In this article you will learn:
What boron is and why it's so important for your health
What the profound amount of research says about its many benefits
How much to take and where to get some
Take this stuff to the next level:
This article summarizes all of the research surrounding boron benefits, dosage and toxicity (there really is none), but if you want the full gory details (there's actually more than what is presented in this long article), grab yourself a copy of my landmark textbook, Dance Your Way Through Life: A No Bullshit Guide to Hacking Your Body, Mind & Soul for Success from the books page.
Boron is a little-known trace mineral that has several important benefits in the body and is generally found in food grown with natural fertilizer. Because most food is not grown this way, our boron intake from water and vegetables (in the US at least) is minimal or none at all. Some argue that boron is an essential mineral, although this status hasn't been officially granted to boron. I agree, and after we jump into all of the amazing research surrounding this mysterious mineral - I hope you will too.
Especially if you are older or a female (even guys have specific benefits from taking some boron, so read on) - boron to me is a must in your routine. It is about as toxic as table salt, cheap and offers massive benefits that you can't get anywhere else. This is why to me this mineral is essential.
I will spare you all of the contentious history of boron from its original use as a laundry detergent and insecticide (Borax), but it's super interesting if you want to nerd out with a copy of my book mentioned above.
So, let's take a look at all of the amazing benefits and why you should be including it as one of your regular Basics. First, we have to understand the many roles that
boron has in the body.
Boron's Many Roles in the Body
1. An often-cited research article titled “Nothing Boring About Boron” concluded that it’s
essential for the growth and maintenance of bone; that it greatly improves wound healing; impacts testosterone, estrogen and vitamin D; boosts magnesium absorption; reduces levels of inflammatory biomarkers like C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-A); raises levels of antioxidants SOD and glutathione; protects against pesticide induced oxidative stress and heavy metal toxicity; improves brain electrical activity and cognitive performance; aids with short-term memory in elders; influences formation of key metabolic molecules like NAD and SAM-e; demonstrates potential therapeutic effects in a number of cancers; may help with the effects of chemotherapy; may be a therapy for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, osteopenia and even thyroid regulation.(1)
Are you sold yet??
2. Researchers have discovered that the body actually has boron-based transporters located primarily in the kidneys and salivary glands. These transporters do not expressly rely on boron to function, but will function differently when boron is present.(2) The incidence of having these transporters suggests that boron has an intentional and essential role in the body.
3. Boron has been recognized as a cofactor in many important reactions, but in an indirect way.(3)
4. Boron deprivation studies in rats and humans show that there is a clear relationship
between boron and other minerals like calcium, magnesium and copper, as deprivation of boron causes symptoms of deprivation in others to worsen.(4,5,6) These studies also show that boron has a regulating effect on antioxidant levels and sex hormones.
5. Hormones have a complex relationship with boron. Admittedly, this part of the research is not very well studied or clear. For example, thyroid cells respond to boron, and it appears to have an effect on thyroid hormones.(7) In animal trials fed boron rich diets, serum T3 levels increased compared to controls in both rat and ram samples.(8,9) In a study on perimenopausal women given 2.5mg of boron per day for 60 days, T3 went up in the supplemental group.(10) Yet, in another famous study on pigs, intakes of 5mg/kg reduced their T3 and T4 levels.(11) Notably, this would be 350mg of boron for a 70kg person.
The interesting thing about boron is that it acts on several hormones by mechanisms that are yet to be fully understood. One of those hormones is the active form of estrogen, 17-beta-estradiol, and it’s part of the reason why boron has so many therapeutic benefits for osteoporosis and calcium metabolism.(12) Also, the role of sex hormones on brain health is well known,(13) and boron’s ability to regulate these hormones may explain the cognitive benefits observed.
Some research, however, has argued that these hormonal effects, specifically the
stimulation of estrogen, may be detrimental to the thyroid.(14) This is because estrogen
stimulates thyroid growth and also increases the thyroid hormone carrier protein TBG, or thyroxine binding globulin. Too much estrogen will slow down your thyroid function by creating more of this carrier protein than needed. This, in turn, gobbles up your active hormones and leaves less of them in the “free” state, leading to hypothyroid symptoms even if your hormone levels are normal.(15)
This effect is magnified if you already have Hashimoto’s, because hypothyroidism slows the breakdown of estrogen in the liver and leads to its accumulation.(16) This accumulation leads to “estrogen dominance” and further slows down the thyroid, creating a vicious cycle of hormonal deregulation.
