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Boron


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Boron

Background

Boron is a trace element, which is found throughout the global environment. It has been suggested for numerous medicinal purposes, but there is not strong evidence for any specific use. Preliminary studies report that boron may not be helpful for enhancing bodybuilding, reducing menopausal symptoms, or treating psoriasis.

Synonyms

Atomic number 5, B, Borax®, Boric acid, boric anhydride, boron aspartate, boron citrate, boron glycinate, boron oxide, boron sesquioxide, Dobill's solution®, magnesium perborate, sodium biborate, sodium borate, sodium metaborate, sodium perborate, sodium pyroborate, sodium tetraborate, Tincal®.

Evidence

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Uses based on scientific evidenceGrade*Osteoarthritis
Based on human population research, in a boron rich environment, people appear to have fewer joint disorders. It has also been proposed that boron deficiency may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. However, there is no clear human evidence that supplementation with boron is beneficial as prevention against or as a treatment for osteoarthritis.

C

Osteoporosis
Animal and preliminary human studies report boron to play a role in mineral metabolism, with effects on calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. However, research of bone mineral density in women taking boron supplements does not clearly demonstrate benefits in osteoporosis. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

C

Vaginitis
Inorganic boron (boric acid, borax) has been used as an antiseptic based on proposed antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is proposed that boric acid may have effects against candidal and non-candidal vulvovaginitis. A limited amount of poor-quality research reports that boric acid capsules used in the vagina may be effective for vaginitis. Further evidence is needed before a recommendation can be made.

C

Improving cognitive function
Preliminary human study reports better performance on tasks of eye-hand coordination, attention, perception, short-term memory and long-term memory with boron supplementation. However, additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

C

Prevention of blood clotting (coagulation effects)
It has been proposed that boron may affect the activity of certain blood clotting factors. A small (15 healthy men aged 45-65 years), randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind, cross over study concluded that there is no evidence of boron lowering clotting factor VIIa, and therefore should not alter bleeding risk. Notably, a manufacturer of boron funded this study. There is not enough evidence in this area to form a clear conclusion.

D

Bodybuilding aid (increasing testosterone)
There is preliminary negative evidence for the use of boron for improving performance in bodybuilding by increasing testosterone. Although boron is suggested to raise testosterone levels, in early human research, total lean body mass has not been affected by boron supplementation in bodybuilders. Additional research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

D

Menopausal symptoms
It has been proposed that boron affects estrogen levels in post-menopausal women. However, preliminary studies have found no changes in menopausal symptoms.

D

Psoriasis (boric acid ointment)
Preliminary human study of an ointment including boric acid does not report significant benefits in psoriasis.

D

* Key to grades
A:
Strong scientific evidence for this use;
B:
Good scientific evidence for this use;
C:
Unclear scientific evidence for this use;
D:
Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);
F:
Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).

Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Antiseptic, breast cancer, boron deficiency, diaper rash (avoid due to case reports of death in infants from absorbing boron through skin or when taken by mouth), cancer, eye cleansing, high cholesterol, increasing lifespan, leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, vitamin D deficiency, wound care.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Standardization

Standardization involves measuring the amount of certain chemicals in products to try to make different preparations similar to each other. It is not always known if the chemicals being measured are the "active" ingredients. Most of the nutritional boron products available commercially are either sodium borax or a boron-chelated agent combined with aspartate, glycinate, or citrate.

Boron (as boric acid or borax) can be easily absorbed by mouth, through the skin, or by breathing.

Oral (by mouth):

Dietary intake : The average reported boron intake in the American diet is 1.17 milligrams per day for men, 0.96 milligrams per day for women and 1.29 to 1.47 milligrams per day for vegetarians. High boron content foods include peanut butter, wine, grapes, beans, and peaches.

Osteoarthritis : 3 to 6 milligrams of elemental boron (as sodium tetraborate decahydrate) taken by mouth daily for up to 8 weeks has been used.

Osteoporosis prevention : 3 milligrams of boron taken by mouth per day for individuals with low boron diet (low vegetable, fruit diet) has been studied.

Improvement of cognitive function : 3 milligrams of elemental boron taken by mouth daily has been studied.

Menopausal symptoms : 2.5 to 3 milligrams of elemental boron taken by mouth daily has been studied.

Topical (on the skin):

Psoriasis : 1.5% boric acid with 3% zinc oxide applied to the skin as needed has been studied.

In the vagina:

Vaginitis : Boric acid powder capsules administered vaginally daily have been studied. Safety and effectiveness are not established.

Children (younger than 18 years)

There is not enough scientific data to recommend the safe use of boron in children. Case reports exist of death in infants following use of boron (taken by mouth or placed on the skin).

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

Boron should be avoided in patients who have a history of reactions to boron, boric acid, borax, citrate, aspartate, or glycinate.

