According to conventional medicine it is not known if boron is essential for humans but research shows that we do need it. The reason why it was difficult to answer this question is the presence of boron in all plants and unprocessed foods. Diets with a fair amount of fruit and vegetables provide about 2 to 5 mg of boron per day, but this also depends on the region where the food was grown and how it was grown.
In reality the average intake in developed countries is 1-2 mg of boron per day. Institutionalized patients may receive only 0.25 mg of daily boron. Chemical fertilizers inhibit the uptake of boron from the soil: an organic apple grown in good soil may have 20 mg boron, but if grown with fertilizer it may have only 1 mg of boron. Fertilizers combined with poor food choices have greatly reduced our boron intake compared to 50 or 100 years ago.
Further, unhealthy cooking methods greatly reduce the availability of boron from food. The cooking water of vegetables containing most of the minerals may be discarded during home cooking or commercial processing; phytic acid in baked goods, cereals and cooked legumes may greatly reduce availability, while gluten sensitivity and Candida overgrowth inhibit the absorption of minerals. All this makes health problems due to boron deficiency now very common.
Health Effects of Boron
Due to their content of boron, borax and boric acid have basically the same health effects, with good antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties but only mild antibacterial action. In plants as well as animals boron is essential for the integrity and function of cell walls, and the way signals are transmitted across membranes.
Boron is distributed throughout the body with the highest concentration in the parathyroid glands, followed by bones and dental enamel. It is essential for healthy bone and joint function, regulating the absorption and metabolism of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus through its influence on the parathyroid glands. With this boron is for the parathyroids what iodine is for the thyroid.
Boron deficiency causes the parathyroids to become overactive, releasing too much parathyroid hormone which raises the blood level of calcium by releasing calcium from bones and teeth. This then leads to osteoarthritis and other forms of arthritis, osteoporosis and tooth decay. With advancing age high blood levels of calcium lead to calcification of soft tissues causing muscle contractions and stiffness; calcification of endocrine glands, especially the pineal gland and the ovaries; arteriosclerosis, kidney stones, and calcification of the kidneys ultimately leading to kidney failure. Boron deficiency combined with magnesium deficiency is especially damaging to the bones and teeth.
Boron affects the metabolism of steroid hormones, and especially of sex hormones. It increases low testosterone levels in men and oestrogen levels in menopausal women. It also has a role in converting vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing calcium uptake and deposition into bone and teeth rather than causing soft tissue to calcify. Also other beneficial effects have been reported such as improvement of heart problems, vision, psoriasis, balance, memory and cognition.
The German cancer researcher Dr Paul-Gerhard Seeger has shown that cancer commonly starts with the deterioration of cell membranes. As boron is essential for cell membranes and boron deficiency widespread, this may be an important cause for the initiation of tumour growth. Boron compounds have anti-tumour properties and are “potent anti-osteoporotic, anti-inflammatory, hypolipemic, anti-coagulant and anti-neoplastic agents” (1).
This overview shows the wide-ranging influence of boron on our health. In the following I want to describe some of these health effects in greater detail.
The Arthritis Cure of Rex Newnham
In the 1960’s Rex Newnham, Ph.D., D.O., N.D, developed arthritis. At that time he was a soil and plant scientist in Perth, Western Australia. Conventional drugs did not help, so he looked for the cause into the chemistry of plants. He realized that plants in that area were rather mineral deficient. Knowing that boron aids calcium metabolism in plants he decided to try it. He started taking 30 mg of borax a day, and in three weeks all pain, swelling and stiffness had disappeared.
He told public health and medical school authorities about his discovery but they were not interested. However, some people with arthritis were delighted as they improved. Others were scared to take something with a poison label on the container and meant to kill cockroaches and ants. Eventually he had tablets made with a safe and effective quantity of borax.
Within five years and only by word of mouth he sold 10,000 bottles a month. He could no longer cope and asked a drug company to market it. That was a major mistake. They indicated that this would replace more expensive drugs and reduce their profits. It so happened that they had representatives on government health committees and arranged that in 1981 Australia instituted a regulation that declared boron and its compounds to be poisons in any concentration. He was fined $1000 for selling a poison, and this successfully stopped his arthritis cure from spreading in Australia. (2)
Subsequently he published several scientific papers on borax and arthritis. One was a double-blind trial in the mid 1980’s at the Royal Melbourne Hospital which showed that 70% of those who completed the trial were greatly improved. Only 12% improved when on placebo. There were no negative side-effects, but some reported that their heart ailment had also improved, and there was better general health and less tiredness.
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