How to read a hair test

Please note that this post is not intended to provide health advise and should only be used for educational purposes. The following explanation is based on the work of Andrew Cutler, PhD, who is specialiced in the field of heavy metal toxicity. More information about hair testing can be found in Hair Test Interpretation: Finding Hidden Toxicities.


Hair tests are historically used to determine the health status of a patient. It can be used to determine whether certain minerals are depleted or whether there is heavy metal toxicity. The problem with the former is that hair mineral levels might not represent body mineral levels. Either way, we are not really interested in that. What we want to know is how to determine when a hair test points in the direction of heavy metal poisoning.
The most common hair test is the ‘Toxic and Essential Elements’ test. This hair test measures the availability of toxins as well as the different essential elements in a hair sample.
There are a wide range of heavy metals that can be the cause of a certain health condition. The metal that can cause the most problems is mercury. Mercury interferes with the process that is responsible for the regulation of mineral concentration and how your body transports minerals. While other toxins can cause certain mineral transports, mercury causes a ‘general’ impairment. This is what can be called ‘deranged mineral transport’.
The hair test of people who are chronically mercury toxic usually show a mercury level that is within normal ranges. This is because these people have a hard time to get rid of mercury toxicity. Especially people who have detoxification problems will have a normal result for the toxic metals. This is why it can be hard to determine whether someone has mercury poisoning through a hair test.
Because it is hard to determine mercury toxicity based on the concentration of toxic metals in a hair sample, it has to be determined based on the concentrations of the essential elements. Because mercury interferes with the process of mineral transport, the concentrations of the essential elements will look ‘odd’.

Toxic metals

The first part of a hair test contains the toxic metals. Because we are talking about toxic metals, there is only an upper bound. If one of the toxins is in the red part of the chart, it may indicate toxicity. The scales that are being used are comparisons with what is seen in the general population. The lab will make a distinction between different sexes and ages. This means that the concentration of a certain element may be higher than the concentration of anther element, but is categorized in a lower percentile. A quotation in the 95th percentile means that this specific element has a concentration in the upper 5% which means that only 1 in 20 people have a similar or higher result. Please notice that this is not a linear scale. The 95th percentile is much wider than the 68th percentile. Next example is a hair test I have done myself in 2014.
Toxic Metals
As you see, there is nothing special to see. Only Uranium is in the 68th percentile and mercury and lead are somewhat elevated.

Essential and other elements

The second part of a hair test contains essential and other elements. The difference here is that there is also a lower bound. It’s important to notice that the concentration of the elements in hair samples don’t necessarily resemble the concentration of that element in the rest of the body, but it may be an indicator.
Toxic Metals
How can one recognize ‘deranged mineral transport’? As mentioned before, the result of each element is compared with the overall population. This means that we can calculate the probability that a certain phenomenon can happen. There are a few phenomena that can happen in a hair test.

  • A lot of bars to the left or right.
  • A lot of bars in the red.
  • A small amount of bars in the green and white area.

Whether a certain count of bars in a certain area is significant is determined by basic statistics. Take for example the amount of bars to the left/right. The chance that a certain bar is located in either the left or right side is 50 percent. Assume that you have a hair test of 5 elements. There are 25 different kind of results. The chance that all bars point to the right is 1/25, since there is only one way to have 5 bars to the right. The chance that 4 bars point to the right is 5/25, since there are 5 ways to have 4 bars to the right. Saying that there are 4 bars to the right is the same as saying that there is 1 bar to the left, which obviously has the same chance of 5/25. All those chances should sum up to 1.
Obviously just calculating the chance that a certain amount of bars are to the left/right doesn’t say all that much. In the case of the hair test, there are 22 elements. 11 out of 22 elements to one side has a probability of 17% even though the hair test is perfectly normal. What we need to know is the probality that less than x amount of elements point to 1 side (or more, depending on how you want to calculate it). Which means that we have to count all the probabilities lower and equal to that amount. For 11 out of 22 this is exactly 0.58 which makes sense. This means that there is a 0.58 chance that there are less than 11 bars pointing to one side. If there would be 23 elements in total, the chance for 11 (or less) bars to 1 side is exactly 0.5. Think about why this is 🙂
Similar things can be done with the calculation for the bars in the red and in the green or white. The chance that a certain hair test appears with x bars in the red is 0.95(amount-x)*0.05x with ‘amount’ the total amount of elements. The chance that a certain hair test appears with x bars in the green or white area is 0.67x*0.33(amount-x) with ‘amount’ the total amount of elements.
When is a certain result significant? Cutler doesn’t really talk about percentages, rather about the amount of bars that are ‘off’.

