Why shouldn't I use a blood test?

Unfortunately many physicians still rely on blood testing for metal toxicity and mineral imbalances. Misdiagnosis or non-detection is common as a result of such outdated practice, since blood testing does not accurately pick up on stored mineral imbalances. The blood can show high levels immediately after or during acute exposure (useful for hour by hour monitoring), but ignores long term stored and bio-unavailable levels or cellular deficiencies. 

Example 1: A blood test can show a perfectly 'healthy' level of copper even in the presence of copper toxicity in the tissues.  This is very common. 

Example 2: Forty days after acute lead exposure, lead is undetectable in the blood, though it's still in the body.

Example 3: When blood calcium drops, calcium is removed from bone to replenish the blood - meaning the blood calcium can appear within normal range even though bones are being demineralized and osteoporosis is developing. 

Example 4. An intracellular magnesium loss or potassium loss may be occurring at the cellular level even when the blood shows normal or high.

Example 5: Even the more advanced RBC (red blood cell) test for magnesium lacks logic. Only about 1% of the body's magnesium is in the blood - The majority of it is in the mitochondria of the cells - and red blood cells don't have mitochondria! A person can be depleted of magnesium before it shows up in a blood test. 

These are just a few examples of excesses and deficiencies that are missed in the blood but can seen on an HTMA.  Even more importantly, blood testing fails to provide key mineral ratios which are the essential indicators that must be examined to accurately determine the extent of mineral deficiency or toxicity, and the subsequent supplementation program to balance your minerals.  Without this vital information, supplementation and detoxes are being done blindly.

"HTMA is truly the gold standard to determine the status of magnesium in the body! Not even the hailed  Mg RBC test can challenge HTMA with the accuracy and insight that this tissue analysis provides, especially when comparing blood levels of the nutrient minerals and toxic metals to the tissue samples." ~Dr. Robert Selig

Why is hair superior for mineral testing?

Blood is simply a system of nutrient transport, and it always works to return quickly to a homeostatic balance. The blood level does NOT reflect the stored tissue levels of metals and minerals at the cellular level.
HTMA offers the following key benefits:

  • It's quick and painless!  
  • Mineral and Toxic Metal levels are much more accurately detected in hair than in blood.
  • Blood serum tests are misleading because excess minerals are not stored in the blood, they are stored in tissue!
  • Since hair is a non-essential, excretory, storage, soft tissue of the body, the body tends to deposit more excess
    minerals and dangerous metals here than in many other tissue areas of the body. 
  • As the hair gets formed it's exposed to blood and intracellular fluids, and as the hair shaft hardens it preserves this 'blueprint' of what is happening in the body.
  •  Hair results are not subject to hourly or daily fluctuations of levels, allowing for a much more reliable reading.
  • HTMA provides key ratios & indicators which can detect imbalances that individual mineral 'levels' don't show.
  • Hair remains stable for biopsy for months or even years.  it is extremely cost effective, accurate, and reliable.

"Hair is formed in the dermis from a cluster of matrix cells that make up the follicle. During the growth phase, metabolic activity is greatly increased, exposing the hair to the internal metabolic environment. This includes the extracellular fluids, circulating blood, and lymph. As the hair reaches the surface of the skin, its outer layers harden, locking in the metabolic products accumulated during this period of hair formation." ~David L. Watts, Ph.D.

If I eat healthy can I still have a mineral imbalance?

Chances are very high that you will! Everyone has mineral imbalances, it's just a matter of to what extent.  Often, those who believe they are living the healthiest seem to have the greatest imbalances.  A good example of this would be vegetarians who are committed to living healthy, yet almost always have signs of copper toxicity, zinc deficiency, and potassium deficiency. Magnesium is one of the most important minerals and almost everyone is deficient in it.  Magnesium is chelated by glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup, the herbicide sprayed on most conventional crops). Magnesium is rapidly depleted when one is under stress.  Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life.  Also applicable to everyone is daily exposure to environmental toxins , through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Those toxic elements can then  replace our essential minerals at receptor sites. Calcium for example might be replaced with strontium; zinc might be replaced with mercury, etc. We are also exposed to toxic levels of some metals in utero, beginning life  with imbalances. In addition, many individuals are on one form of medication or another.  Medications for pain, heartburn, depression, thyroid disease, cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc can deplete iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium, and various vitamin levels. Organic crops are often sprayed with 'organic' copper sulfate which numerous studies show is toxic to humans. Also, our soils today are so greatly nutritionally depleted that even if you do all you can to eat  'healthy', the food itself is lacking in mineral content. Even taking a multivitamin, does not ensure that you are actually absorbing those minerals, nor are those nutrients customized for YOUR body. Most people have low stomach acid, and this poor digestion further affects the absorption of minerals - even if you consume enough of a mineral it simply may not be getting absorbed. 

