Some nutritionists call it an ultratrace element: a nutrient that affects your body and health even in minuscule amounts. This post will overview findings of positive effects associated with the use of boron supplements or dietary boron intake, as well as possible side effects.

What Is Boron?

Boron is a metalloid element with atomic number 5. It is relatively rare and never appears on Earth in its pure form. Instead, boron is found in compounds like borax, boric acid, kernite, ulexite, and colemanite [1].

Many nutritionists do not consider it an essential nutrient even though it is essential for growth and positively affects health. Boron is important for immune function, bone health, brain health, and hormone production [2, 3, 4].

Boron Deficiency

Deficiencies of any important nutrient will cause health problems, and these problems can help us understand the nutrient’s normal function.

Boron deficiency causes problems with bone development, growth, and healing. When people don’t have enough boron, their bone cells can’t lay down new bone tissue properly, which can lead to bone diseases like osteoporosis and rickets [4].

Many of the symptoms of boron deficiency line up with those of vitamin D deficiency. This overlap suggests that boron may interact with the skeletal system through vitamin D metabolism [4].

Boron Snapshot

PROS

  • Strengthens bones and joints
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Helps fight cancer
  • Improves reproductive health
  • Helps pass kidney stones
  • Maintains brain health
  • Easy to get enough from diet

CONS

  • Possible toxicity at high doses
  • May interfere with thyroid function
  • Not enough research

Health Benefits of Boron

1) Improves Bone Health

Boron prevents the breakdown of vitamin D and increases the amount of available vitamin D in the body. Because vitamin D is essential for skeletal health, boron is also important to maintain strong bones [4].

One study found that the bones of people taking boron supplements were much harder to cut than those of people not taking supplements. Boron supplements also increased the mineral density of female athletes’ bones [5, 6].

In women, after menopause, boron supplements reduce calcium loss and help prevent osteoporosis [7, 8, 4].

2) Fights Inflammation and Arthritis

Estimated rates of arthritis rise and fall around the world just as dietary boron rises and falls.

In areas of the world where boron intake is 1 milligram or less per day, arthritis rates range from 20 – 70%. In areas of the world where boron intake is 3 – 10 milligrams, arthritis rates range from 0 – 10% [5].

People with arthritis also have lower concentrations of boron in their joints than people without arthritis  [5].

In a study of twenty people with arthritis, half reported improved symptoms on a 6 mg/day boron supplement. Only 10% of people receiving a placebo reported improvements [5].

3) Improves Wound Healing

Boron is important for healing wounds. It increases the production of fibrous proteins like collagen and other compounds that help repair damage to skin, bones, and other tissues [4].

A gel containing boron improved healing in diabetic foot ulcers. The gel killed microbes like yeast and fungi and significantly sped up the process of wound repair and tissue growth [9].

Boron also induces the growth of bacteria-eating white blood cells called phagocytes. These cells help fight infection and kill pathogens [10].

To sum it up, boron supplements or diets high in boron may improve wound healing [3].

4) Helps Fight Cancer

Prevention

DNA damage is the first step to the development of cancer: an important gene is changed or turned off, which allows cancerous cells to multiply and tumors to grow. Boric acid may help the body resist DNA damage and, therefore, prevent cancers from developing [11].

Boron supplementation may specifically help prevent prostate cancer.

Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is a protein found in the human prostate. In the early stages of prostate cancer, PSA increases the amount of the tumor-promoting insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, in the prostate. Boron supplements may decrease the amount of PSA in the prostate and suppress tumor growth [12, 4].

Targeted Boron Therapies

Some targeted, cutting-edge boron therapies are used to treat cancer. However, these effects don’t apply to dietary boron supplements.

Chemotherapy

Bortezomib is a chemotherapy drug that contains boron in the form of boronic acid. It is used to treat rare white blood cell cancers like multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma [13, 14].

