctors and nutritionists use the hair mineral test in one of six ways:
1. Not at all. Most mainstream doctors and many nutritionists never use hair mineral testing. They have been influenced by several widely-publicized, but seriously flawed studies that were designed to discredit hair mineral testing. These studies are discussed later in this article.
My experience is that many doctors make negative comments about hair mineral testing based upon what they have read. However, their experience with it is limited or non-existent.
2. Toxic metal testing only. Among the doctors and nutritionists who use mineral testing, most only use it for the detection of high levels of toxic metals. This is one of the least important uses for it, however, from the perspective of nutritional balancing science. Also, hair testing is not that accurate for the detection of all toxic metals in the body.
3. Replacement therapy of nutrient minerals. A small number of doctors use the hair mineral test to detect low levels of nutrient minerals. Then, most of them suggest replacement therapy. This means that they suggest foods or food supplements to raise the levels of the trace minerals that are low, or lower the ones that are high.
This method works poorly, if at all, in my experience. Dr. Eck, my mentor, firmly rejected this use of hair mineral testing. To learn more about this method of using a hair mineral analysis, please read Replacement Therapy on this website.
4. TEI. A number of physicians follow the recommendations of TEI Laboratory. I do not recommend using this laboratory at this time, (2015) because the lab work is not as accurate, the calibrated graph is not as good, and the interpretations are not good enough.
5. ARL. A number of physicians and nutritionists follow the recommendations of Analytical Research Labs, which was founded by Dr. Eck. This is much better than the way others use hair analysis, but the computer at ARL is not fully updated. As a result, the dietary and supplement recommendations are not good enough, in my view.
6. Nutritional balancing science. About 150 practitioners work closely with me, allowing me to set up the nutritional balancing programs for their clients. These are the most up-to-date programs available. For this reason, the only practitioners I can recommend for a nutritional balancing program are those listed on the Practitioner Referral Page of this website.
For more detail about the different ways of using hair mineral tests, read Hair Test Interpretation Methods.
The remainder of this article is concerned with the use of the hair mineral analysis according to the system of interpretation devised by Dr. Paul Eck.
Analyzing hair tissue for chemical elements is quite different from testing blood, urine or feces, although all have great value in the right situation. Hair mineral analysis can reveal the following:
1. Lifestyle imbalances. The test can reveal that a problem in a person’s lifestyle - such as drug use, a very unhappy relationship, or a work problem – is impacting the person’s health. This is extremely useful, in some cases.
In addition, the test often reveals the highly toxic effects of cigarette and marijuana use (cadmium). It also reveals the toxic effects of body care products such as selenium-containing shampoo, aluminum-containing anti-perspirants, and lead-containing hair dyes.
It may also reveal the toxic effects of medical drugs such as Flonase (antimony), anti-acids (aluminum), and some diuretics (mercury).
It can also sometimes reveal occupational or other exposure to toxins such as excess exposure to iron, copper, or manganese in those who work in these industries.
2. Dietary problems. The test contains a number of indicators to help a practitioner discern that a person’s diet is inadequate or imbalanced. These include indicators for low protein intake (low phosphorus in some cases), excessive carbohydrate intake, some drinking water problems, and problems with vegetarian and vegan diets. In addition, the test can identify several foods that contain toxins such as Rooibos tea (nickel and lead toxicity) or eating fish (high in mercury).
3. The metabolic type. This is an important fact of body chemistry. It is most helpful to understand hundreds of symptoms, and to guide the dietary and supplement recommendations. It also helps to understand many emotional and mental symptoms as well.
4. The energy and vitality level. Energy is a common denominator of health. This means that if one’s energy is low, hundreds of symptoms can occur. Restoring one’s biochemical or adaptive energy is a key to healing. This is one of the most basic of healing principles. A properly interpreted hair mineral analysis is an excellent way to evaluate a person’s adaptive energy level, as well as to figure out how to correct it.
5. Gland and organ activity. Hair mineral testing can provide a number of indicators for the cellular effect of the thyroid and adrenal hormones, and at times the ovarian hormones as well. It can also be used indirectly to assess the activity of the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines and perhaps other organs as well.
6. Carbohydrate tolerance. The test can quickly screen for hypoglycemia and, at times, diabetes, although a glucose tolerance test (GTT) should be done if one suspects diabetes. Hair testing can, however, usually guide a practitioner to correct Type 2 diabetes and some Type 1 diabetes without the need for most drugs. Mineral imbalances and chronic infections are often involved with these conditions.
