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.
14. Boron may reduce the amount of insulin needed in the body and therefore help with insulin resistance.(40)
Now, there’s a little more, but let’s take a quick break to appreciate this vast treasure trove of nutritional information.
Firstly, boron is an essential nutrient in plants that regulates many processes, but because of industrial farming, it often does not make it into our diet in sufficient
enough amounts to be therapeutic. Second, it serves many functional roles in the body from regulating hormones, to reducing inflammation and maintaining important mineral levels and even detoxing from dangerous and stubborn offenders like mold toxins and fluoride. Yet, it operates all of these roles from a subtle, illusive background position as a cofactor rather than as a direct stimulator like iodine with thyroid hormones.
Don’t mistake this indirectness as less powerful, though, because remember that it is often what we can’t see that has the most influence over what we do.
Interestingly, the parathyroid glands have the highest concentration of boron of any tissue in the body and they are also responsible for regulating calcium in the blood. Your parathyroid glands are tiny, rice-grain sized glands embedded in your thyroid gland. When they’re stressed or you’re not getting enough boron, their ability to manage calcium dwindles, and they release more hormone which in turn tells your body to steal calcium from your teeth and bones.(41,42)
Because your blood keeps tight regulations on calcium levels, this excess gets flushed out in the urine or deposited into your joints and tissues, as we’ve discussed previously.
Over time, this loss leads to all of the issues related to poor calcium metabolism like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, periodontitis, weak tooth enamel, heart disease, stroke and so on. Don’t forget that we also have boron transporters in our bodies, and that it has shown a powerful ability to regulate sex hormones in both men and women. Because it does these actions indirectly, and because it is easily cleared from the body and non-toxic, the body can self-adjust according to what it needs, as compared to a substance that would artificially raise hormones.
This part is the key and why boron is so interesting to me. It works indirectly, yet powerfully, and supports the body to do its thing without a risk of toxicity.
Boron Toxicity & Dosage Information
All right, so now let’s finish up our journey with beautiful boron and examine dosage, as well as other important scientific findings related to toxicity and metabolism since the Internet is full of misinformation. In July 2007, the health department of Canada(43) released a publication titled, “Boron as a Medicinal Ingredient in Oral Natural Health Products.” Here are some of the main findings:
1. Boron is very easily absorbed (>90%) in the gut and distributed rapidly through the body.
2. It doesn’t accumulate in the soft tissues and normalizes easily even at extreme
3. Its half-life is 21 hours, and it is excreted easily through the kidneys at a high recovery rate between 80-90% in 96 hours.
4. Boron deprivation studies have shown a clear indication that it has necessary biological effects, and boron manipulation experiments have shown that it has a significant effect on regulating minerals like copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and also hormones like thyroid hormone and sex hormones.
5. The mechanisms aren’t fully understood yet, as no direct mechanism on biological
processes has been identified, but several indirect mechanisms are proposed for boron’s action such as aiding in cell membrane function and as a co-factor for important enzymes and reactions.
6. A review of the literature shows strong support for boron as a therapy for osteoarthritis, menopause symptoms (osteoporosis), as a preventative and therapeutic for prostate cancer and for supporting cognitive performance.
7. The acute lethal dose in animals is between 400mg-900mg per kilogram of bodyweight. For reference, using the lowest number of 400mg on a 60 kilogram person would mean 24 grams (24,000mg) of ingested boron. The NOAEL (no observable adverse effect level) for animals ranged from as low as 3.6mg/kg/day in dogs to as high as 43mg/kg/day in rats. This means that these high doses had no observable negative effects.
8. In humans, boron has been used as a therapy for urinary infections, malaria and brain tumors in doses of as high as 25-35mg/kg/day and up to 25mg/kg/day in epilepsy patients for years at a time. In some reports, indigestion, dermatitis and anorexia were observed at doses of 5mg/kg/day, but these resolved quickly once boron was stopped. Notably, even at this smaller dosage it would mean a whopping 300mg of boron per day for an average 60kg person.