This drug disrupts important mechanisms inside cells and sensitizes them to apoptosis, or cell suicide. It acts on cellular proteins which are far more active in cancer cells than in normal, healthy cells; as a result, cancer cells die at much higher rates than healthy cells [13].

Because bortezomib sensitizes cancer cells to apoptosis, it can also improve the effectiveness of other chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin [15].

Boron Neutron Capture Therapy

Boron neutron capture therapy, or BNCT, is a 21st-century cancer treatment that destroys cancer cells without killing surrounding healthy cells. After surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, doctors administer boron compounds that target the cancer cells. Then, the patient receives a radiation treatment that reacts with the boron and destroys the tumor [16, 17, 18, 19].

This type of treatment can even be used against cancers that can’t be operated, such as brain tumors [19].

5) Regulates Sex Hormones

Testosterone and estrogen are considered the two most important sex hormones. They are often called the male and female sex hormones, respectively, although each has many functions in both men and women [20, 21].

Boron may affect the amount and effect of both testosterone and estrogen in the human body. It may also have a lesser effect on a third hormone called FSH.

Testosterone

Testosterone, the “male sex hormone,” has a seemingly endless list of functions. It determines the sex of a baby in the womb. It drives puberty in boys. It is a steroid that builds muscle. It coordinates sexual drive. It improves memory and cognition – and more [20].

Low testosterone is much more serious in men than in women, largely because men have higher levels of testosterone by default. Low testosterone can cause weakness, fatigue, depression, sexual dysfunction, decreased muscle mass, anemia, bone disease, facial and body hair loss, and insomnia [20].

Elevated boron increases overall testosterone levels in both men and women.

After one week of daily boron supplements, eight healthy men had significantly increased testosterone in their blood. Boron may quickly deactivate a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which was significantly lower in these men only six hours after their first boron supplement [4, 22].

Boron supplements also significantly increased testosterone in postmenopausal women.

This effect was enhanced further when the women’s diets were low in magnesium. Testosterone is sometimes used to treat sexual dysfunction in women after menopause, but only if these women also have high enough levels of estrogen [23, 4, 24].

Estrogen

Estrogen, the “female sex hormone,” is vital for both men and women, though estrogen levels are much higher in women. Estrogen drives puberty for girls and determines sexual behavior in women. In men, estrogen is important for sexual development and healthy sperm [25, 26, 27].

Estrogen also maintains brain function, controls appetite, and supports the health of the thyroid gland, bones, and skin [28, 29, 30, 31].

Abnormally high or low estrogen levels can both cause health problemsHigh estrogen may increase the risk of cancer or stroke; low estrogen, especially in women, may cause memory problems, irregular menstrual cycles, bone disease, and depression [32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38].

After menopause, estrogen levels drastically fall. As a result, women are susceptible to many of the above risks during this period of their lives [39].

Boron may or may not directly increase estrogen levels. One study of postmenopausal women showed a significant increase of estrogen in the blood, while other studies have shown decreased estrogen after supplementing boron [23, 40].

Rather than directly acting on estrogen, boron may increase the sensitivity to estrogen.

It may bind to and enhance one type of estrogen receptor called estrogen receptor beta, or ER-β. ER-β is important for the health of the uterus, immune system, gut, lungs, and prostate, and it may help the body fight cancer [4, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45].

Follicle Stimulating Hormone

Follicle stimulating hormone, also called FSH, is important for sexual development and function because it triggers the growth of eggs and sperm [46, 47].

Both high and low levels of FSH can cause health problems. Diseases and conditions that feature low FSH include polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hypopituitarism, and hyperprolactinemia [48, 49, 50].

Limited evidence suggests that boron may increase FSH. However, this has only been studied in rats exposed to toxic levels of boron. The rats also lost the function of sexual organs and developed decreased fertility [51].

