Yet another dangerous myth has made its way around social media recently, with some influencers claiming that drinking a glass of water with Borax in it, or dissolving Borax into their bathwater, are natural ways to reduce inflammation and ease arthritis pain. This is not only untrue, it’s downright dangerous.
The myth may have started with confusion between the element boron (a mineral that may have some anti-inflammatory properties) and naturally occurring boric acid and its salts, including borax (which have been used as cleaning agents and pesticides). Boron is a trace element. In a few limited studies it has shown some effectiveness in potentially speeding wound healing and bone growth in addition to reducing inflammation. Evidence of its clinical usefulness for these purposes, however, is weak.
Although boron is sold as a supplement, I don’t believe it’s necessary. The small amounts we need are readily available in such common foods as potatoes, milk, apples, coffee, cheese, peanuts, and raisins. It’s also possible to get poisoned from too much boron; symptoms include headache, nausea, and diarrhea.
Borax, on the other hand, is considered poisonous in any amount and should not be consumed, inhaled, or touched. Even small amounts can cause nausea and irritate the skin, and larger amounts over longer periods can lead to seizures and anemia. Although borax is often touted as a “natural” product and was once used as a food preservative, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now prohibits it in food due to its risks.
Borax is especially dangerous to small children, who can become seriously – sometimes fatally – ill after ingesting even small amounts. This is especially concerning since borax shows up in many recipes for “slime,” the gooey substance some kids love to make. If your family enjoys creating slime, avoid inhaling the dust and be sure nobody eats the ingredients or the final product. Better still, look for recipes that use borax alternatives.
Finally, I strongly suggest that you continue to seek out reliable sources for health information. I rarely find good medical advice on TikTok or other social media platforms.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Pizzorno L. “Nothing Boring About Boron.” Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015 Aug;14(4):35-48. PMID: 26770156; PMCID: PMC4712861. ncbi.nlm.nih/pmc/articles/PMC4712861/
Pongsavee M. “Effect of borax on immune cell proliferation and sister chromatid exchange in human chromosomes.” J Occup Med Toxicol. 2009 Oct 30;4:27. doi: 10.1186/1745-6673-4-27. PMID: 19878537; PMCID: PMC2776007. ncbi.nlm.nih/pmc/articles/PMC2776007