Heavy Metal Toxicity: Testing and Treatment

by Cat,  March, 2007; updated July 2016, to add about the “Three Pillars…” and “Mercury Tri-Test”; updated Nov 2017 to add BioSil/PectaSol-C detox therapy, and to move the Chlorella-Cilantro Therapy details to a separate article on iWeb; it has since been moved to Cat’s Kitchen: catsfork.com/CatsKitchen/chlorella-cilantro-heavy-metal-detox-protocols/. April 2022: remainder of the article moved and updated to Cat’s Kitchen. 

  • Includes: 1. Testing and Diagnosis: Provocation Testing; Hair Analysis; and Self Assessment; 2. Provocation Agents (Chelators); 3. Treatment: Conventional Protocols: Provocation Agents; Natural Protocols; Other Considerations While Taking Chelation Therapy; EDTA Chelation Therapy for Arteriosclerosis; My Experience with Chelation Therapy;
  • Other Sites: 1. Wellness Mama on How to Detox Heavy Metals Safely (and Get More Energy (7) 2. Mercola on “Three Pillars of Heavy Metal Detoxification (6) no longer available;  3. Water Liberty’s Natural Treatment (8) no longer available 

Testing and Diagnosis

Diagnosis of heavy metal toxicity is not as simple as a blood test, because most heavy metals are not found in the blood, but rather hiding deep in tissues such as bone and nervous tissue.  Therefore, something must be used to draw them out into the open, where they can be measured.

Provocation Testing

The most common and effective method is known as a provocation test; it is the first heavy metal test I did, at the recommendation of my Naturopathic Doctor.  

A substance known to bind the heavy metals is administered (for example, DMPS or DMSA).  The substance then circulates in the blood where it draws out the metals from deep within the tissues, binds to the metal ions, and then carries them out of the body through the feces or urine. This method does not directly measure the amount of metals stored in the body, but rather the amount it was able to remove. 

Urine or feces is then collected for a specified period following the provocation, typically 8 to 24 hours.  The collected substance is then analyzed for the presence and amount of heavy metals, and compared with “normal” ranges (thresholds below which are considered “safe” and above which are considered “toxic” or “dangerous”).

Each provoking agent has different affinity for the various heavy metals.  For example, DMSA has a high affinity for mercury and lead, and a lesser affinity for arsenic and cadmium. Thus if you have a lot of mercury and cadmium, for example, and are provoking with DMSA, the initial test will likely only indicate toxic mercury, while cadmium will register ‘normal.’  This is because the DMSA will preferentially bind to the mercury until most of the mercury has been removed, and then on subsequent tests, cadmium will begin to show at toxic levels.  For this reason, it is important to perform the provocation test several times during the treatment period.

Provocation is generally regarded as the most effective method to diagnosing the problem, but other methods have also been used. (1)

Radionics Testing

Andi at Swan Valley Herbs tested me on 2/7/18 using Radionics, for 4 heavy metals:

  • Mercury (50.4 frequency): test at 3
  • Lead (329 frequency): test at 2
  • Arsenic (25.2 frequency; test at 1
  • Cadmium (98.56 frequency: test at Trace

Tom Tracey will test me (to compare with Andi) on 2/27/18

Hair Analysis

An amount of new-growth hair is collected from the nape of the neck, and then analyzed for its mineral content.  While it is true that hair holds a history of the past 3 months, this test is considered highly speculative and unreliable. 

Wellness Mama recommends a hair analysis by Wendy Myers (10)


Several online sites offer quizzes you can take to assess the likelihood of toxicity; for example, the Candidiasis Self Assessment or the Magnesium Deficiency Assessment available on the Jigsaw Health website (2b).  These quizzes assess RISK based on general assumptions, and as such are not reliable for diagnosis, but helpful if they get you to talk to your health care practitioner. (1)

Three Pillars of Heavy Metal Detox, and the Mercury Tri-Test (1a) 

This was added to article 7/2016.

