Everyone knows about the “big minerals.” These are the minerals that show up on nutrition labels or are added to refined grains and sweet cereal. They’re the ones you can buy in drug stores and pharmacies as supplements. But while magnesium, potassium, calcium, selenium, zinc, and iron are all very important for your health, they’re not the only minerals you need to obtain. There are many other minerals that are arguably just as important for health, even though we only need them in trace amounts.
One of the most important trace minerals you need to consider consuming is boron.
What Is Boron Used For?
Boron for Arthritis
While boron won’t be listed on any government recommendations or added to breakfast cereal, it does have benefits for joints. Honestly, it’s probably essential for joints. It’s not “essential” in that your average doctor or health official will know about it but it is essential for proper joint health and function. Taking boron has a supplement if you have any kind of arthritic disorder is a no-brainer. Boron accumulates in cartilage, bone, joints, and synovial fluid (the “lubricating fluid” that sits in the joints); people with arthritis have lower levels of boron in their joints.
A 1994 study found that countries with boron intakes under 1mg/day have elevated rates of arthritis—between 20-70%—while countries with boron intakes between 3 and 10 mg/day have 0-10% arthritis rates.1
And in a human trial, 50% of osteoarthritis patients who received 6 mg/day saw improvement in symptoms, compared to just 10% of the placebo group patients.2
Boron for Bone Health
Boron is good for bones, too. It accumulates in bone, determines how we metabolize and incorporate calcium, and helps regulate bone metabolism.3 Case reports have shown that the bones of patients taking boron are sturdier and harder to cut than bones from people who don’t take boron supplements.
Animal studies show that boron supplementation can alleviate some of the skeletal deformities triggered by vitamin D deficiency. If this holds true in humans, having adequate boron could mean you require less vitamin D for bone health.4
Additional Health Benefits of Boron
While bone, joint, and male hormonal health are why most people take boron, there are many broad benefits associated with supplementation:5
Improved wound healing.
Increased magnesium absorption.
Increased glutathione and superoxide dismutase levels.
Protects against damage wrought by pesticide exposure and heavy metal accumulation.
Improves cognitive function in the elderly.
Improves outcomes in animal models of several cancers, while also reducing the negative effects of chemo preventive medicines.
In other words, boron appears to help us counter many of the problems we face in the modern inflammatory environment.
Taking Boron Supplements
Should men take boron?
Boron is one of the most reliable ways for men to increase free testosterone levels. Taking 10 mg of boron in the morning for 7 days increased free testosterone and reduced estrogen and sex hormone binding globulin—which binds to hormones like testosterone and makes them unavailable for use. It also reduced the inflammatory markers hs-CRP and TNF. Overall, taking boron every day improved the hormonal profile and reduced oxidative stress and inflammation in men.6
Boron seems to increase overall male vitality. In male goats, taking boron increased sperm production, motility, and quality. Boron goats made more sperm and the sperm they produced was stronger and simply better. They were healthier overall, with stronger immune systems and better antioxidant capacities.7
Should women take boron?
Women should also consider boron. While the boost in free testosterone may not seem as relevant for women (though testosterone for women is important, too), studies show that boron supplementation can help them increase bone mineral density and reduce menstrual pain. 89
How much boron should you take?
Most studies use doses between 3-10mg per day. This appears to be safe, well-tolerated, and physiologically normal.
Some people even make their own boron concentrate using Borax, or sodium borate. It’s the stuff you use to kill ants invading your kitchen, use as a cleaning agent, or add to the washing machine. Turns out sodium borate is only toxic to humans in high doses. If you dose it correctly, you can use borax as a dietary supplement. But you have to be careful. Borax is roughly 11.3% boron, so a gram of borax—about a quarter teaspoon’s worth—will contain 113 mg of boron. Add it to a measured volume of water and take small amounts every day to get the desired dose of 3-10 mg.
Why should we supplement boron? Isn’t food enough?
Food isn’t enough in most places. Prunes, raisins, and other dried fruits are probably the best sources, followed by legumes, avocados, wine, and grains. Soil levels (and thus food levels) of boron vary wildly and supplementation is usually required to attain physiological benefits and requirements.
If you’re interested, you can always google “[your location] soil boron levels” to get an idea of how much boron is getting into your locally grown food and groundwater. However, since so many of us eat food grown in other areas, and boron levels in food aren’t really tracked, it can be difficult or impossible to determine how much boron you’re getting in your diet. That’s where a supplement can really help.
Low dose boron supplementation in the 3-10 mg/day range is physiologically normal, safe, and effective. It accumulates in bones and joints when available in the diet and it improves hormonal status, inflammatory markers, and bone metabolism (among other effects) when taken in small doses. All signs point to boron being an important, beneficial trace mineral. I see no reason not to take boron.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.