What is Boron?
Boron is a naturally occurring chemical element. There are 118 chemical elements of which boron is one. It is a metalloid.
Boron was identified as an element by scientists during the year 1824. However pure boron was produced only in the year 1909.
Sources of Boron
It is mostly available under the earth as borate mineral compounds. Elemental boron is not present in the earth. Hence it has to be separated from the compound by adopting laboratory techniques only. However boron is present in elemental form in a number of plant sources which are used by humans in their daily food.
The most common form of boron is in the nature of amorphous powder. Boron is not chemically reactive to oxygen, water, acid and alkalis. In reaction with metals it becomes borides.
Boric acid is prepared by reacting borax with a mineral acid.
Borate minerals are largely found in Turkey. It is also found in Tibet, Chile and United States. Borate is excavated from mines as borates and are generally borax and kernite minerals.
It is a rarely available element present in a very few regions of the world. The fact that only about 0.001% of earth crust is Boron show the rarity of the mineral.
Borates are water soluble and so are concentrated with the course of water or water springs in regions where it is present.
Boron deposits in Turkey is estimated at one billion metric tons. Only about four million tons of boron are produced annually.
Commercial production of Boron is carried out mainly for its use in the production of fiberglass, glass fiber and borosilicate glassware. It is used in the form of boron oxide or boron pentahydrate to strengthen and fluxing qualities of fiberglass.
Boron is used as a flux for soldiering silver and gold. It is also used in welding ferrous metals. Wood preservatives contain borates as one of the ingredients.
It is also used in ceramic industry, Agriculture and in the preparation of detergents and bleaches.
Boron was used as a food preservative since 1870 and was widely used during world wars I and II.
Why is boron required for health?
While the industrial needs of boron can be taken care of by excavation of earth only, the boron requirement for the health of humans can be obtained from various food items that we consume.
Boron is an important and also essential mineral required by the body for overall maintenance of a healthy body. Compared to other minerals like calcium or magnesium, benefits of Boron are not widely known.
How can humans consume boron?
Some of the important sources of Boron are fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Vegetables which contain Boron are onion, potato, red kidney beans, tomato, lentils, carrots, broccoli, celery, avocado, soya bean and onion.
Fruits that contain Boron are kiwis, dates, orange, apple, plums, red grapes and peaches.
Nuts which provide Boron are cashew, almond, walnut, dried apricots and chickpeas.
Others are peanut butter, currants and honey and beer and wine.
In addition to these sources boron supplements are also used to compensate the shortfall in the mineral consumption.
Health benefits of Boron
Boron and its derivatives provide a number of significant health benefits. Inclusion of traces of the element in the body protects from various health issues. Boron is an overall health enhancer. It is more interesting to know particular health benefits achieved by optimizing the boron intake to the desired level. Some of them are:
For bone health
Boron helps in preventing and curing osteoporosis and arthritis which are both genetic and age related. Boron beats arthritis as well as osteoporosis simultaneously. As age advances, more particularly in women after menopause, there is poor absorption of calcium and the bones become weak.
The capacity of boron to enhance the metabolism of calcium facilitates proper absorption of calcium by the bones. It is well known that calcium absorption is very much essential for a healthy and strong bone. The fact that boron is used in industrial manufacturing particularly for strengthening makes it clear that boron can as well strengthen the human bones. Boron maximizes the use of calcium in the body and protects the bones. While the common perception is that calcium absorption is important for bone it must be understood that born works in combination with calcium to enhance the bone strength and provide the remedy for bone disorders.
We all know vitamin D is essential in absorbing calcium to make the bones stronger and increase bone density. By increasing the duration of stay of vitamin D by almost half the time it normally stays, boron significantly aids in metabolism thereby making bones stronger.
By enhancing metabolism of minerals like zinc, calcium and copper it increases the bone density. It has the ability to regulate various minerals in the body.
Anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties
Anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties of boron provides remedy for arthritis.
Boric acid has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. For this reason boric acid has been in use for a long time in curing skin eruptions and wounds. In fact boric acid nourishes the skin.