“Three pillars of heavy metal detox are: 

  1. Cleanse and clear your GI tract of metals and toxins, 
  2. Optimize glutathione, and 
  3. Upregulate detox genes. 

Kidney- and liver-supporting herbs and supplements are valuable adjuncts” 

Mercola discusses the mercury tri-test (1a) as the best test for determining what type of mercury is present. “[It] looks at three different kinds of samples: blood, hair, and urine. You always have more mercury in your tissues than in your blood. But there’s a steady state or ratio between what’s in your blood and what’s in your tissues” (1a) The most important ratio compares levels of inorganic mercury in the urine compared with that in blood, as each responds to different treatment.

The most common source of inorganic mercury today is dental amalgams [when I was a kid, other sources were thermometers and mercurochrome (antiseptic)].

The Mercury Tri-Test is the only one that differentiates between inorganic mercury and methyl mercury (from fish and other seafood), and these do not respond to the same treatments.


NOTE: see Mercola’s article (1a) on sources of mercury exposure and testing/treatment methods (5). He explains why the provocation agents (chelators) are not the best method, and what should be used instead.

Provocation Agents

Sidebar:  Many substances in the body, for example amino acids and proteins, contain sulfhydryl groups that can bind heavy metals.  This can be both a good and a bad thing.  The body’s immune system employs such proteins to protect itself from invasion by heavy metals in the lungs and digestive tract.

An example is the class of ‘metalloproteins,’ which bind invading cadmium, copper, silver and zinc.  But once the metals have been absorbed into the blood, they can then become trapped within cellular tissue by binding to local sulfhydryl groups.

Another substance with chelating ability at the intracellular level is Lipoic Acid.

Provocation agents are also known as chelators.  The word “chelate” comes from the Greek for “claw.”  Chelating molecules act like claws to grab the desired substance and then hold onto it.  Most effective chelating provoking agents for heavy metals contain one or more sulfur atoms bonded to a hyrdogen atom; this combination is called a “sulfhydryl” or “thiol” group, and also can be called a “mercapto” group because of its affinity for capturing mercury.

Common prescription chelators are (2a):

  • DMSA (dimercaptsuccinic acid) used primarily for lead and mercury toxicity
  • DMPS (dimercaptopropanesulfonate)
  • BAL (dimercaprol) used to treat lead, arsenic, and mercury toxicity
  • EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) used as secondary treatment for lead toxicity only
  • d-Penicillamine used to treat arsenic and mercury toxicity

Some supplements and natural chelators have also been used.  The following have been used to remove mercury from soft tissues (2a):

  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
  • Lipoic Acid(synthetic alpha Lipoic Acid contains 50% of the active R-isomer, and 50% of the inactive L-isomer; it is better to pay more for all-natural R-lipoic acid)
  • Livaplex (by Standard Process), available only through practitioners
  • Antonex (by Standard Process), available only through practitioners
  • Garlic
  • Chlorella and Cilantro Heavy-Metal Detox Protocol: Cilantro (an herb) and chlorella (an algae) in a two-step process: cilantro mobilizes mercury from cells into blood, and chlorella binds to mercury in soft tissues and blood so it can be carried out via the stool. Be sure to get broken cell-wall chlorella, as the whole cell will not do the job. More on this below under Natural Protocols.
  • BioSil and PectaSol-C Modified Citrus Pectin in a two-step process: BioSil mobilizes mercury (and other heavy metals), and PectaSol-C binds them for eliminationm. More on this below under Natural Protocols.

Conventional Protocol, with Provocations Agents

This involves chemical chelating agents; many are given orally. For example, DMSA and DMPS.  Others are given intravenously; for example, EDTA and DMPS. In all cases, DO NOT attempt to do this on your own, rather proceed only with the help of a qualified practitioner.

DMSA is often the preferred chelator for mercury toxicity because of its ability to pull mercury from nerve tissues (the most difficult to detox, and the one where it does the most damage. It is also effective for lead toxicity, pulling lead from where it hides in bone (substituting for calcium, thus weakening the bone tissue and potentially leading to osteoporosis).

