Boron is a trace mineral that can be taken as a dietary supplement in the form of borax. Boron promotes bone formation, relieves osteoarthritis and arthritis, increases testosterone levels, and seems to make vitamin D work better. Of course, boron is also found in food, especially one.
Boron and borax
Boron is a chemical element (a semimetal) that occurs naturally in e.g. B. in the form of borax (the salt of boron). Borax was formerly known as Tinkle. Officially it is called sodium tetraborate decahydrate, disodium tetraborate decahydrate, or sodium borate for short. The last term in particular is often read (together with boron) on the corresponding dietary supplements. Boron is the English term for boron.
Since two boron compounds are also approved as food additives (but only for real caviar), there are E numbers for them:
- Borax carries the E number E285
- Boric acid has the E number E284
In this way, caviar can contain high amounts of borax, namely up to 4 g per kilogram of caviar, which corresponds to a borax amount of 4 mg per gram and thus an impressive 120 mg borax per portion of caviar (30 g). Normally, with the usual diet, one consumes little more than 1 to 3 mg of boron per day. However, since very few people eat real caviar every day, there is rarely a risk of chronic overdose.
Borax as a home remedy
Borax is actually an old home remedy. It is easily soluble in water and once had many uses. For example, it was used against ants (mixed with sugar and dissolved in water) or against rust (mixed with vinegar or lemon juice).
Borax used to be used as a detergent or softener. A publication from 1876 explains that refined borax produces “washing of the most excellent whiteness”: A handful of borax was added to about 40 liters of hot water, which meant that only half the amount of soap was needed. Borax was also used for washing hair and brushing teeth. And because borax made the water so beautifully soft, it was also put in the kettle in which the water for tea was boiling.
Borax in silversmithing
In industry and also in silversmithing, borax is used i.a. used as a flux for soldering metals. A reader – a silversmith by profession – asked whether working with borax could be dangerous, e.g. B. could be absorbed through the skin. Our Answer: According to this study, skin absorption is negligible, to the point that the conclusion even states that gloves are not required when working with 5% boric acid or borax (each dissolved in water).
Boron is particularly found in plant foods
Boron is an alkaline trace element (i.e. basic) that is vital for plants. Plants cannot thrive without boron. This means that boron is always contained in plant foods. It is possible that the boron content of plant foods is one of the reasons why switching to a plant-based diet has such a positive effect on many diseases.
Who does not have to/should not take boron?
As a precaution, children and pregnant women should not take boron. Not even people with kidney diseases or impaired kidney functions, as would then no longer be able to excrete excess boron comprehensively. In these cases, however, you can easily eat plenty of plant-based food (including prunes, which contain a particularly large amount of boron), which automatically provides a lot of boron.
In general, boron is easily absorbed. In healthy people, the excess is excreted within 3 to 4 days, so that no storage or accumulation takes place with normal intake.
Anyone who eats plant-based (e.g. vegan or vegetarian) and perhaps already eats prunes every day is most likely well supplied with boron and does not have to take any more.
Boron and its functions in the body
It is officially stated that boron is not required for human health, i.e. not essential. In alternative medicine, however, boron is considered a micronutrient that has many extremely important functions in the human body. Boron is important
- for bone health (bone formation and regeneration)
- for wound healing
- for sex hormone formation (it increases testosterone levels in men and estrogen levels in women after menopause)
- for the activation of vitamin D
- for the absorption of calcium and magnesium
- Since boron has anti-inflammatory effects, it can relieve pain in joint disorders (osteoarthritis and arthritis), but also improve brain functions.
- The trace element even has cancer-inhibiting properties.
What fact-checkers and consumer centers say about boron
It is often said (e.g. by the consumer centers or the so-called fact checkers) that the corresponding studies with boron were carried out in vitro (in the test tube) or with animals so that the effects cannot be transferred to humans. The studies were also carried out with very high doses of boron, which cannot be used on humans in reality because they would then be harmful.
We, therefore, present clinical studies in particular (where available), i.e. with humans and only those with the usual boron doses. Because in reality it has been shown that boron is sufficiently effective in completely harmless doses of 3 to 10 mg.
