The benefits of boron, and why you shouldn’t look for it in borax

Liquid detergent and borax powder for the laundry

Boron is a trace element naturally found in many foods we eat. There are some claims of its health benefits, but evidence from research so far is limited.

On social media platforms including TikTok, some “wellness” influencers have made claims that ingesting borax, a common cleaning product and laundry booster, can provide benefits, too — but ingesting borax isn’t the same as ingesting boron from food or supplements, and eating or drinking borax is dangerous.

Do we need boron?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says boron isn’t an essential nutrient for humans because research hasn’t identified a clear biological function for it yet. When boron is ingested, it’s changed into boric acid and absorbed in the intestines. The body absorbs about 85% to 90% of the boron and excretes the rest, but we don’t know much yet about what boron does when it’s absorbed.

Where boron is found in nature

Boron can be found in many common fruits and legumes, including:

  • Prunes
  • Raisins and grape juice
  • Avocado
  • Peaches
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Refried beans
  • Pears
  • Apples, apple juice and applesauce
  • Potatoes

Boron can also be found in coffee, wine, beer and cider.

What are the benefits of boron?

There are some claims that boron can help people improve symptoms from inflammation and osteoarthritis, and improve reproduction and development, brain function, metabolism, immunity, bone health, overall energy and function, and retention of vitamin D and estrogen. However, there are limited studies to support these claims.

Many studies that claim the health benefits from boron are very weak. For example, some studies are only observational, which certainly do not mean that boron played a role in the outcome. Other studies have been very short in length or included very few people. Finally, some studies have only included animals and the results often do not transfer over and apply to humans. In summary, there is no good evidence to support most of the boron health claims on the internet and social media.

What happens if you have a boron deficiency? Who should take a boron supplement?

Since there is not enough research or evidence to know how much boron we may need, if any at all, there is no recommended amount to take in. There is also no way to know if we don’t get enough boron since there are no deficiency signs or symptoms. Again, there is some data that boron may be important for our health, but this is based on very weak studies.

Can you have too much boron?

We don’t have much research on the effects of too much boron from food or water alone, but we do know that consuming boric acid or borax can have serious symptoms.

Why borax is dangerous to ingest and isn’t a safe source of boron

Symptoms associated with eating or drinking boric acid or borax include:

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Skin flushing
  • Rash
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Depression
  • Vascular collapse
  • Headache
  • Hypothermia
  • Restlessness and weariness
  • Dermatitis
  • Alopecia (loss of hair)
  • Death

Should I worry about getting enough boron?

No, there should not be a worry about this. The smart thing to do is eat an overall healthy diet with many fruits and vegetables and certainly, most people will get a fair amount of boron in from these foods. Absolutely avoid eating any form of boric acid or borax, as the evidence is clear these are poisonous when ingested or inhaled and can cause death.

When an emergency strikes, turn to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s full-service, state-of-the-art emergency departments

Our facilities are equipped to handle any medical emergency.

Find a location near you


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