7. Toxic metal assessment. No method of testing can detect all the toxic metals in the body because most of them are hidden deep in the body organs and glands. When interpreted properly, however, a hair mineral analysis is often helpful to assess the general level of toxic metals in the body.
Some patterns, such as the Poor Eliminator Pattern, provide indicators of the presence of hidden toxic metals, a most important concept.
8. Reducing guesswork in recommending diets, nutritional supplementation and detoxification methods. This is very necessary because natural methods can easily be applied incorrectly or a haphazard manner that can make matters much worse.
Trends or tendencies for over 60 common health conditions. This is an amazing benefit. Research indicates that many health conditions are related
to tissue mineral imbalances. The
test may reveal them months or years before they manifest in the body. This makes possible a powerful
preventive medical science. This
is much less costly and more effective than waiting until a disease such as
cancer or heart disease occurs.
This aspect of hair mineral testing alone would save billions of dollars if it were used widely. For example, one can inexpensively and accurately screen for tendencies for diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue, cancer, yeast infections, and many other health conditions.
10. Monitoring Progress. Hair mineral analysis is often helpful to monitor a person’s progress on a healing program of any kind. Symptomatic changes alone are often not a good way to know if a person is progressing on a healing program. However, the hair test will often detect subtle changes in body chemistry, another wonderful benefit of this test.
11. Stress patterns. A properly performed hair mineral analysis is superb to assess the stage of stress, as well as 30 or more stress response patterns of the human body.
This type of analysis and interpretation is based on the stress theory of disease, a modern understanding of health and disease. It was the work of Dr. Hans Selye, MD some 60 years ago. However, it is still not used much by the medical profession. Understanding the stages of stress can enable the practitioner to reverse many types of pathology that do not respond well to either traditional medical care or holistic care.
12. Autonomic nervous system assessment. A properly performed hair mineral test can assess and guide the correction of the activity of the autonomic nervous system.
Problems with this nervous system are very widespread today, and can cause hundreds of symptoms from digestive disturbance and inability to eliminate toxic metals, to sleep disturbances, blood sugar problems and even cancers. Few in the medical, holistic or naturopathic professions know how to address these issues.
13. Psychological/emotional assessment. One the most exciting uses of the hair mineral analysis is the assessment of causes for conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, attention deficit, brain fog, autism, schizophrenia, dementia, violence, and bipolar disorder. Hair mineral testing often shows why these conditions occur, and how to correct them at a deep level.
14. Trauma. Hair mineral testing can also reveal sociological issues such as some traumas, abuse, and criminality. For more on this topic, please read Trauma Release on this site.
15. Animal health. The same test is extremely helpful to identify and guide the correction of health problems in animals, both large and small. The identical principles of interpretation apply to many animal species, just as well as they apply to human beings. This has the potential to save ranchers, farmers and others millions of dollars, and improve the quality of our food. Articles on this site discuss the application of nutritional balancing science and hair testing in Dogs, Cats, Horses, Cows, and Deer at this time.
16. Agriculture. The common soil analysis farmers use is identical to the hair mineral analysis. The principles of nutritional balancing science can be used to help balance the soil and improve crop yield and nutritional quality of our food supply. For more on this topic, please read Rejuvenating The Soil With Nutritional Balancing on this site.
More is possible with hair mineral testing. One of the most interesting is identifying movement patterns. These have to do with a person’s lifestyle and current
activities, in relation to the person’s life path or progress through
life. This can be extremely helpful
in counseling a person, and to understand illness, both physical and emotional.
Deep insights into biochemistry, physiology, psychology, pathology and possibly more esoteric sciences, such as biological transmutation of the elements, are also possible using the hair mineral test. Some of these are briefly discussed in the article entitled The Theory Of Nutritional Balancing Science.
These change with new research. For the current ideal values and ranges, please go to Ideal Human Mineral Levels And Ranges on this website.
1. Hair must not be washed at the laboratory for accurate readings.
2. Levels below the ideals listed above generally indicate a poor eliminator of this metal. This is an important concept for hair analysis interpretation. For more on this topic, please read the article entitled Poor Eliminator Pattern on this website.
3. Most people have too much of most of the toxic metals, even if they are not revealed on the test. They can be hidden, sequestered deep within the body tissues. This is especially true of mercury and aluminum, due to environmental contamination.
analysis by mass spectroscopy-ICP and related methods is a standard testing
procedure used in laboratories and universities throughout the world. Hair mineral testing on human and
animal populations has been carried out for over 80 years.