Boron for the bones
In naturopathy, boron has long been considered an important trace element for bone health and is therefore used in the treatment of osteoporosis. So boron could be one of the main reasons why prunes are considered THE food for the bones. With 2.7 mg per 100 g, they are among the foods that are particularly rich in boron.
In studies from 2016, for example, daily consumption of prunes could prevent the bone loss that often occurs as a result of radiation therapy. In women (after menopause), it was also shown in 2011 that the consumption of prunes increased bone density and could reduce the excessive values that indicate osteoporosis. We report in detail the bone-healthy effects of prunes in our article Protecting bones with prunes.
As early as 1985, a study of postmenopausal women showed that taking 3 mg of boron (as borax) daily for 28 days reduced the excretion of calcium in the urine by 44 percent, which means that the body has more calcium available for incorporation into the bones thanks to boron.
Magnesium is at least as important for the bones as calcium. Because magnesium is a cofactor for certain enzymes of the calcium metabolism in the bones. Therefore, 60 percent of all magnesium in our body is found in the bones. However, magnesium is also involved in the energy supply for the cell, so sufficient magnesium must be provided, especially in the case of a chronic disease such as osteoporosis.
Boron not only reduces (as with calcium) the excretion of magnesium but also improves its absorption from the intestine and its incorporation into the bones. In addition, boron inhibits the breakdown of estrogen and thus increases the estrogen level in women after menopause and can also protect against osteoporosis in this way. The estrogen level that typically falls during menopause is an important cause of bone loss. Estrogens stabilize the bone and prevent bone density from decreasing.
Of course, vitamin D is also essential for good bone health. Even here, boron is active and improves the vitamin D effect. In animals suffering from vitamin D deficiency, boron supplementation was able to stimulate bone growth and even alleviate dysfunction associated with vitamin D deficiency.
Further animal studies (2008 and 2009) showed that bone healing was significantly inhibited with a boron deficiency, which was not the case with a good boron supply. Because boron promotes the activity and proliferation of osteoblasts (bone-forming cells) and activates the mineralization of the bone since it u. is involved in the regulation of the corresponding genes and the hormones important for bone formation (estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D).
Boron is an anti-inflammatory
It has long been known that chronic inflammation is present in almost every health problem. They contribute to the development of the respective disease, promote its progression and prevent healing processes. A well-known measurement value for inflammatory processes is e.g. B. the CRP value.
He stands u. associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, arteriosclerosis, type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance), fatty liver, prostate cancer, lung cancer, depression, coronary heart disease, stroke, arthrosis, rheumatism, and even obesity. The inhibition of inflammation is therefore the focus of almost every therapy.
Boron could be an effective contender here, because boron lowers the levels of typical inflammatory markers, such as CRP or TNF-alpha, which is a pro-inflammatory neurotransmitter that stimulates the production of cartilage-degrading enzymes and causes painful joints We describe other natural ways to reduce the elevated inflammatory markers associated with osteoarthritis in our article on holistic therapy for osteoarthritis.
In a small study from 2011 with 8 male volunteers, the CRP and TNF-alpha levels were significantly reduced with boron. After a week of daily 10 mg of boron (in the form of borax, i.e. sodium borate), TNF-alpha levels had fallen by 20 percent, CRP levels by about 50 percent, and IL-6 levels (interleukin-6 is another inflammatory messenger) also by almost 50 percent.
Is the sale of borax illegal?
Anyone who wants to take boron as a dietary supplement is repeatedly told that the sale of boron or borax is prohibited. In fact, borax as a loose powder may no longer be sold for ingestion. With Directive 2008/58/EC of August 21, 2008, borax received the danger symbol for toxic and was classified in the group of carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic for reproduction substances of category 1 or 2.
It is therefore declared by providers with the note “for technical purposes”. Since you can actually easily overdose on the powder and – especially with inexpensive borax – the quality is uncertain, we would recommend capsules that contain a maximum of 3 mg boron per capsule. The sale of borax or boron is therefore not prohibited.