  • For the amount of bars to 1 side, 5 bars meet the counting rules (this means deranged mineral transport), 6 bars are suspicious, 7 are unusual, 8 not uncommon and 9 or higher is normal.
  • For the amount of bars in the red, 4 bars or more meet the counting rules, 3 bars is unusual, 2 is uncommon and 1 or less is normal.
  • For the amount of bars in the middle band, 11 or less meet the counting rules, 12 is suspicious, 13 is unusual, 14 is not uncommon and 15 or more is normal.

All these numbers are based on the fact that there are 23 elements in total, while the hair test we are trying to analyze has 22 elements. A quick lookup teaches us that the probabilities between 23 and 22 elements aren’t much different, which means that these numbers can be used for a hair test with 22 elements. For those interested in the exact numbers for 23 elements, 5 bars or less to one side equal a chance of 0.6%, 4 bars or more in the red equal a chance of 2.6%, 11 bars or less in the middle area equal a chance of 4.5%.
As we see in the example, one can quickly see that the amount of bars in the red (1) and the amount of bars in the middle (14/18, depending on whether you want to include the borderline cases) isn’t going to offer a statistical significant result. The amount of bars to 1 side is interesting. We see 7 bars to the right side which would be ‘unusual’. As you see, 5 of the 7 bars to the right are just slightly to the right, especially iodine. I have been supplementing with molybdenum and iodine in the recent past which may increase the levels of these elements. Because of this we only count 6 bars. This leads to a ‘suspicious’ hair test which has a probability of 2.6% (so it only occurs at random in 1 in 40 people). To represent it graphically:

One Side

The high levels of zinc may be caused by a zinc displacement by other metals like cadmium, lead, copper and mercury resulting in a paradoxially elevated hair zinc. Zinc hair levels may not be reliable because a lot of shampoos contain zinc.
The numbers that are published by Cutler are based on a hair test with 23 elements. More recent hair tests only include 22 essential elements (barium has been moved to the toxic metal area). Because of this, I’ve written a generic script that will calculate the probabilities of your specific hair test.
The results of the hair test we discussed in this post are available here.
If there is a history of chronic conditions, mercury poisoning would be a very good explanation in this case.
If your test comes up positive, it’s really recommended to read Amalgam Illness, Diagnosis and Treatment by Cutler.

Marijuana potentially cures cancer and the government knows about it

The use of cannabis is known go back more than 7000 years ago and it was legal to use it until the beginning of the 20th century. The hemp variant of cannabis has an incredible number of uses. For centuries, the plant has been used for food, clothing and rope. Even the Contitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. Only in recent history marijuana was made illegal. Not because of scientific reasons, but mostly because of racist and later political reasons.

How it all started

During the Mexican revolution of 1910, a lot of Mexicans flooded the borders in the US. Mexicans were a very cheap workforce. During the depression of 1910-1911, tensions increased between small farms and large farms that used those cheap Mexicans. Many Mexicans smokes the plant and brought the plant with them. Most likely because of this event, California passed the first anti-marijuana law. Later, more states followed with marijuana prohibition laws which tended to be specifically targeted against the Mexican population. Between 1915 and 1937, marijuana was prohibited by a 27 states. One Texas legislator even said that “All Mexicans are crazy and this stuff is what makes them crazy.”.
In 1930, a new governmental department was instated, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The head of the bureau was known for his controversial quotes.