Mild solutions of boric acid is also used as an antiseptic for eye disorders.
Because of this antiseptic property boron derivatives are used in treatment of water in the swimming pools.
Attacks on the body by parasites, like candida albicans, is prevented and cured by boron with its anti-fungal property. It is because of this particular property women use boron containing capsules for curing vaginal infections. Yeast infections are cured by the capsules.
To prevent cardiovascular disorders
- By removing blood clots boron containing medicines facilitates smooth blood flow and prevent cardiovascular disorders. It prevents the formation of plasma lipids in the blood vessels. While it is known that appropriate blood flow maintains the blood pressure, it is still to be established that boron is helpful in addressing heart problems. Studies in this area have not reached final conclusions.
For male sexual health
Boron increases testosterone levels in males and strengthens the muscles. For this reason boron supplements are used by body builders and athletes even though enough evidence is not available to strengthen their presumption.
For reproductive health of women
Boron enhances the production of estrogen levels in menopausal women. It balances the hormone and make the reproductive organs healthy besides stimulating sexual desire. In addition to this it avoids the need for any hormone therapy. Moreover by reducing night sweats and hot flashes in menopausal women it prevents formation of osteoporosis in them. Loss of bone density is the cause for osteoporosis. Boron strengthens the bone by optimizing the absorption of minerals.
To reduce cholesterol levels
Lipid accumulation is reduced by boron thereby preventing cholesterol formation and consequent atherosclerosis and possible strokes or heart failures. It clears the arteries and veins of cholesterol accumulation and facilitate proper blood flow by regulating the blood pressure and prevents heart disorders.
To help in foetal development
- Some studies on boron point to its potential in embryonic development. Formation and development of fetus are the results achieved by this factor. But the studies are in the initial stages and hence this lacks sufficient scientific backing.
For nerve health
Neurological functions of the body are promoted by boron. It enhances the functioning of the brain, coordinating the organs of the body like eyes and hands, memory and concentration power. Cognitive ability in the body is enhanced by medicines or food containing boron. Daily consumption of 3.25mg of boron in normal diet increases memory and better eye-hand coordination in comparison with those consuming lesser quantity of boron.
Astringency of boric acid prevents skin infections. It is also used to prevent infections of the eyes by using the solution as an eye wash. Application of boric acid also prevents ageing of the skin.
Aging is generally associated with weakening of bones. Hence boron in addition to strengthening bones, slows down the aging process too.
Boron-neutron capture agents are useful in the treatment of cancer. Biological saccharides in the body are targeted by boron compounds which mimic the antibodies. Dioxaborolane is a compound prepared from bonding carbon, boron and oxygen. This type of compounds are known to be important in cancer imaging and also identification of hemorrhages.
Toenail fungus is treated by medicines prepared with boron compounds. Recently such medicines have gained accreditation by appropriate forums.
- The properties of boron make it an important ingredient in medicines not only for humans but also animals.
- Borax is widely used in households for washing and also in cleaning products in powder form.
- Boric acid is used as an insecticide. It is used to eliminate ants, cockroaches and fleas.
How should Boron be consumed?
Consumption of boron in dietary form is much recommended against consumption of boron supplements. The effect of over dosage has not been conclusively studied so far. Hence boron supplements should not be taken without advice from a medical practitioner.
Effects of Boron deficiency
Consequences of boron deficiency in the body is yet to be thoroughly studied and established. However, as of now it is known that its deficiency can lead to abnormality in the metabolism of calcium and magnesium in the body. Its deficiency also causes osteoporosis, arthritis, sexual hormone imbalance, hyperthyroidism and neurological disorders.
Over dosage can harm the stomach, liver, kidney and brain and can become fatal. Daily intake of boron cannot be more than 10 mg (Depending on age- from 2mg to 10 mg maximum). But the optimum level of boron intake is still not known. Unusual raise in the level of boron in the body has the potential to create serious health problems. Hence exposure to even a few gm. of boron may be life threatening. The caution here is only to drive home the point that boron consumption need to be strictly under medical supervision in spite of the fact that boron supplements are readily available in the market.