Borax and the consumer center
As usual, when it comes to dietary supplements, the consumer centers also warn of borax, but not because the experts there know that it is harmful, but because they – as always – are of the opinion that the study situation is insufficient. Neither the benefits nor the risks have been sufficiently researched, say the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). Therefore, boron cannot be recommended as a dietary supplement.
However, the treatise on boron is somewhat confusing on the consumer advice center’s side: First of all, it says that boron is not an essential (vital) nutrient “according to current nutritional medicine assessments”. However, it is explained below that boron is an ultra-trace element and the daily requirement is, therefore, less than 1 mg. However, if a substance is not essential, then there is no need, which the consumer advice center even points out further below.
It is known that plants need boron, but there is still no “clear evidence of a physiological function” for humans. It is therefore not known whether boron is necessary for humans. However, pharmacist Uwe Gröber writes in his article (2015) for the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine that all the studies available on boron have shown so many positive effects on human health that the element could be classified as essential.
The consumer center further: There would also be no approved advertising statements for boron. This point is nothing new and is attached by the consumer center to almost every dietary supplement. However, just because the authorities do not allow any advertising statements does not mean that the corresponding remedy has no effect, only that the existing evidence of its effect is not accepted because it is e.g. B. is mainly studied with cells or animals.
However, apart from the fact that there are a number of human studies with boron, the consumer advice center suffices with cell and animal studies as evidence of alleged side effects (see references at the consumer advice center). However, if one wants to use animal studies to show the positive properties of a substance, it is said that the results from animal studies cannot be extrapolated to humans.
How toxic is boron?
It is said that 1 to 3 g of a boron compound per kilogram of body weight could be deadly. So if you weigh 60 kilograms, you could possibly poison yourself with just 100 g of borax. But who eats 100 g of borax? The usual intake is 3 mg, at most 10 mg boron. Therefore, one often reads: Worse is the gradual poisoning caused by continuous boron intake. Because boron accumulates in the body and is only slowly excreted through the kidneys. Symptoms of poisoning would appear over time. You can read about how unlikely this is in the next section.
Possible symptoms of poisoning by boron
Anyone who actually overdoses on boron must, of course, expect symptoms of poisoning. But the same thing happens when you overdose on other substances. So boron is nothing special here. Overdoses are always a problem, no matter the substance. That’s why the word also means OVERdose. So it’s TOO MUCH. However, if you want to take boron, then you dose it in the RIGHT dose, i.e. 3 mg in capsule form per day or you eat differently in the future (plant-based).
A boron overdose can cause headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, cramps, skin inflammation, menstrual disorders, hair loss, circulatory collapse, edema, epilepsy, confusion, and much more. For these symptoms to appear, you would have to consume 2 to 5 g of boric acid or 3 to 6.5 g of borax daily for months. For borax, the amount is higher since the boron content in borax is only around 11 percent, while in boric acid the boron content is around 17 percent.
Conclusion: Should you take boron or not?
So what should one do now? Should you take boron or not? First, see the section above: “Who should not take boron”. That being said, given all the data, studies, and warnings (against overdoses) available, it seems reasonable to suspect that boron is especially helpful if you haven’t been consuming enough of it.
So if you already eat plant-based food, i.e. lots of vegetables, nuts, and dried prunes/prunes regularly, then you are most likely well supplied with boron.
If you eat differently and have chronic ailments, a change in diet is worthwhile in any case – not only because of the possibly increased boron content but also because of the many other advantages of a plant-based diet (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, plant substances, bitter substances, fiber, etc.). Our nutrition plans will help you with the transition!
In addition, you could either eat more prunes (if you can tolerate them) or try a boron supplement as a cure (3 to 10 mg per day). You should see an effect within four to six weeks.
Then, however, discontinue the boron to see whether the beneficial effects of your new diet may mean that a corresponding dietary supplement is no longer necessary. Be sure to also consider other important measures in the therapy of chronic diseases (see next link)! Because boron is certainly not THE panacea!
Of course, if you’re already plant-based and still have a chronic condition that boron could prove helpful with, you could also give a boron supplement a try (3 mg per day) on a short-term basis.
However, always think about possible other causes of your symptoms first. Because the same applies here: A boron deficiency alone will not be the problem.