Well over two million analyses have been performed. Several thousand papers and other research have been published on this method of biological monitoring. About 450 of these are listed by clicking on Hair Analysis References.
Regarding toxic metals, the United States Environmental Protection Agency published a 300-page study in August 1979. They reviewed over 400 journal articles about hair mineral testing. The authors concluded that hair is a "meaningful and representative tissue for biological monitoring for most of the toxic metals".
Sadly, very few physicians are trained in hair tissue mineral analysis interpretation. I am medically trained, and was also very skeptical about its use. However, research and clinical experience with over 50,000 patients have dispelled any doubts as to its efficacy and significance for health care. I currently train about 100 nutrition consultants and physicians worldwide. These Approved Practitioners are listed on this website. Training is available to anyone who wishes it.
Amazingly, the patterns revealed on a hair mineral analysis correlate perfectly with many acupuncture pulse diagnosis patterns. Many of the acupuncture patterns are quite advanced, so most acupuncturists are not familiar with them. However, even the names of the patterns are very close or identical.
This is very unusual! The reason this occurs may be that both hair analysis assessment and acupuncture assessment are measuring the whole body system, even though the way the assessment is done is extremely different. For more on this topic, please read Acupuncture on this site.
According to the research of Dr. Paul Eck and others, one must first look for whole system patterns, before interpreting the individual mineral levels. Some of these patterns are the metabolic type, the stage of stress, the oxidation rate and type, and the major electrolyte ratios. Here are basic interpretation steps:
1. Look for a four lows pattern. This is present when the first four macrominerals - calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium - are all below their ideal levels. Please read Four Low Eelctrolytes for much more on this pattern.
2. Assess is the oxidation rate. It is determined by assessing two ratios. These are the sodium/magnesium ratio and the calcium/potassium ratio. This will assess if a person is in fast, slow or mixed oxidation. For more on this assessment and the meaning of the oxidation rate, please read Fast, Slow and Mixed Oxidation.
3. Assess the sodium/potassium ratio. It is critical that the hair not be washed at the laboratory for accurate sodium and potassium readings. This gives a lot of information about inflammation, infection, blood sugar, fatigue, anger and more. For more on this ratio, please read The Sodium/Potassium Ratio.
4. Assess the calcium/magnesium ratio. This is sometimes called the lifestyle ratio. For much more on this topic, please read The Calcium/Magnesium Ratio.
After assessing these patterns and ratios, one can focus on individual mineral levels, and about 60 other important patterns revealed on the test.
Learning this method of interpretation takes some time. I was badly confused for four years working at it full time. However, I offer training for anyone who wishes to learn this science. For a list of all the hair analysis patterns, please go to the Read Articles page of this website, where they are listed.
Accurate results depend on cutting hair samples correctly. Here are basic rules for sampling the hair.
1. Cut the sample from anywhere on the head. The nape of the neck is excellent, but other areas are fine, as well. If head hair is not available, the next best hair is from the underarms. On men, beard hair or chest hair will work, as well.
If these are not available, some labs will test the minerals in fingernails, and this is fairly accurate. Do not use pubic hair. It is not as accurate, even though some laboratories allow it.
2. Cut the hair as close to the scalp as possible for the most recent and therefore the most accurate readings.
3. Then measure about one inch or two centimeters from where it was cut on the head. Cut off the rest of the long hair and throw it away. Using even shorter hair is excellent. The only problem is with long hair.
4. The best way is usually to cut several little samples and combine them until the paper scale tips or until you have filled a small spoon or have 125 mg of hair. (This is not a lot of hair.)
5. Hair that has been tinted, dyed, highlighted, bleached or permanent-treated may be used. If it has been bleached or permed, please wash the hair several times after the hair treatments before cutting the sample to remove the chemicals and allow the hair to grow out a little.
6.Thinning shears or even a razor may be used if the hair is short. It must be an electric razor, as we do not want the hair mixed with shaving cream or soap. If thinning shears are used on long hair, it may be hard to tell which end was cut.
7. Use a clean paper (not plastic) envelope to collect the hair. Plastic is okay, but the hair tends to stick to it and is harder to remove easily.
The sample must be sent to a licensed clinical laboratory for analysis. The best labs are Analytical Research
Labs in Phoenix, Arizona (my first choice) or Trace Elements, Inc. (a very poor
second choice because they read more minerals, but results may not be as
accurate and worse, their corrective programs are terrible).