7) Yeast Infections

Yeast is often part of the vaginal flora; that is, its presence in the vagina is normal and won’t cause problems most of the time. Sometimes, however, the yeast grows too much and too fast. This results in a yeast infection, also called vaginal thrush [52].

Boric acid is sometimes used for vaginal yeast infections. It is placed directly into the vagina as a suppository, where it kills the yeast and prevents further infections [53, 54, 55].

However, boric acid has largely been replaced by safer and more effective drugs and remedies for vaginal yeast infections.

What’s more, boric acid is poisonous and should never be swallowed. Some people who use boric acid suppositories to treat yeast infection may experience pain, swelling, or discharge [56, 55].

Importantly, regular boron supplements don’t contain boric acid. As a result, they won’t have any effect on vaginal yeast infections.

8) Helps Pass Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are crystallized solids that form in the kidney. If they grow too large, they can cause severe pain, vomiting, and bloody urine. In combination with antioxidants, hydration, and diet, boron may help flush kidney stones [57, 58, 59].

10mg/day increased the rate of kidney stone excretion. It also decreased the amount of pain felt when the stone passed [60].

9) Maintains Brain Health

When boron is deficient in both animals and people, brain activity decreases. People with extremely low boron had a shorter attention span and weaker short-term memory. They also scored lower on tests measuring dexterity and coordination [4].

These changes in brain activity are similar to those caused by malnutrition and heavy metal poisoning [4].

Boron is undoubtedly important for a healthy brain, and boron supplements may improve brain function [3].

10) Heavy Metal Poisoning

Many heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead are highly toxic and can cause serious damage to a person’s DNA after exposure. Some boron compounds, such as borax and boric acid, prevented DNA damage from heavy metals in cell-based studies [4, 61].

But there’s a catch: dietary boron supplements probably won’t have these effects.

As mentioned, boric acid is poisonous. Borax can also have toxic effects. Neither should be ingested – they are only meant to be used as antiseptic solutions [62].

It’s possible that the non-toxic form of boron used in supplements may also help clear heavy metals. But currently, the evidence to back this up is lacking.

Sources & Supplement Dosage

Boron intake from diet changes depending on where you live. In Europe, daily boron can be as low as 0.8 mg/day. In the United States, it can be as high as 7 mg/day [4].

The recommended upper limit per day for adults is 20 mg; we don’t recommend taking or eating any more than that [4].

Most boron supplements contain 3mg/capsule and recommend taking one capsule daily.

Boron Foods

Many foods contain enough boron to make a difference in your health. Raisins, hazelnuts, and dried apricots have some of the highest density of boron by weight. Foods high in boron include [63, 4]:

  • Red grapes, raisins, and red wine
  • Peanuts and other nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
  • Many fruits, including apples, pears, oranges, apricots, and currants
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Some vegetables, including broccoli

Many more fruits and vegetables contain smaller quantities of boron. If you eat a significant amount of these foods, you probably don’t need a boron supplement [63].

Supplement Dosage

Oral Supplement

Commercially available boron supplements usually come in capsules or as liquid drops, delivering between 2 and 6 mg of boron per serving – although 3 mg is the most common amount. Remember that, to stay on the safe side, adults should never take more than 20 mg of boron per day by mouth [4].

Boric Acid Suppository

To treat vaginal yeast infection, women can use a 600 mg boric acid suppository once per day. Boric acid is poisonous if swallowed and should never be taken by mouth [64, 65, 56].

Safety & Potential Side Effects

Boron is considered mostly safe.

In dietary supplements, boron is usually derived from natural sources. Some forms include calcium fructoborate, calcium borogluconate, boron citrate, or boron complexes. It’s often combined into salts with calcium to achieve synergistic bone health benefits.

Even boric acid, which is poisonous when ingested in large quantities, is considered one of the least toxic insecticide on the market [66, 67].

In adults, boron toxicity is likely rare because of how easily it is expelled by the body. Nearly 100% of boron ingested leaves the body in stool and urine [66, 67].