9. Cases of boric acid poisoning are rare and indicate a high tolerance for boron in the gram amounts, such as 15-20g for adults and between 2-5g in infants and children.
10. Exposure to industrial borate mining did not seem to have an effect on fertility or
11. Boron does not have a universally accepted daily intake, although various organizations and research studies estimate that between .32mg/kg/day and .44mg/kg/day are safe. This means that for a 70kg person, the adequate intake can range between 20mg to 30mg per day without any adverse effects long term
So far, so good. It helps to know that boron is less lethal than table salt, and that it clears away from the body relatively quickly. In people with arthritis, it’s possible to have a Herxheimer reaction (meaning a “detox” or temporary worsening) for a few days once starting boron, but this is rare and resolves quickly. Reviews of the literature have found that chronic exposure to non-lethal doses does not cause kidney failure or kidney disease.(44) Most toxicology research on animals found an LD50 between 3-6 grams per kilogram of bodyweight,(45) and regular salt weighs in at about 4 grams for its LD50.(46)
Don’t forget that Turkish studies have found concentrations of up to 30mg/L of boron in
drinking water with no adverse effects in the population.(47,48) For reference, someone drinking a healthy 3 liters of water per day in these populations would be ingesting about 90mg of boron. The studies showing massive reduction in inflammatory markers like CRP, TNF-A and IL-6 only used 10mg per day,(49) and research has also concluded that boron is non-genotoxic and increases the antioxidant capacity of lymphocytes in the immune system.(50)
Some more interesting toxicology and dosing data is as follows:
1. Animal studies have shown reproductive damage at 26mg/kg, which is over 1800mg (or 1.8 grams) for an average 70kg person. But a 3-generation rat study found no reproductive toxicity at a range of 17.5mg - 30mg/Kg/day, while 60mg/kg/day resulted in infertility. Because rats are more similar to humans than dogs or most other animals, these large tolerance amounts corroborate boron’s low toxicity potential. In other research studying almost 800 cases of human poisoning with gram amounts (10-88 grams) of boric acid, no fatalities were reported and 88% of the cases were asymptomatic. Infants and children and pregnant women are the most susceptible. For pregnancy, the no effect level is 9.6mg/kg, and for average adults it’s over 84mg/kg. This translates to over 5500mg (5.5 grams) for the average 70kg person and about 700mg for a pregnant 70kg person.(51,52) For reference, you’d have to take about 200 BoroTabs (30mg) to get to these amounts or about 25 BoroTabs (30mg) if you are pregnant.
For information on what a BoroTab is, see the next section.
2. In areas that recorded 3-10mg per day of boron consumption, their arthritis rates were 0-10%, compared to areas that had 1mg or less consumption who showed on average 20-70%incidence of arthritis.(53)
3. Some anecdotal reports on health forums describe successfully using 90mg a day for
several months, and then dropping down to 60mg per day as a maintenance dose if you
have osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.(54)
4. To treat a Candida overgrowth, up to 100mg a day is recommended.(55)
5. Side effects are very uncommon and are more likely due to dumping of mold toxins,
parasites, Candida die-off or temporary repurposing of calcium and healing of damaged
joints.(56) Drink plenty of water, stick to a complete nutrition program, back off and retry at a lower dose, and most importantly, don’t worry.
6. Despite all of this wonderful research, the European Union has maintained a ban on Borax and classified it as a chemical that can lead to reproductive harm, even though it has acknowledged its safety according to the studies referenced in this chapter. Interestingly, the replacement it has allowed for Borax’s household functions, sodium percarbonate, is at least 4 times more toxic as shown by toxicology reports.(57,58)
So, what do you think? Are you excited to grab yourself a bottle of boron already? For only about 40 cents a day, the beauty of boron and its multitude of benefits can be yours for a lifetime. My preferred brand is the BoroTab from Hakala Research, and it is available here. You will have to register and create an account. Make sure when you order that at checkout you use code tudor10yay to get a 10% off discount.