Do not use a lab that washes the hair, which includes all the other laboratories in the world, as far as I know. These labs may be okay to measure toxic metals. However, they are not good at all to get accurate readings of sodium and potassium, which is required for nutritional balancing science.
The procedure described here is used at Analytical Research Laboratories in Phoenix, Arizona. Similar, but at times less rigorous procedures may be used at other hair testing laboratories.
1. Hair samples arriving at the laboratory are first cut into small pieces with surgical scissors.
2. A precisely weighed amount of hair is digested overnight in nitric and perchloric acid.
following day the sample is rehydrated and placed in the measuring instrument
to be assessed for minerals.
The most common measuring instrument today is an ICP-mass spectrometer. This is a highly sophisticated hybrid, computer-controlled machine costing several hundred thousand dollars. It is not a “home or office unit”. Any doctor who runs this test in his office is not using the same equipment and results may not be as accurate.
Essentially, the dissolved sample is burned at a high temperature. Each mineral gives off a characteristic spectrum or frequencies of light, which is picked up by sensitive detectors in the measuring instrument. Calibration and precise control of the flame temperature are essential to obtain accurate readings.
Licensing. In America, hair mineral analysis laboratories are inspected annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Division of Health Standards and Quality. An operating license is issued only if personnel and procedures meet rigorous standards.
Research Labs runs control samples and blank samples at the beginning, middle
and end of every batch. Also,
small amount of hair is set aside and any readings that are far out of range
are retested automatically at no extra charge. This is not done at most laboratories.
Hair tissue mineral analysis is not something that can be done in an office or at home. If someone offers a test that is done at the office, it is not the same test. Only about eight or nine laboratories offer commercial hair tissue mineral analysis in America and a few exist overseas. All other laboratories send hair samples to one of the few labs that have the correct equipment and licensing to perform the test.
1. SHOULD HAIR BE WASHED AT THE LABORATORY?
The danger of environmental contamination has prompted many mineral testing laboratories to wash the hair before analyzing it. However, studies indicate this is far worse than the occasional contamination due to an environmental agent. These include the following studies:
Š Leroy, R. (J Ortho Med., 1986;1(2)).
Š Seidel, et al. (JAMA, 2001, 285, #1). The authors compared hair test results from about six labs. The results of the two laboratories that do not wash the hair samples showed excellent correlation, unlike some of the others. One must obtain the actual test numbers to realize this, as it is not mentioned in the study.
Š Assarian, GS and Oberleas, D., (Clin Chem., 1977;23(9):1771-1772).
These studies showed that washing the hair at the laboratory erratically and unpredictably removes calcium, sodium and potassium. Zinc, magnesium, nickel and most other elements are also affected by washing. Thus, we recommend only using a laboratory that does not wash the hair at the laboratory.
Those who favor washing the hair at the lab contend that any mineral that is washed out is 'exogenous' - not really part of the hair. Judging by the excellent predictability the mineral ratios provide when the hair is not washed, one is lead to conclude that the loosely bound minerals are not simply exogenous. They are part of the biopsy material.
This is why I only recommend Analytical Research Labs for hair mineral testing. While Trace elements, Inc. does not wash the hair, they are not as careful in their lab technique, in my experience, and their nutrition programs are not nearly as good.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION OF HAIR SAMPLES
say that hair samples are inaccurate due to hair treatments and environmental
contamination. However, our
experience indicates that shampoo, conditioners, rinses, hair dyes, tints,
light sweating and air pollution generally do not significantly affect hair
Most people wash their hair frequently. Most hair products do not contain many minerals that remain in the hair after the product is used. Therefore the test is not affected. Hair is not very porous, about 10% in men and 15% in women. Most contaminants do not remain within the hair.
However, swimming in pools can raise sodium and copper levels. Heavy sweating immediately before cutting the sample can raise sodium and potassium readings. ’Grecian Formula' and 'Youth Hair' hair dye contain lead. They will elevate the lead level (and should be avoided!).
Head & Shoulders shampoo can elevate the zinc level. Selsun Blue shampoo can elevate the selenium level. These contaminants are usually easy to identify on a hair test because the readings are heavily skewed. Asking the patient what products are on their hair will usually be sufficient to rule out abnormal readings due to hair products.
Showering may wash out a small percentage of water-soluble minerals. However, minerals from the sweat or oil glands appear to re-establish an equilibrium on the hair within a half-hour after washing. Of course, this re-equilibration cannot occur if the hair is washed after it is cut from the head at a laboratory.