Key Mineral Ratios and How They Relate to Your Health

The Metablic Ratio


  • The ideal Calcium to Phosphorus ratio is 2.6:1.  

  • Above 2.6 represents dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system; A slow metabolizer experiencing stages of stress burnout and a slowing of the adrenals and thyroid. The slow metabolizer is fatigued due to impaired conversion of nutrients into energy.  
  • Below 2.6 represents a fast metabolizer experiencing intense stress and a tendency for magnesium & calcium loss. The fast metabolizer is burning their fuel too quickly and running themselves out of energy.  Too high a calcium level slows metabolism. Looking at this ratio you'll see your metabolism speed...which in turn determines which diet is most optimal for you.  

The Stress Ratio


  • The ideal Sodium to Potassium ratio is 2.4:1.  

  • This key ratio shows the intensity of stress, the corresponding psychological stress reactions that a person may experience, as well as the propensity for magnesium loss. 

  • The higher this number, the more intense the person's stress condition, and with it, a tendency for a short fuse and negative psychological reactions relating to fight or flight (Fight corresponds to anger and /or rage.  Flight corresponds to panic and/or anxiety). 
  • A high ratio of sodium to potassium is also associated with asthma, allergies, lethargy and kidney and liver problems.
  • Sodium antagonizes magnesium, so the greater the Na/K ratio, the more likely the patient is also losing magnesium.  
  • Copper and Vitamin D both antagonize  potassium, therby increasing this ratio (a person with a high Na/K ratio should NOT be taking Vitamin D or copper!).  
  • A low ratio can be a reflection of adrenal burnout and exhaustion, and at very low levels can lead to heart attack and cancer and, like a high ratio, liver and kidney disorders.  
  • The balancing of this ratio is essential for everyone, but especially for anyone dealing with copper toxicity who, with high levels of copper or a sudden mobilization of copper through detox, is greatly affected by the negative psychological aspects of a high Na/K ratio which create reflex 'short fuse' reactions - the person reacts on a sub-cortical reflex level.  An exhausted low ratio on the other hand can reveal suppression of emotion and/or depression.  As it affects both the physical and psychological, until this ratio is balanced it can be almost impossible to 'get through' to a person. 

The Thyroid Ratio


  • The ideal Calcium to Potassium ratio is 4.2:1. 

  • Both calcium and potassium play an important role in thyroid activity.  Calcium slows the thyroid and potassium speeds it up.
  • A high Ca/K ratio indicates a underactive thyroid (and symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, cold hands and feet, depression, lack of sweating, and tendency towards constipation).  
  • A low Ca/K ratio indicates an overactive thyroid (and symptoms such as excessive sweating, irritability, nervousness, and loose or frequent bowel movements during stress).  
  • Diet & exercise will help with weight loss from a slow thyroid, but it could be an uphill battle if the Ca/K ratio isn't first addressed.  Even when a blood thyroid test comes back healthy, the HTMA may show otherwise, as the HTMA better shows how much thyroid hormone is being absorbed. Thyroid issues can be seen through HTMA long before they might ever show up in blood.  

The Adrenal Ratio


  • The ideal Sodium to Magnesium ratio is 4:1. 

  • Sodium levels are directly associated with adrenal function. 
  • A higher ratio represents hyper-adrenal activity with symptoms including inflammation, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, diabetes, hypertension and Type A personality.   
  • A low ratio of Na/K represents adrenal insufficiency, which leads to fatigue, depression, changes in weight, hypoglycemia, poor digestion, protein catabolism and allergies).
  • HTMA is an excellent indicator of a person's hyper-adrenal or hypo-adrenal status, and how exhausted or burned out they may be. The more burned out the individual, the more cautiously detox needs to be approached (especially with copper), as the liver is likely not  producing enough ceruloplasmin to bind and transport the copper, nor is adequate bile being produced to excrete the copper that is being mobilized through detox.  

The Hormone & Energy Ratio


  • The ideal Zinc to Copper ratio is 8:1. 

  • A higher level of zinc generally reflects progesterone dominance and copper deficiency (with symptoms that may include anemia, arthritis, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disorders, amenorrhea, and more).  
  • A higher level of copper on the other hand indicates copper toxicity and estrogen dominance with symptoms which may include skin problems (such acne, psoriasis, eczema), emotional instability, "spaciness", detached behaviour, schizophrenia, PMS, reproductive problems, prostatitis, menstrual difficulties including amenorrhea, diminished feelings, depression and fatigue.
  • Estrogen causes copper retention. 
  • Note:  Copper toxicity is often present even with a high Zn/Cu ratio.  This is called latent coper toxicity. It is imperative that other factors are looked at to determine latent toxicity.

