Boron compounds were known by ancient man thousands of years ago. "Boron" was derived from the Arabic word "buraq" or the Persian word "burah", and in Sanskrit "tincal" which are all names for Borax.
To this day, many households still use boron in various cleaning and laundry products such as the iconic 20 Mule Team Borax laundry booster, or "Boraxo", a powdered hand soap, and can also be found in tooth whitening compounds.
Boron is a unique elemental chemical and not a metallic mineral. Rather than being produced via stellar nucleosynthesis like most other elements, boron is special in that it is produced by cosmic spallation (source). Boron is of low abundance in both the Earth's crust and the solar system. It is concentrated on Earth by the water-solubility of more common and naturally occurring borate mineral compounds. Borate minerals are typically mined as evaporates, such as borax, boric acid, ulexite, colemanite, boracite, tourmaline, and kernite.
The total health effects of boron suggest that people should be encouraged to incorporate it into their diets. Boron shares a similar status with chromium and fluoride in that there is no apparent deficiency disease which has been identified and no clearly defined biochemical function.
Current speculation suggests that boron is an essential ultratrace mineral in humans. Boron appears to have a regulatory role in 26 enzymes, including those involved in energy metabolism, none of them require boron as a cofactor (source). A diet rich in boron is believed to be beneficial for macromineral, energy, nitrogen, and reactive oxygen metabolism (source). Evidence and results of epidemiologic animal and human experiments show that boron is essential for healthy bones and joints (source). Boron is a safe and effective treatment for some forms of arthritis (source).
Mechanism of action:
Boron is essential to life for all organisms including both plants and animals. Properties of boric acid include anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antiviral and mildly antimicrobial. Boron is critical in calcium metabolism and may influence the metabolism of copper, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin D as well as specific enzymes. Boron is believed to contribute to bone health by preventing calcium loss and enhancing bone maintenance by activating estrogen. Boron increases the ability of 17β-estradiol, but not parathyroid hormone (PTH), to improve trabecular bone quality in ovariectomized rats (source). Mild solutions of boric acid are used as a wound disinfectant and as an antiseptic eyewash
Plant-based foods are good sources of boron, especially prunes, almonds, raisins (2.7 mg/100 g food), wine (0.8 mg/100 mL), parsley, hazelnuts, peanuts, apples, peaches, pears, carrots, grapes and green leafy vegetables. Cider, wine, nuts, honey and dried fruits, especially dates and prunes, are good sources of boron. The edible brown marine algae Dunaliella salina is a particularly rich source of dietary boron (source). Up to 95% absorption appears after oral ingestion
Boron currently does not have a recommended daily allowance (RDA) that has been established. However, an acceptable range of boron for adults could range between 1 to 13 mg daily. Individuals with 0.25 mg/day dietary boron intake respond positively to boron supplementation of 1 mg/day. A daily intake of 2 to 3 mg boron can be obtained from 100 g of dried prunes.
Calcium appears to be more readily displaced from bones in persons with a low boron intake. Boron may be particularly effective in protecting bone mass in persons with vitamin D, magnesium, and potassium deficiencies (source). Consumption of boron greatly increases wound healing, beneficially affects both estrogen and testosterone (source, source), and boosts magnesium absorption (source). It lowers inflammatory markers such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) (source), raises levels of antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, protects against pesticide-induced oxidative stress and heavy-metal toxicity, improves the brains electrical activity, cognitive performance, and short-term memory for elders.
Moreover boron influences the formation and activity of key biomolecules, such as S-adenosyl methionine (SAM-e) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD(+)), and has demonstrated preventive and therapeutic effects in a number of cancers, such as prostate, cervical, and lung cancers, and multiple and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and may help ameliorate the adverse effects of traditional chemotherapeutic agents (source). The concentration of boron in the femoral heads and synovial fluid of people with arthritis is low, while the bones of patients using boron supplements are much harder to cut (source). In areas where boron intakes are 1.0 mg or less per day, the estimated prevalence of arthritis ranges from 20% to 70%, whereas in areas of the world where boron intakes are usually 3 to 10 mg, the estimated incidence of arthritis ranges from 0% to 10% (source).
Inadequate boron intake may worsen rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and decrease the ability to engage in physical exercise that requires a high energy output. There exist some anecdotes that boron supplementation reduces postmenopausal night sweats and hot flashes though these opinions lack clinical support (source); nevertheless, studies on animals suggest that the beneficial effects of hormone replacement therapy that occur may be reduced in individuals with boron deficiency. In addition to the plausibility of enhancing the response to estrogen therapy, a boron-rich diet is believed to improve psychomotor skills and cognitive processes (source).
Boron deprivation impairs cognitive and psychomotor function in humans studies, resulting in decreased mental alertness and poorer performance of tasks requiring motor speed and dexterity, attention, and/or short-term memory (source).
Apparent deficiency symptoms of boron include the following:
Degenerative Joint problems
Impaired cognitive and psychomotor capacity
Decreased mental alertness and poor dexterity, attention and short-term memory.
Hot flashes and vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women.
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Notes:
Boron levels on a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) are still being researched and the significance of the levels remains unknown (source). According to World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, an excellent technique for the measurement of boron present in biological samples is Inductively Coupled Plasma, Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). This recommendation supports the use of HTMA , using ICP MS as an effective indicator of tissue boron levels (source).
In Australia, it is not uncommon for HTMA reports to have unexplainable high levels of boron on an otherwise normal test. Interestingly, it should be noted that based on HTMA studies conducted by Trace Elements Inc and InterClinical Laboratories, Boron levels in Australian HTMA samples are approximately 10 times higher than the world average (source).
In the event of high boron tissue levels, magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin B2 may be useful in antagonising boron (source).
Boron supplementation may lower calcium tissue levels and increase magnesium levels. It is protective against aluminum and thallium.
Doses upwards of 10 mg/day of boron are safe. Symptoms such as gastrointestinal upsets, dermatitis, and lethargy are likely to result from ingestion of boron in doses in excess of 100 mg daily. Following animal studies of high doses of boron were considered toxic to reproduction and development, however, the dose levels of boron that were associated with developmental and reproductive toxic effects in animals are by far not reachable for humans under conditions of normal handling and use (source).
Chronic or toxic human exposure to borates can result in diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, skin rash, anorexia, convulsions and muscle weakness. The mean lethal dosage of boric acid or sodium borate probably exceeds 30 g (source). Excessive intake of boron can impair calcium metabolism and may cause osteoporosis and increase urinary excretion of riboflavin (source).
While there is no current deficiency state that has been described, recent findings indicate that a vast number of people do not consistently consume more than 1 mg of boron daily. Suggesting that boron deficiency could be of clinical interest (source). The lack of studies showing harm in conjunction with the substantial number of articles showing benefits of boron support the consideration that 3 mg/day of boron supplementation should be recommended for any individual who is consuming a diet that is lacking in fruits and vegetables or who is at risk for or has osteopenia; osteoporosis; osteoarthritis (OA); or breast, prostate, or lung cancer (source). Kidney problems reduce excretion, causing potential boron accumulation in the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, reproductive glands and adipose tissues. However, there is no evidence supporting the theory that boron accumulates in human tissues when consumed at normal dietary or supplemental dosages.
Boron deficiency may agitate calcium metabolism.
Boron requirements may be increased by deficiencies of calcium and magnesium.
Boron’s numerous benefits appear at doses no greater than 3mg (source).
Boron is critical for raising blood magnesium levels.