Bleach or other harsh chemicals used in permanents will have some effect on hair readings. If possible, take a hair sample before having a permanent or bleaching. After a beauty parlor permanent or bleaching treatment, it is best to let the hair grow out for several weeks.
Second best is to wash the hair 4-5 times after these treatments before having a hair analysis. However, if a person is very ill, a sample can be taken at any time. It may not be perfectly accurate, but will provide enough information to begin a corrective program.
CAN A HAIR TEST BE USED TO SET UP A HEALING PROGRAM?
authors criticize hair mineral testing when it is used to recommend nutritional
supplements or even foods for improving one’s health. In particular, vitamins may seem difficult to recommend
because the test only detects mineral levels. Let me explain how this is done, however, with a simple
It is known that certain vitamins, such as vitamin C, can be used to help remove toxic metals. Thus a practitioner may recommend supplementary vitamin C if a hair analysis reveals excessive toxic metals. There are many other ways the test can be used to recommend herbs, vitamins and other nutritional products.
The acceptance of hair mineral testing as a valid procedure has been slowed by several disagreements among researchers who use hair mineral testing. These are:
XII. CHALLENGES TO
THE VALIDITY OF HAIR ANALYSIS
Several studies critical of hair analysis have been published. Most criticism stems from two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The first was published in August 1985, JAMA 254(8)1041-1045.
In this study, standard hair analysis protocol was ignored in three ways, any one of which would be enough to discredit the entire study:
1. A few long pieces of his daughter’s
hair were used. This is not the
correct way to do the test. One
must use small one-inch samples cut close to the scalp. The ends of long hair are more subject
to contamination and should never be used.
2. Samples were washed under the kitchen tap before being sent to the laboratory. This is also a violation of standard hair sampling protocol. Tap water is often rich in minerals. Hair samples should never be washed in this manner.
3. Hair samples were mixed together by hand. Here is another violation of standard protocol. It is difficult or impossible to obtain a homogenous sample this way because hair tends to stick together. Hair should have been powdered first and then mixed together, or at least cut into tiny parts before mixing.
Other flaws in this study were:
The author had a clear conflict of interest. He was, and may still be, the director of Quackwatch, a medical industry-funded group that specializes in deriding natural, alternative, complementary and holistic methods of healing. In fact, the author of the study, I am told, operates over 30 website that he uses to denigrate holistic healing methods under various titles and pseudonyms.
Referencing for the study was almost nonexistent. For example, the author completely ignored over 400 studies that had been done on hair analysis and reported upon by the United States Environmental Protection Agency only 6 years before. Obviously, the author was either extremely ignorant about hair analysis research or did not care what the medical community really knew about it.
The author admitted in the study that he had no professional experience with hair analysis whatsoever. One must wonder why he was picked to author this study.
THE 2001 JAMA HAIR ANALYSIS STUDY
Another study appeared in JAMA, #285, #1, Jan.3, 2001 that claimed to “revisit” the earlier one. Six hair samples were cut from one person and sent to six laboratories for analysis. Flaws in this study include:
1. An illegally operating, unlicensed mineral testing laboratory was included in the study. This lab reported the worst results, and was the basis for the authors conclusion that hair mineral analysis is unreliable. This is so bizarre it is once again difficult to fathom. Would JAMA publish a study of brain surgery procedures and use an illegally-operating hospital or a bogus surgeon? I doubt it.
Plenty of other hair testing labs could have been used, but the authors somehow found one that had lost its license. This makes little sense, unless one wishes to discredit the field of hair analysis.
2. The “study” involved only one patient. I learned in medical school that a report involving only one or two people is “anecdotal”, and not a valid study. It is shocking that the Journal of the American Medical Association would accept such a report and print it. It is also a poor reflection on the authors that they would draw any conclusions at all from this anecdotal “study”.
3. Rather than compare the raw data, the authors compared whether readings were reported as high, normal or low. This is not a measure of the reliability of hair analysis, as they claim. This is comparing the reference ranges of various laboratories, which is another issue altogether.
4. The authors demonstrated clear bias and ignorance of hair analysis. They referred to the 1985 JAMA study, stating, “we decided to update Barrett’s results”. This implies they were unaware or unconcerned with all the flaws in the earlier study.
5. Very poor referencing again. Very few studies of hair analysis were mentioned, and once again, the authors ignored hundreds of favorable studies of hair analysis.