  • “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
  • “The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
  • “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

Only in 1937, the first national law was enacted, called to Marihuana Tax Act. It put regulations and restrictions on the sale of cannabis. Some critics believed that the point of this law was to reduce the size of the hemp industry which was primarily a threat to the paper industry. The Americal Medical Association opposed prohibition because a tax was imposed on the sale of medical cannabis. After the enactment, anyone in possession of cannabis could be arrested.
Today, Latino and especially black communities are still subject to unreasonable drug enforcement and judicial practices.

President Nixon

In 1971, president Richard Nixon established a commission, lead by Raymond P. Shafer, to investigate the effects of marijuana and other drugs.
The result of the commission was:

  • “No significant physical, biochemical, or mental abnormalities could be attributed solely to their marihuana smoking.”
  • “No verification is found of a causal relationship between marihuana use and subsequent heroin use.”
  • “In sum, the weight of the evidence is that marihuana does not cause violent or aggressive behavior; if anything marihuana serves to inhibit the expression of such behavior.”
  • “Neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety.”
  • “Marihuana’s relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.”

Nixon demanded that the commission changed its conclusions. Shafer ignored the demands and Nixon declined to appoint him to a pending federal judgeship.
Nixon wasn’t happy with the results of the report and wanted a larger budget for his war on drugs. The main reason why he wanted to imprison pot smokers is because these were the people that were protesting against the Vietnam war. He thought he would get the support he wanted if he could prove that cannabis caused lung cancer like cigarettes do. He gave the Medical College of Virginia the order to investigate the effects of THC. 2 years later the study was completed. It turned out that when THC was ingested in highly concentrated forms, it will attack any mutated cells in your body while strengthening and rejuvenating the healthy cells.
Nixon was outraged. He immediately classified the study.

Recent times

In 1999, the National Institute of Mental Health (which is a government institution) filed patent US6630507 which is titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”. The patent was approved in 2003. It states that

Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.


The invention also includes methods for using the antioxidants in prevention and treatment of pathological conditions such as ischemia (tissue hypoxia), and in subjects who have been exposed to oxidant inducing agents such as cancer chemotherapy, toxins, radiation, or other sources of oxidative stress.

So it basically states that cannabinoids can be used to prevent and cure neurological and heart diseases. It is also an excellent drug to counter the symptoms created by so called “anti-cancer” drugs like chemotherapy.
“Sixteen years ago, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, my doctor told me I’d be in a wheelchair in four years and dead by 56. The only reason I’m even able to even write this today is because my doctor, a world class neurologist, recommended medicinal marijuana.” – Montel Williams
It’s a bit ironical that the US government owns a patent on the medical properties of marijuana, but makes it a Schedule I drug, which means that it has no medical properties. The current drug laws are not based on science but are the result of politics.

Pharmaceutical companies have tried to mimic the behavior of THC by making syntethic variants that do not produce the ‘high’ without any success. Natural products cannot be patented, hence cannabis is not an interesting subject for the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical companies obviously rather want to sell their extremely expensive chemotherapy drugs.
People who are not insured usually have to use all their life savings or even have to sell their house in order to pay for chemotherapy drugs. Even then, a huge part of the patients die from the damage that has been done to them.
The major reason why marijuana is not legal is the fact that big pharma will loose billions doing so. Marijuana is a safe substitute for painkillers and sleeping drugs. As a matter of fact, marijuana is successfully being used by a lot of people who have chronic pains, inflammation and oxidative stress. There is not a single drug that is as effective long term. Furthermore, most painkillers and sleeping pills are addictive. Hemp, the cannabis variant with almost no THC is a more cheaper way to produce paper.

Other cures

Marijuana is not the only potential anti-cancer drug that is prohibited. Almost all alternative approaches that are a threat to the pharmaceutical industry are being surpressed or prohibited.

Here is an excellent article about vitamin B17.