See also Mercola’s article: Mercury Detoxification Protocol (1c), using DMPS (typically through an IV) as the chelator, plus specific supplements and dietary additions to support the detoxification, such as chlorella, garlic, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), cilantro, minerals (especially selenium and zinc, but also all the other essential minerals), betaine if your stomach is deficient in hydrochloric acid, essential fats, and antioxidant vitamins C and E.

2022 learning re vitamin C: It is best not to take vitamin C in a tablet or capsule form; instead, take it in a liquid or gelcap liposomal form (Vitamin C plus specific fats such as lecithin, medium-chain triglycerides, coconut oil, beeswax). I take Mercola’s “Liposomal Vitamin C” gelcap (iHerb MCL-01559) and California Gold Nutrition’s liposomal liquid vitamin-C (iHerb CGN-01839) that I add to my morning smoothie.

Natural Protocols

Natural Protocol #1: Hair-Mineral Analysis

See Wendy Myers article (11a), Heavy Metal Toxicity section. (added 4/2022)

Natural Protocol #2: Chlorella & Cilantro with Vitamin C:

This is just a summary; for more detail, see my article: Chlorella and Cilantro Heavy-Metal Detox Protocol.

This is the first ‘natural’ protocol I tried for mercury toxicity. It is basically a two-step protocol (Chlorella and Cilantro), but additional recommendations have since been added. NOTE: It’s important to take the supplements in a specific order. Dosage and Scheduling info is from Curezone: Cilantro/Chlorella/Vitamin C Chelate Mercury (12), also from The Klinghardt Neurotoxin Elimination Protocol (13).

Steps and Dosage

  1. Step 1: Cilantro tincture mobilizes mercury out of the cells and into the bloodstream.
    • Dosage: Start with 2 drops cilantro, 2 times per day in the beginning, increasing to 10 drops 2 times/day for full benefit. Take just before a meal or 30 minutes after taking chlorella.
  2. Step 2: Chlorella powder or tablets bind mercury in the blood and excrete it with the stool.
    • Dosage for general use: best taken with meals in small doses throughout the day, totaling 3 – 5 grams (1 tsp powder = 5 g).
    • Dosage for chelation therapy: use 5 grams (1 tsp) of chlorella powder or one 5g tablet per day; this can be in divided doses taken 30 minutes before the cilantro.  Avoid taking before or after a caffeinated or soft drink beverage. See Healing Daily (15) for more about using chlorella to detox mercury.
  3. Step 3 (optional): Vitamin C helps with detox.
    • Take as far away from chlorella as possible (best after meals).
    • Dosage: 500 mg per day or more can be taken. Liposomal form (as liquid or gelcap) is highly recommended, as it is more readily absorbed. 
  4. Additional supplements are also recommended: butyric acid, garlic, fish or cod liver oil, and natural ocean salt, cited in my article Chlorella & Cilantro Heavy Metal Detox Protocols)

Sample Chelation Schedule

[Note: You don’t want to overwhelm your body, so don’t do this every day; 1 week on, 2 – 3 weeks off is recommended. I do 2-week cycles as 2 days on, 12 days off, so I don’t have to go a whole week without my essential magnesium].

  • Each day of chelation therapy, avoid all supplemental sources of minerals, as they will be chelated instead of the toxic minerals. 
  • On off-days (not chelating), you want to re-mineralize.
  • See “Other Considerations: Mineral Supplements,” below, for more.
  1. Breakfast-time: 
    • chlorella: half-dose or 2.5 g (1/2 tsp) 30 minutes before breakfast and/or before coffee; 
    • cilantro: 2 drops (increase to 10 drops over time) after the chlorella (before breakfast) or 30 minutes after breakfast;
    • vitamin C: after breakfast is complete, or wait until after lunch;
  2. Luunch-time:
    • No chlorella/cilantro; 
    • Vitamin C: can take after lunch;
  3. Dinner-time:
    • chlorella: half-dose or 2.5 g (1/2 tsp) 30 minutes before dinner; 
    • cilantro: 2 drops (increase to 10 drops over time) after the chlorella (but before dinner) or 30 minutes after dinner;
    • vitamin C: after dinner is complete (if dividing your dosage with meals);

Caution: the cilantro/chlorella combo should not be done every day. 1 week on and 2 – 3 weeks off is recommended. See Curezone: Cilantro/Chlorella/Vitamin-C Chelate Mercury (11) for more.