6. Ignoring their own findings. In this anecdotal report, the two laboratories that do not wash the hair at the lab, ARL and TEI, provided identical results in 6 of 9 trace minerals and extremely close results on the other three. In other words, in the only valid comparison of hair analysis laboratories, results indicated the exact opposite conclusion than that drawn by the authors. This fact was completely overlooked and not reported by the authors in their discussion or conclusion. Essentially, the anecdotal report indicated that when the hair is not washed at the lab, the results are astoundingly reliable and accurate, but this fact was ignored and the authors conclusion was the exact opposite of this truth.
THE HAIR ANALYSIS EXPOSE ON ‘NIGHTLINE’
Also in the 1990s the 'Nightline' television show discussed hair analysis in a widely watched program. In this “expose”, hair from a dog was sent to a commercial hair analysis laboratory. The perpetrators of this scam from 'Nightline' led the laboratory to believe it was a human hair sample. They did not tell the laboratory it was from a dog. Identifying the species from which hair is sampled is the standard and an obvious procedure.
When results came back, they were very odd because the normal mineral values for a dog are very different than for humans. The television host claimed that this was a healthy dog and that such odd results proved that hair analysis is a fraud.
Of course, if one sent a dog's blood to a blood laboratory and did not tell the laboratory it belonged to a dog, the exact same thing would happen. This, of course, was not pointed out in the Nightline piece.
THE JUNE 12-13, 2001 CDC REPORT ON HAIR ANALYSIS
Another shameful government pronouncement on hair testing took place in 2001 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A panel was assembled to evaluate “the state of the art of hair analysis”. It involved seven “experts” in toxicology and other fields and 50 public observers.
The experts reviewed 7 studies of hair analysis to prepare for the meeting. In addition, another 25 studies were cited during or after the meeting. Based on this “review”, the panel concluded that hair analysis is not effective or reliable as a method of biological monitoring for toxic metals, with the exception of methyl mercury. Flaws in this report include:
Š Extreme lack of references. A review of only 32 studies of hair analysis should have disqualified this panel right away. In addition, of the 32 papers, one was a CDC paper on toxic chemicals, one was a report on the anatomy and physiology of hair, and one was an article about controlling hair growth. Another concerned Napoleon Bonaparte’s exposure to arsenic in 1816, while another was about regeneration and rate of hair growth in men. One was also the 1989 recommended dietary allowances. Totally ignored were literally hundreds of studies, many of which are in the reference section of this text.
Š Overlooking their own research. There was no mention or citation of the government’s own 300-page review of over 400 studies of hair analysis conducted in August of 1979. This was a real review that could have been updated by the CDC, had they cared to do so. The earlier review concluded that hair testing was “meaningful and representative for biological monitoring for the major toxic metals”.
Š Unqualified experts. The 7-member panel of ‘hair mineral analysis experts’ included 1) a professor of emergency medicine, 2) the president of an internal medicine consulting service, and 3) an employee in the Department of Health Education and Promotion at the ATSDR. Also among the experts was Dr. Seidel, one of the authors of the second JAMA study described above. This might be seen as obvious bias, since she was the lead author on a very negative study of hair analysis. The reference for this panel discussion is http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/hair_analysis/index.html.
Do hair mineral values vary with a person’s age? Yes, do a degree. Most children are fast oxidizers until around age 3 to 10. Their hair analyses look different, with higher sodium and potassium values and lower calcium and magnesium values. Some day, perhaps, a separate chart of ideal values will be published for children under age 10. Otherwise, however, the ideal values do not vary with age.
Are hair test results different for men than for women? Women tend to have somewhat slower oxidation rates than men. This means their calcium and magnesium levels tend to be slightly higher than those of men, while their sodium and potassium levels tend to be somewhat lower than those of men. Copper levels also tend to be somewhat higher in women.
Do hair tests vary with one’s hair color or race? We have not found significant differences, although those with red hair may have higher copper levels in the hair.
tissue mineral analysis has been available for about the past 80 years or
so. It is widely used in
biological monitoring of animal species throughout the world and is being used
more and more for human metabolic assessment as well. When understood properly, it offers great potential to
improve human and animal health at the deepest levels. It can also be used preventively and
for prediction of illness.
This website contains many articles about various aspects and details concerning hair mineral testing. Topics include Toxic Metals And Their Removal, Hair mineral analysis patterns, The Theory Of Nutritional Balancing, Nutritional Balancing and Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis and more.
In addition, a large textbook is available on the subject entitled Nutritional Balancing And Hair Mineral Analysis (2014). This website also contains a list of Hair Analysis References, Scientific Statements About Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, and Nutritional Balancing Testimonials.
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For a list of about 500 medical journal articles about hair mineral testing, please go to Hair Analysis References.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.