Australian biochemist Walter Last, who died in 2021, reveals the many health benefits of boron, especially to treat arthritis, and how vested interests demonised and denied this natural arthritis cure*
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral commonly mined from dried salt lakes and is the source of other manufactured boron compounds. The main deposits are in California and Turkey. Chemical names are sodium tetraborate decahydrate, disodium tetraborate decahydrate or simply sodium borate. This means it contains four atoms of boron as its central feature, combined with two sodium atoms and 10 molecules (or sometimes less) of crystallisation water.
Borax is commonly sold as technical or agricultural grade with 99 to 99.5% minimum purity. Potential impurities consist of sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate, carbonate, sulphate and phosphate but not toxic or heavy metals. This grade includes the borax commonly used as household cleaner. Pharmaceutical grade is not noticeably purer or better.
Borax is the sodium salt of the weak boric acid. Because sodium is more strongly alkaline, this makes a solution of borax strongly alkaline, with a pH between 9 and 10 (pH 7 is neutral). When ingested, it reacts with hydrochloric acid in the stomach to form boric acid and sodium chloride. The boron content of borax is 11.3%, while for boric acid it is 17.5% or about 50% higher. Ingested boron compounds are rapidly and nearly completely excreted in the urine. Formerly, boric acid was widely used to preserve foods but is now banned for this purpose in most countries.
According to mainstream medicine it is not known if boron is essential for humans, but research shows that we do definitely need it. Boron is present in all plants and unprocessed foods. Diets with a fair amount of fruit and vegetables provide about 2-5 mg of boron per day, but this also depends on the region where and how the food was grown.
In reality, the average intake in developed countries is 1-2 mg of boron per day. Institutionalised patients may receive only 0.25 mg of daily boron. Chemical fertilisers inhibit the uptake of boron from the soil: an organic apple grown in good soil may have 20 mg boron, but if grown with fertiliser it may have only 1 mg. Fertilisers combined with poor food choices have greatly reduced our boron intake compared to 50 to 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.
Boron’s many health effects
Due to their boron content, borax and boric acid have basically the same health effects, with good antiseptic, antifungal and antiviral properties but only mild antibacterial action. In plants and 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 by its influence on the parathyroid glands. In this respect 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 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. Other beneficial effects reported include 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 of 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
Rex Newnham’s arthritis cure
In the 1960’s Rex Newnham, PhD, DO, ND, a soil and plant scientist in Perth, Western Australia, developed arthritis. Conventional drugs did not help so he looked for the cause in the chemistry of plants. He realised 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 when they improved. Others were scared to take something with a poison label on the container and meant for killing 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 – 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.
*NB: All statements are for educational purposes only and not as medical advice, which readers should seek from a qualified medical practitioner experienced with boron (such as Dr Sarah Myhill)
Read the complete article in issue 110.