Side Effects and Warnings

Boron is potentially toxic, although humans tend not to accumulate high levels of boron due to the ability to rapidly excrete it. In adults, it is believed that adverse reactions in doses below 10 milligrams of boron per day are less likely to occur, and there are few reports of toxicity. Large doses may result in acute poisoning. There are fatal case reports of infants who have been exposed to boron by mouth or on the skin. Historically, a honey and borax solution was used to clean infant pacifiers, and topical boric acid powder was used to prevent diaper rash. However, these practices were associated with several infant deaths.

Boron toxicity may cause skin rash, nausea, vomiting (may be blue-green color), diarrhea (may be blue-green color), abdominal pain, and headache. Low blood pressure and metabolic changes in the blood (acidosis) have been reported. Agitation and irritability, or the opposite reaction (weakness, lethargy, depression) may occur. Fever, hyperthermia, tremors and seizure have been reported. Based on animal study, excess amounts of boron ingestion have been shown to cause testicular toxicity, decreased sperm motility, and reduced fertility. Hair loss has been reported with boron poisoning. Chronic boron exposure may cause dehydration, seizures, low red blood cell count, as well as kidney or liver damage.

Boron is proposed to increase blood levels of estrogen and testosterone, with mixed results of research. Boron may be associated with reduced blood levels of calcitonin, insulin, or phosphorus, and with increased levels of vitamin D2, calcium, copper, magnesium, or thyroxine. Exposure to boric acid or boron oxide dust can cause eye irritation, dryness of the mouth or nose, sore throat, and productive cough.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the safe use of boron during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

References

1. Anonymous. Antineoplastic effect of new boron compounds against leukemic cell lines and cells from leukemic patients. J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2002;(3):351-356.

2. Biquet I, Collette J, Dauphin JF, et al. Prevention of postmenopausal bone loss by administration of boron. Osteoporos Int 1996;6 Suppl 1:249.

3. Devarian TA, Volpe SL. The physiological effects of dietary boron. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2003;43(2):219-31.

4. Green NR, Ferrando AA. Plasma boron and the effects of boron supplementation in males. Environ Health Perspect 1994;102 Suppl 7:73-77.

5. Guaschino S, De Seta F, Sartore A, et al. Efficacy of maintenance therapy with topical boric acid in comparison with oral itraconazole in the treatment of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2001;184(4):598-602.

6. Hunt CD, Herbel JL, Nielsen FH. Metabolic responses of postmenopausal women to supplemental dietary boron and aluminum during usual and low magnesium intake: boron, calcium, and magnesium absorption and retention and blood mineral concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;65(3):803-813.

7. Kumar, SK, Hager E, Pettit C, Gurulingappa H, Davidson NE, Khan SR. Design, synthesis, and evaluation of novel boronic-chalcone derivatives as antitumor agents. J Med Chem 2003;46 (14) :2813-2815.

8. Limaye S, Weightman W. Effect of an ointment containing boric acid, zinc oxide, starch and petrolatum on psoriasis. Australas J Dermatol 1997;38(4):185-186.

9. Naghii MR. The significance of dietary boron, with particular reference to athletes. Nutr Health 1999;13(1):31-37.

10. Nielsen FH, Penland JG. Boron supplementation of peri-menopausal women affects boron metabolism and indices associated with macromineral metabolism, hormonal status and immune function. J Trace Elements Exper Med 1999;12(3):251-261.

11. Nielsen FH, Hunt CD, Mullen LM, et al. Effect of dietary boron on mineral, estrogen, and testosterone metabolism in postmenopausal women. FASEB J 1987;1(5):394-397.

12. Nzietchueng RM, Dousset B, Franck P, Benderdour M, Nabet P, Hess K. Mechanisms implicated in the effects of boron on wound healing. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2002:16(4):239-44.

13. Penland JG. Dietary boron, brain function, and cognitive performance. Environ Health Perspect 1994;102 Suppl 7:65-72.

14. Roig-Navarro AF, Lopez FJ, Serrano R, et al. An assessment of heavy metals and boron contamination in workplace atmospheres from ceramic factories. Sci Total Environ 1997;201(3):225-234.

15. Travers RL, Rennie GC, Newnham RE. Boron and arthritis: the results of a double-blind pilot study. J Nutrit Med 1990;1:127-132.

16. Usuda K, Kono K, Yoshida Y. Serum boron concentration from inhabitants of an urban area in Japan: reference value and interval for the health screening of boron exposure. Biol Trace Elem Res 1997;56(2):167-178.

17. Van Slyke KK, Michel VP, Rein MF. The boric acid powder treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis. J Am Coll Health Assoc 1981;30(3):107-109.

18. Van Slyke KK, Michel VP, Rein MF. Treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis with boric acid powder. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1981;141(2):145-148.

19. Volpe SL, Taper LJ, Meacham S. The relationship between boron and magnesium status and bone mineral density in the human: a review. Magnes Res 1993;6(3):291-296.

20. Wallace JM, Hannon-Fletcher MP, Robson PJ, Gilmore WS, Hubbard SA, Strain JJ. Boron supplementation and activated factor VII in healthy men. Eur J Clin Nutr 2002 Nov;56(11):1102-7.

January 01, 2004

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