The Blood Sugar Ratio


  • The ideal Calcium to Magnesium ratio is 7:1.  

  • Hypoglycemia occurs as the ratio moves in either direction away from the ideal and, at both very high and very low calcium levels, mental and emotional disturbances may result.
  •  A high ratio of Ca/Mg also leads to increased insulin secretion and the increased risk of insulin resistance, increased risk of muscle spasms, increased risk of blood clotting, and heightened anxiety. 
  • A very high calcium ratio, as can result from copper toxicity, can lead to the numbing of feelings and a detachment from reality, known as the 'calcium shell'.

Watch this video on how to take a hair sample

Collecting Your Hair Sample Instructions & FAQs

Step 1: Wash Your Hair

Before cutting the hair sample, wash your hair with regular shampoo. Do not use dandruff shampoos as they often contain minerals which may alter the test results. For example, Head and Shoulders Shampoo contains zinc which could elevate the zinc reading, and Selsun Blue Shampoo contains selenium which can elevate this reading.

For best results, avoid using conditioners before cutting your hair sample. Do not place other products on your hair such as leave-in conditioners, hair gel, hair cream, hair spray or others until after you have cut the hair sample.

Hair Color is ok!!!

Hair color, dyes and tints do not affect the test because they contain chemicals, not minerals, but it’s best to wash the hair at least once after applying a tint, dye or color rinse before cutting a hair sample.

Bleach, highlights and perms can alter the structure of the hair. So either sample the hair before a treatment or after you have washed the hair five or more times following a lightening, bleaching or perming treatment. The hair tends to re-balance after five washings. Since highlights are done on the surface of the hair, you can simply sample a piece of hair that has not been highlighted on the underside of your hair.

Step 2: Dry Hair for 4 hours

After washing your hair, wait at least 4 hours to cut the sample but no longer than 24 hours. Hair needs to be dry when sampling, so avoid putting wet hair in hats, pony tails or any other style that will prevent the hair from drying by the time the sample is taken.

Avoid any activity which will cause you to sweat excessively before cutting your sample, as this may affect the hair analysis results.

Step 3: Cut the hair sample.

Using clean scissors, cut hair as close to the scalp as possible. DO NOT use an electric razor to cut the hair sample, because pieces of metal from the blades become mixed with the hair sample.

You may cut the samples from any part of the head but we recommend the back of the head, as it often grows fastest. If head hair is not available, the next best is beard hair, then arm/chest hair, but do not mix sample types (for example, do not mix beard hair and head hair). Pubic hair is not as accurate and should only be used as a last resort.

Keep track of which end of the cut hair is from the scalp because we only want the inch or so of hair that was directly against your scalp! This is because the hair furthest from the scalp is the oldest. Older (longer) hair will show us the chemistry of your body months or even years ago, so it not accurate for your body’s current chemistry. To get the hair required for a hair mineral analysis, simply cut and discard the unwanted ends of the hair until all you have is the 1-1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm) or less that was closest to the scalp. Use a ruler to be sure you have the right length of hair!

You will have enough hair when the 1-1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm) hair sample fills a TEAPOON (or tips the scale if you have requested a scale). If you are unsure if you have enough hair, send a little more to be safe. For repeat hair analyses, it’s best to keep the samples no longer than one inch (2.5 cm).


You can avoid leaving bald spots by cutting multiple very-small samples from all over the head.


You can easily hide the sample location by pinning part of your hair up to expose the center of the back of your head and cutting the sample from UNDER the hair, about 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) above the base of the hairline. That way the sample spot will be hidden whether you wear your hair up or down. This also allows you to easily find the same spot when you do a repeat hair mineral analysis after 3-4 months: you simply cut the new growth from the same spot.

Hair Sample FAQs

Can I cut my own sample?

Yes. You can either cut your own hair sample, have a friend or hairdresser cut it, or if you are in the Los Angeles area, you can come to my office and I can cut the sample for you. If you are cutting your own sample, it may be easiest to take it from the sides so that you can see where you are cutting in a mirror. Whether you cut your own sample or have a friend do it, be sure to follow the hair sampling Instructions above carefully.

I color my hair. Will this affect the analysis results?

Most hair tints, dyes, rinses and highlights are chemical-based. The hair analysis deals with mineral content, so hair dyes usually don’t affect it. Bleaching the hair can affect it a little, so it’s best to wait until you have washed your hair 5 times after bleaching the hair before taking the sample. It is also best to have washed the hair a few times after dying it before sampling. But overall, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Ideally, for repeat hair mineral analyses, it is nice if you can cut the sample just prior to bleaching or dying. Grecian formula does contain lead which will appear on the hair analysis. Grecian formula is best avoided in general due to this toxicity.