I wish I had known about this stuff sooner. But unfortunately, there is little money in researching simple minerals like boron and great controversy if they end up working in such profound ways that question the modern pharmaceutical establishment. The work of people like Dr. Jorge Flechas (and many others that I discuss in my book), is little known in the medical community and even in the alternative field, as these are largely fringed efforts compared to the powerhouse financial machine of pharmaceutical drugs.
Although the amount in one 30mg BoroTab is ten times higher than what Google will tell you is the “recommended” amount (3mg), remember that these numbers often have little basis in your quest for optimal health. Don’t be afraid; recall the research and grab yourself some boron. The tolerable upper limit is listed as 20mg, but this is one measurement out of several from the research I presented you in this article.
In the Canadian report cited earlier, research bodies have recommended different amounts ranging from 20mg to 30mg (assuming a weight of 70kg) as being safe long term. Keep in mind that boron leaves the body easily, and remember that iodine’s tolerable upper limit is listed at 1.1mg. Yet, research on whole body
sufficiency has suggested taking amounts 12 to 50 times higher than this daily for optimal health.
If you suffer from an inflammatory condition or calcium metabolism related issue (and there are many), it may be worth trying a higher dose like 75 or 90mg per day, and see how you feel after a few weeks. If you suffer from kidney stones regularly, boron may be a good preventative or help you loosen a current one out.(59,60) This may not be fun, but it’s something to consider, as the research shows some promise.
I recommend boron to everyone. If you’re older and female it’s especially important alongside your minerals and vitamins D, A and K to prevent bone degeneration and loss of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus in the urine. If you are approaching menopause, boron may help with regulating your estrogen issues. There are studies that show both an increase and decrease in hot flashes. There’s no explanation for this
yet, so you will have to experiment and see how you feel. There are also studies that show boron increases estrogen levels in women, but seems to do the opposite in men.
In both cases, there is evidence that boron supports increased testosterone production. There isn’t enough research in this area, but it does seem that boron acts on estrogen receptors rather than increasing estrogen directly. There are “good” receptors and “bad” receptors, and boron seems to activate the good ones (Estrogen Receptor beta, or ER-beta) while downregulating the bad ones (ER-alpha) that promote inflammation.(61,62,63)
In simpler terms, boron works indirectly; and if you are dealing with estrogen imbalance, it may be something to investigate, try for yourself and see how you feel alongside a complete nutrition program. It may also be worth it to take a higher dose of boron if you have tested positive for high mold toxins on a toxin test or if you see high fluoride on your 24-hour urine test (for iodine testing).
Remember that the Chinese study on skeletal fluorosis used between 300mg to 1100mg for three months with no side effects. This is a huge amount of boron, so remember this when the Internet tells you 30mg is too much. There is also some information on the Internet that boron can be toxic because of a few poisoning reports on infants,(64) but if you actually look at these reports the ingested amount was in the grams (1 gram = 1000mg) and well above anything you would ever give yourself or a child.
There’s also a theory that boron competes with iodine in your thyroid,(65) so it may contribute to a slowed thyroid, but there is no evidence for this, and remember that there’s research that shows boron increased thyroid hormones in some people.
All this aside, boron may detoxify you from mold and fluoride and this may create a temporary Herx reaction. These are harmless, and can actually be a good sign. In these cases, just back off for a day or two, keep supporting your body with good nutrition and reintroduce boron at a lower dose that’s manageable. Remember that boron has been used in very high amounts therapeutically without any major issues, and if you do feel something, it’s probably a good sign your body is getting to work. There may be several things that get kicked into gear and repaired or detoxified.
Again, if you feel or experience things you don’t like, back off for a day or two, take notice and start again at a lower dose. Do this along with a complete nutrition program until you can handle the dose that is best for you.
The good news is that even doses between 6-10mg showed positive results in the research, so as long as you include it in your regimen to some degree, you’ll get access to all of the wonderful benefits.