Sodium borate is a naturally-occurring compound composed of boron, oxygen, hydrogen, and sodium. Trace amounts are found in soil, water, plants, and animals, but it is most commonly found in sediments and sedimentary rock formations. Most sodium borate found in the United States comes from the seasonal lakes in the Mojave Desert in California.
Sometimes called borax or sodium tetraborate, sodium borate is widely used in cleaning products, cosmetics, and personal care products. Beyond its versatility in personal care products, researchers have discovered that boron is essential for plant health and that it may also be an essential building block to human health.
There is early evidence to suggest that it offers health benefits, including supporting bone health, improving nervous system functioning, reducing inflammation in the body, and balancing hormones.
If you’ve never heard of the health benefits of sodium borate, you’re not alone. It’s only recently that scientists have discovered its importance for human health. Growing evidence shows that sodium borate offers a number of health benefits, including:
Researchers have known for many years that sodium borate is essential for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones. For starters, it acts as a “booster” for several of the most important bone-builders.
Calcium and magnesium—two minerals known to impact bone health—are affected by the presence or absence of sodium borate in the body. With too little sodium borate, calcium excretion increases, and magnesium uptake decreases, which is bad news for bone health. Fortunately, sodium borate supplementation can help.
A 2020 review of 11 studies involving boron’s impact on bone health found that dietary supplementation of 3 milligrams per day (mg/day) of boron is helpful in supporting bone health in order to prevent osteoporosis and maintain adequate bone mineral density.
Dried plums, which are rich in boron and other nutrients, show promise for preventing bone loss in people who have gone through menopause, with the potential for long-lasting bone-protective effects. Five years after a one-year clinical trial, postmenopausal women who consumed 100 grams of dried plum per day had greater bone density higher than those who did not supplement with dried plum.
Sodium borate supplementation is showing promise as an effective treatment for osteoarthritis. Researchers believe it may be helpful in relieving arthritis pain because boron effectively increases calcium integration into cartilage and bone, strengthening these structures in the body.
A 2019 review of the impact on human health of naturally-occurring borates found in foods (fruits, nuts, herbs, and seeds), show that borates help provide significant reductions in knee discomfort as well as improved flexibility. The studies found that borates are a safe, effective way to improve mobility and reduce joint pain in both humans and animals.
Balances Sex Hormones
Estrogen and testosterone are two important sex hormones. Though sometimes thought of as female and male hormones, they are not exclusive—each has important functions in every person, regardless of sex. Sodium borate is known to help keep a healthy balance of both testosterone and estrogen in the body.
Testosterone, which is sometimes referred to as the “male” sex hormone, has many functions in the body, including building muscle and coordinating sex drive. Low testosterone levels can cause weakness, fatigue, depression, and sexual dysfunction.
One 2011 study found that men who received daily sodium borate supplementation experienced a significant increase in the testosterone levels in their bodies after only one week of supplementation. Sodium borate supplements also significantly increase testosterone in women, both before and after menopause.
One study of people who had gone through menopause who received sodium borate supplementation showed they had a significant increase of estrogen in the blood. Other studies, however, contradict these findings, suggesting that estrogen decreases after supplementing with sodium borate.
Possible Side Effects
When ingested in larger-than-recommended amounts, sodium borate can cause unpleasant side effects such as:
Sodium borate has not yet been tested on people who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding, so speak with your healthcare provider before use.
Dosage and Preparation
Sodium borate is incredibly versatile. Some Asian cultures use sodium borate as a meat rub, tenderizer, or preservative. Ancient Egyptians used it in both medicine and mummification. In today’s world, it is used for everything from laundry detergent, to personal hygiene products, to a health supplement.
If you are using sodium borate as a dietary supplement, it is important to follow the directions on the label for dosages. Taking excess amounts of the supplement can result in unwanted side effects. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, adults should take no more than 20 mg/day.
Like so many other nutrients, the key to getting enough sodium borate in your diet is to eat a diet of whole, fresh foods. Most people are able to increase their intake of this compound through dietary sources. Most experts recommend increasing intake through dietary sources rich in boron, such as apples, bananas, almonds, lentils, and peanuts.
Those who supplement with sodium borate generally find 3 mg/day is enough to be safe and effective while also providing desired effects.
What to Look For
Many plant-based foods, such as almonds, raisins, and peanuts, are good sources of boron. Most research suggests that supplementation doses ranging from 1.5 to 6 mg per day is sufficient for most people’s needs. Most sodium borate/boron can be found in most drugstores as an over-the-counter (OTC) product or online.
A Word From Verywell
More research is needed on the effectiveness of sodium borate and its health benefits. That said, current research suggests that sodium borate may be beneficial for balancing sex hormones, strengthening bones, and reducing arthritis pain.
Before you start supplementing with sodium borate (boron), consult with your healthcare provider first. They will be able to guide you to the right dosage amounts for your needs and the supplements that are right for you.