Does the hair have to be from your head? Can it be body hair?

Hair from the head is much preferred because it provides the most accurate readings. In situations where there is insufficient hair on the head, beard, chest or arm hair may be used as a last resort. Pubic hair is not accurate.

Can I use hair from anywhere on my head?

Yes, as long as it is the hair closest to the scalp. When cutting a hair sample for a repeat hair mineral analysis, we recommend you try to take hair from the same general location as the initial analysis, as this gives more reliable comparisons.

How long do the sample hairs have to be? And how much do I need?

The hair sample should not be longer than 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) and can be as short as 1/8th inch (.3 cm) if the person has buzzed hair, for example. The longer the sample length, the further back in time we are analyzing. Ideally, we want the more recent information. For a first hair analysis, 1 to 1 1/2 inches (2.5-4 cm) is fine We find a ruler is helpful — many people accidentally send me hair samples 3 inches (7.6 cm) or even longer! For a repeat hair mineral analysis, you may want to use only an inch (2.5 cm) or less of hair that is closest to the scalp so that we have the most recent information and can see the more recent changes. You will have enough hair when the 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) or shorter cut samples will fill an ordinary teaspoon. If you have a hair sampling scale, you will have enough hair when the scale tips. Remember that we want the sample from the hair closest to the scalp.

How do I know I have enough hair for the sample?

You will have enough hair when the 1.5-inch (or shorter) hair samples will fill an ordinary teaspoon or tip the hair sampling scale. You can request a hair sample scale be mailed to you. Be sure to only fill the spoon with the hair that was right against the scalp.

Is there anything I should do to prepare before cutting my hair sample?

Make sure your hair has been washed, preferably with a mild soap or with shampoo, at least 4 hours (but no longer than 24 hours) before cutting the sample. So you would wash your hair and wait 4 to 24 hours to sample it. Avoid using conditioners or rinses for best results. Do not place other products on your hair such as hair cream, hair spray, gel or others until after you have cut the hair sample. Avoid any activity which will cause you to sweat excessively before cutting your sample. Hair needs to be dry when sampling, so avoid putting wet hair in hats, pony tails or any other style that will prevent the hair from drying by the time the sample is taken.

Will a water softener affect my hair test results?

If you have a water softener in your home, it is very important that you do not send in a hair sample that was washed with softened water. Be sure to wash your hair twice with spring water or regular, unsoftened tap water before cutting your sample. This does not have to be twice in the same day, but needs to be two times in a row. Do not allow the softened water to get on your hair between, during or after the two washings. Once you have cut the sample, you may return to using your regular softened water. We have you do this because softened water contains sodium and sometimes potassium which will alter the analysis readings of those minerals. Water softeners are devices used to remove “hard” minerals (usually calcium and magnesium) from the tap water. They can be hooked up to the whole house or building or just select rooms or even individual faucets, like in a bathroom. There are filters that work to simply remove chlorine from the water; these are not water softeners. Some water softeners work by adding an electrical charge to the water, which has no effect on the hair test. Others work by adding either sodium or potassium to the water, which then raises these levels in the hair and alters the hair test readings. If you have to periodically add sodium or some other compound to a device on your water supply, then you likely have one of these softeners and need to follow the water-softener instructions for preparing your hair for sampling. How can you tell if you have a water softener? One way you can tell if the water you are using has been softened is that it will have an almost slimy feel on your skin. Additionally, softened-water doesn’t leave water stains or mineral deposits on dishes and surfaces. One more clue is that soft-water allows soap to foam up very easily. Usually one would know if they have a water softener, but if you aren’t sure, and you want to play it safe, just follow the water-softener directions on the hair sampling instructions.

How do I cut my hair for a retest?

Try to use hair from the same part of the body as the original analysis. If the original sample was from the head, try to get it from the same general area of the head for repeat analyses. For medium or long hair, you can continue to sample the same spot using the new growth for each repeat hair analysis so you won’t have to cut more long hair off.

Choosing A Practitioner

The power of HTMA lays in the correct interpretation of the charts. Not everyone offering HTMA is properly trained to understand the data, nor do all labs follow proper testing protocol. Learn what key things to look out for when deciding who to work with. 

Purchase a HTMA

If you could do one test for the benefit of your health HTMA should be THE one!

"HTMA may be the most important health test that exists! Only when you and your doctor know for sure your mineral status and important ratios can you adapt your diet, minerals and supplements to work toward proper balance."    ~Dr. Robert Thompson, MD (author of The Calcium Lie)