Boron Toxicity

Most examples of boron toxicity have involved a boron compound such as boric acid or borax. These are not found in dietary boron supplements.

Though boric acid poisoning is rare now, it was once a serious risk to infants. As recently as the 1980s, babies ingested boric acid or borax in formula or to soothe the pain of teething. Some of these babies suffered seizures and recovered; others died. Boric acid is much more dangerous to children than to adults [56, 68].

In rat studies, extremely high doses of boron or boric acid caused hormonal imbalances and loss of fertility in males. For obvious ethical reasons, these experiments have not been repeated in men [69, 70].

Thyroid Interaction

There is some evidence that boron may interfere with the thyroid gland.

Boron may compete with iodine in the thyroid, reducing the function of the gland. When the thyroid gland’s function is reduced, it grows larger to compensate. Over time, this growth forms a goiter. Boron, in rare cases and in large amounts, may contribute to goiter [71].

Borax in Food

Borax has been used as a preservative and food additive in food for over a century. Despite having been banned in many countries, borax is still used to improve the texture and appearance of caviar, noodles, and other gummy or gooey foods. Borax is toxic to the kidneys, brain, and reproductive system; it may also damage DNA and cause cancer [72, 73].

Avoid any and all foods that may contain borax. Watch for the initials E285: that’s the code for borax as a food additive [73].

Vitamin D

Boron prevents the breakdown of vitamin DIn this way, it increases the amount of time that each molecule of vitamin D spends in the blood and, as a consequence, the total amount of vitamin D available to your body [4].

Most people have to worry more about vitamin D deficiency than vitamin D toxicity, but too much of a good thing can still be dangerous.

Supplementing with too much vitamin D can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bone pain, irregular heartbeat, and other symptoms. Always do your research before supplementing; avoid taking too much vitamin D and boron, especially together [74, 75].

Genetics

Boron metabolism varies between families: people who are more related tend to have much more similar levels of boron in their blood. However, people who are more related also tend to live in similar environments with similar amounts of boron in their diet. Researchers have yet to identify the genes that manage boron metabolism [76, 77].

Buy Boron

Take-Away:

Boron is an ultratrace element: it is relatively rare and makes up a tiny amount of the human diet, but it is essential for bone, brain, and reproductive health. Boron deficiency, like vitamin D deficiency, causes problems with bone growth and healing.

Dietary boron prevents bone diseases like osteoporosis and may stave off arthritis.

It improves the quality and speed of wound healing and helps prevent cancer. It increases testosterone levels and improves the function of estrogen, making it very important for both male and female reproductive health.

In the brain, boron increases electrical activity and improves attention and memory.

Boric acid – a different form of boron than the ones found in dietary supplements – is also used as a suppository to treat yeast infections, although it’s not recommended. Many safer and more effective remedies exist.

However, boric acid is poisonous in large quantities and should never be taken by mouth.

Borax – also not found in supplements – is toxic to the kidneys, brain, and reproductive system, but it is still used as a food additive in some parts of the world; avoid foods with the code E285.

Most people probably don’t need to supplement with boron because it is readily available in many foods, such as fruits, nuts, beans, and peas. Some people already get up to 7 mg of boron from their diets, and doctors recommend no more than 20 mg per day.

Boron toxicity is rare because boron is easily passed in the stool and urine.

Some research suggests that boron may interfere with the thyroid gland; if you supplement with boron, make sure you also get enough iodine to prevent thyroid problems and goiter.

Boron increases the potency of vitamin D; too much boron and vitamin D taken together can cause health problems.

About the Author

Jasmine Foster, BSc, BEd

BS (Animal Biology), BEd (Secondary Education)

Jasmine received her BS from McGill University and her BEd from Vancouver Island University.

Jasmine loves helping people understand their brains and bodies, a passion that grew out of her dual background in biology and education. From the chem lab to the classroom, everyone has the right to learn and make informed decisions about their health.

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