The Kitchen Doctor (22) also has some good info on this, although I somewhat disagree with his take on candida and parasites (he says they increase when you remove mercury, but my experience is that mercury tends to protect candida. 

I started mixing powdered chlorella with my smoothie, but I did not care for its flavor. Instead, I would prefer to take the chlorella tablets.

For more information about Chlorella & Cilantro with Vitamin C protocol:

  • Curezone: Cilantro/Chlorella/Vitamin-C Chelate Mercury (11) also on The Klinghardt Neurotoxin Elimination Protocol (12) 
  • Dr Klinghardt, about Seta-aid supplement(13) 
  • Mercola: Mercury Detox Protocol (14): on using prescription DMPS along with natural substances such as cilantro, chlorella and garlic. Also Mercola and Dr. Klinghardt (national expert) on Mercury Toxicity and Systemic Elimination Agents (14)
  • My page: Chlorella-Cilantro Heavy-Metal Detox Protocol

Natural Protocol #3: BioSil (Natural Factors) and PectaSoll-C Modified Citrus Pectin (EcoNugenics)  

See my article: Biosil & Pectasol-C- Modified Citrus Pectin for Heavy Metal Detox for more detail.  I like the idea of this one, as it doesn’t impact essential minerals, only the toxic ones (see below from iHerb). I’ve not yet tried this, but plan to do so soon (new, Nov 2017).

This protocol is from Wellness Mama (7). Read her entire article for details of how to take these supplements.  NOTE: I’ve transcribed her online article as a pdf (HEALTH-NUTRITION > MINERALS-HEAVY METALS > DETOX HEAVY METALS /  HowDetoxHeavyMetals-WellnessMama.pdf (6 pages). She warns: 

“This is a two-part recommendation; don’t take one without the other.” This is because the first one ‘mobilizes’ the heavy metals (pulls them out of the tissue where they hide); and the other ‘binds and eliminates’ them.”

Take both of the following (available on iHerb or Amazon); see Wellness Mama article (7) for more details (note: She doesn’t describe the order in which these are to be taken): 

  1. BioSil (to mobilize):  Take 1 capsule/day (7); about $50 for 120 capsules (120 days at recommended detox dosage).  See: iHerb code NFS-39186 (120 caps) or NFS-39183 (60 caps); or Amazon ASIN B004KU8H56;
  2. PectaSol-C (to bind and eliminate):  Take 5 grams or more/day (7); about $42 for 150g or $97 for 454g (30/90 days respectively, at recommended detox dosage). Doesn’t bind essential minerals (see below). See: iHerb code ECN-00012 or Amazon ASIN B00YJJDTPG.
    • iHerb states: “Published in 2006, a clinical trial demonstrated PectaSol-C MCP’s ability to bind and remove toxic heavy metals from the body, without affecting essential minerals. Heavy metal removal with PectaSol-C MCP has been shown in multiple case studies to play a role in ongoing health maintenance. A hospital study in 2008 reported that PectaSol-C significantly decreased toxic lead levels.”

If you only do the first, the metals will circulate through your blood causing even more harm. If you only do the second, the metals will not be available to bind and eliminate.

As for the chlorella & cilantro protocol (above), it may also be helpful to take butyric acid.

Wellness Mama doesn’t describe the order in which these are to be taken. I will investigate this further, beginning with:

Natural Protocol # 4: Mitochondrial Detox:

This is from Wendy Myers, which is a heavy metal detox for the mitochondria. See her Mitochondrial Detox site for information about the program’s 3 supplements: Mitotox, Activated Silica, and Citricleanse. This appears to be similar to the Biosil/PectaSol-C detox above (the PectaSol-C and Citricleanse are very similar and both are made by EcoNugenics..

Other Considerations While Taking Chelation Therapy

Mineral Supplements

NOTE: this does not apply to the Biosil & Pectasol-C- Modified Citrus Pectin protocol but does apply to the other protocols. 