These fundamental hormone relationships would suggest that anything raising levels of
estrogen should be cautiously monitored because it may slow down the thyroid. Still, the picture isn’t quite black and white. Remember, there are studies that show an increase in thyroid hormones when boron was taken. Boron also affects testosterone and there’s evidence that it helps to regulate the hormones based on gender. In some impressive research on men, for example, supplementing with just 11mg of boron raised free testosterone levels by up to 30% in just a week and reduced estradiol by a similar amount.(17)
This same study found a significant reduction (almost 30-50%) in inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein, IL-6 and TNF-alpha, as well as a reduction in SHBG (sex hormone
binding globulin) which basically helps to have more free hormones available.
All of this happened within the first 7 days of taking a Borax-type boron supplement (sodium tetraborate, remember the detergent and insecticide?), and also showed that boron was easily absorbed and utilized by the body within a matter of a few hours.
Interestingly, this study also noticed an increase in cortisol levels which may suggest that boron stimulates the adrenal glands and helps them function better, although this particular finding has not been echoed or explored in other research to date. In another study involving postmenopausal women, taking boron at just 3mg per day increased both estrogen and testosterone, as well as reduced the loss of calcium and magnesium in the urine.(18) Boron also seemed to prevent unnecessary breakdown of sex
hormones in these findings.
There is also research that shows that a high dietary intake of boron regulates estrogen
metabolism,(19) and a study looking at urinary excretion rates with supplementation of 10mg of boron per day for 4 weeks saw significant improvements in testosterone, estrogen and estradiol with no side effects.(20) This study also concluded that boron may have potentially protective effects against atherosclerosis because of this endogenous hormone regulation.
Finally, more research argues that boron deficiency may be implicated in hyperthyroidism and could be a therapeutic for those who suffer from an overactive thyroid. Because boron regulates calcium and magnesium,(21) this allows for the homeostasis of these minerals to occur. In hyperthyroid situations, calcium is high and magnesium (the relaxation mineral) is low, so boron may play an integral role in creating balance again. Hyperthyroidism is also characterized by lower estrogen levels, so the regulating effect of boron may support what’s missing hormonally in the body. From this same research, it was also found that boron increased copper and the copper transport protein ceruloplasmin, meaning it holds a functional role in the metabolism of copper, as well.(22)
6. Some research concluded that boron was a potent anti-osteoporotic, anti-inflammatory, hypolipemic (lowering of bad fats in the blood), anti-coagulant and anti-neoplastic (anticancer) therapeutic.(23)
7. Boron downregulates inflammatory processes, enzymes and markers, and its absence has been related to many inflammatory conditions. Keshan Beck’s disease, a condition where cartilage between joints degenerates, has been associated with low boron levels in hair tests and low boron in certain Chinese areas studied.(24,25) It’s also been found that arthritic bone is 20x less concentrated in boron than healthy bone.(26) Interestingly, boron combines with amino acids in the body to form unique compounds called cyanoboranes, which have a potent anti-inflammatory effect.
8. Research done on rats with osteoporosis and periodontitis showed boron’s ability to slow or stop these diseases from progressing.(27)
9. Boron has a vital role in maintaining calcium, magnesium and phosphorus levels in the body by preventing their loss in the urine. It also seems to play a functional role in aiding the flow of various ions (minerals) through the membranes of cells, which allows for cell energy production and repair. We know that boron is an essential mineral in plants for a variety of reasons, so it’s not a stretch of the imagination to consider that because we all evolved from a common ancestor at some point, boron would serve some fundamental roles in our own biology.(28)
10. The problem with modern day agriculture and boron levels is the usage of industrial
fertilizers. These force plants to grow, but block the uptake of boron, yielding nutritionally deficient crops. It’s been thoroughly established that there is a relationship between areas with high arthritis incidence and low boron consumption and vice versa. In Jamaica for example, some of the highest rates of arthritis match the near absent intake of boron.(29)
11. Boric acid, the compound formed when boron enters your stomach and mixes with
hydrochloric acid, is a potent anti-fungal and may help to purge the body of dangerous
mycotoxins and yeast infections.(30,31,32,33)
12. Boron binds to fluoride to form boron fluorides, and can therefore be a great way to help your body and thyroid detoxify from this dangerous toxin.(34) In a Chinese study done on patients with skeletal fluorosis (where fluoride is overloaded in the skeleton leading to brittle bones), participants were given 300mg per day of boron, and then increased the dosage to 1100mg per day over a period of 3 months with one week off per month. All cases reported between 50-80% improvement in their condition with no side effects.(35)
13. Research has shown that boron and boric acid inhibit prostate cancer cells and improve inflammatory markers in prostate cancer patients.(36,37) This is echoed by other research finding a dose-dependent reduction in prostate cancer risk in men taking boron versus control.(38) This inhibitory effect was even observed in breast cancer cells,(39) although taking boron if you have breast cancer may be seen as controversial because of the estrogenic effects and should be researched thoroughly and discussed with your doctor.