It is important to remember that the chelating agent will not only grab the toxic heavy metals, but also vital minerals your body needs.  For example, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc are all vulnerable to the chelator.  Therefore, it is advisable to refrain from taking mineral supplements beginning 12-18 hours before dosing with chelating agent until the afternoon of the day following the dose.

For example, Sunday – Tuesday:

  • Sunday, After 2 PM: cease taking any mineral supplement;
  • Monday 8 AM: take the chelator. If you wish to take the chelator several days in a row, do not resume mineral supplementation until 3 PM the next day after you cease taking the chelator;
  • Tuesday (or the day after you stop taking the chelator), after 3 PM: you can resume mineral supplementation; i.e., remineralization (see below). 

If you do not do this, the chelator will simply pick up the minerals from the supplement and not touch the embedded toxic metals. This ability of the chelator to remove essential minerals could have a silver lining:  It could remove them from hiding where they are not wanted (such as calcified arterial plaque); then when you remineralize after chelation, they could be restored to where they are wanted, (such as calcium to bone tissue). 


It is very important to remineralize as instructed, after the dosing period, to restore your levels of essential and trace minerals.  It’s a good idea to take mineral supplements with a glass of raw milk or kefir, or a bowl of unsweetened yogurt, as the raw or cultured dairy products increase the absorption of the minerals.  Also a good idea to take some fish oil or cod liver oil at the same time, as the fats also increase the absorption.

In addition to taking mineral supplements, also drink plenty of filtered or distilled water that has been remineralized by adding clay or other mineral source (5)* (or you can drink unfiltered water if you know it is free of heavy metal contamination and chlorine).

  • ConcenTrace is a liquid mineral source from pure sea water (with the sodium removed), available from Radiant Life ( available on Radiant Life (10)) 
  • Ancient Earth Minerals (available on Live Superfoods), 
  • Vital Earth Fulvic-Humic Mineral Complex (iHerb code VEM-00003),
  • Azomite is a “broad spectrum natural mineral product mined from a unique deposit in Utah USA.” It is certified organic, natural trace mineral fertilizer, but can also be added to water to take supplementally. (22)
  • Unrefined sea salt, such as Real Salt or Celtic sea salt should be used instead of table salt; see Salt (About) for more.

EDTA Chelation Therapy for Arteriosclerosis 

In addition to its use as treatment for lead toxicity, EDTA chelation therapy is also used to treat arteriosclerosis (plaque deposits inside arteries, eventually resulting in hardening of the affected arteries) and atherosclerosis (arteriosclerosis affecting the arteries that feed heart muscle). While it is not known how EDTA therapy works, it has been well established that it does work, not only to reduce soft plaque, but also to result in reduction of calcium-hardened plaque.

Initially it was believed that EDTA worked by binding calcium and removing it from the plaque.  But while EDTA is very effective at chelating calcium, this theory or its action on arterial plaque has been disproven.

The current hypothesis is that EDTA chelates free, unbound heavy metals in the blood, such as iron not bound by hemoglobin.  Free heavy metal ions are highly inflammatory, and it is believed that inflammation is what starts the accumulation of soft plaque.  Refer to my article on Inflammation or on Atherosclerosis for more on this subject.  By chelating these free toxic ions, and thus allowing for their removal from the body via the urine or feces, the overall level of arterial inflammation is reduced.  But it is still not at all certain how the hardened, calcium-laden plaque is broken down.

My Experience with Chelation Therapy

I am most familiar with DMSA therapy for lead and mercury toxicity, as that is what I was undergoing when I started this post in  2007.  Initially I experienced allergy symptoms that aggravated my spleen and lymph system.  With the help of a practitioner skilled in NAET technique for overcoming food sensitivities, we discerned that I was sensitive to anything containing sulfhydryl (SH) groups, which not only included the DMSA chelator, but also lipoic acid (a substance essential to the working of the body, and involved at the cellular level in energy production), cysteine (an amino acid), the onion family, etc..  After successful NAET treatment, I am now able to tolerate DMSA, and can eat onions again!

I started with taking 100 mg of DMSA one day every week, for several weeks until I was sure I could tolerate that dose, and then increased to 200 mg one day each week for several weeks.  However, I started developing toxic load problems at this dose (headache, constipation, etc,), and so decreased administration to one day every two weeks, to allow myself time to recover from the detox.

We then increased my dose by 100 mg every 4 weeks, up to 600 mg in divided doses, one day each two weeks.  I found that 600 mg was too much for me, and reduced to 400 mg in divided doses.

2011 update: I had to stop the chelation for awhile in 2010, then restarted a year later and discovered I could not tolerate it any more. It dried me up terribly (dehydration). So I switched to cilantro and chlorella therapy. However, I’m probably not taking enough of each. I take 1/2 tsp chlorella powder (broken cell wall) in my smoothie, and 6-droppers-full of cilantro tincture daily.

2013 update: I started working on food sensitivities in 2012; my dominant sensitivity is to bakers/brewers yeast, primarily because of my systemic candida problem that is exacerbated by my mercury toxicity. So I want to increase my chlorella dose, but not sure how much.

I stopped cilantro and chlorella therapy in 2014, with intent to start Bio-Sil and PectasolC Modified Citrus Pectin, but I got distracted by new food sensitivities that have continued through 2022; the last 2-years of which have been dealing with food sensitivity to magnesium, a very essential mineral. …..


  1. Mercola: (note: his articles may have been removed from his site)
    1. Mercola & Dr. Shade on Mercury Exposure: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/01/06/dr-shade-on-mercury-exposure.aspx
    2. Mercola on Three Pillars of Heavy Metal Detoxification articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/03/20/heavy-metal-detoxification.aspx
    3. Mercola’s Mercury Detox protocol: mercola.com/article/mercury/detox_protocol.htm  (as of 042422, this one is still valid) 
    4. Mercola, with Dr.  Klinghardt on mercury elimination:  mercola.com/article/mercury/mercury_elimination.htm
  2. Jigsaw Health:
    1. jigsawhealth.com/articles/heavy-metal-toxicity-symptoms.html
    2. jigsawhealth.com/testing.aspx
  3. e-Medicine: emedicine.com/EMERG/topic237.htm
  4. Chelation Therapy Online: chelationtherapyonline.com/articles/p45.htm
  5. Weston Price (WAPF): westonaprice.org/basicnutrition/mineralprimer.html
  6. Moved to 1a
  7. M0ved to 1b
  8. Wellness Mama: hwellnessmama.com/302581/detox-heavy-metals/
  9. Water Liberty: waterliberty.com/presentation-dd.php  (no longer available)
  10. Radiant Life minerals: www.radiantlifecatalog.com/prod.cfm/ct/3/pid/1058
  11. Wendy Myers
    1. Hair Mineral Analysis: myersdetox.com/hair-mineral-analysis-heavy-metal-detox/; also: myersdetox.com/unlocking-human-performance-with-hair-mineral-analysis/
    2. myersdetox.com/5-rea
  12. Curezone: Cilantro/Chlorella/Vitamin C Chelate Mercury
  13. The Klinghardt Neurotoxin Elimination Protocol customers.hbci.com/~wenonah/new/9steps.htm ;
  14. About Seta-aid: customers.hbci.com/~wenonah/new/mcdaniel.htm
  15. Moved to 1c and 1d
  16. Healing Daily: healingdaily.com/oral-chelation/chlorella-dosage.htm
  17. Paleo Leap: paleoleap.com/butyrate-anti-inflammatory-fat/
  18. Center for Wellness: https://www.cfwellness.com/butyrate/
  19. naturalhealth365store.com/Ultra-Binder-Universal-Toxin-Binder-120g_p_66.htm (’22: link no longer valid
  20. Very Well Health: verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-allicin-88606
  21. Forrest Health, Bio-Immersion brand of freeze-dried garlic capsules: forresthealth.com/garlic-organic-freeze-dried.html
  22. Azomite: https://azomite.com
  23. Kitchen Doctor: kitchendoctor.com/herbs/cilantro.php

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