Boron is a chemical element in the periodic table which is essential for plants, humans and other animals. It was discovered in the year 1808.¹
Discovered by: Louis-Joseph-Gay-Lussac, Louis-Jacques Thenard (France, Paris) and Humphry Davy (London, UK)
Chemical properties of Boron are:
- Symbol: B
- Atomic number: 5
- Atomic weight: 10.8
- Appearance: Dark amorphous (no particular structure) powder. Pure crystalline boron is black in colour
- Colour: Brown
- Melting point: 2077° C (2350.15 Kelvin)
- Boiling point: 4000° C (4273.15 Kelvin)
- Electron configuration: 1s² 2s² 2p¹
- Name origin: Derived from the Arabic word 'Buraq' for borax
For years the source of borax was from a lake in Tibet. Boron was extracted by Louis-Joseph-Gay-Lussac and Louis-Jacques Thenard (France, Paris) and Humphry Davy (London, UK) as they heated borax with Potassium metal.
A mixture of pure boron was obtained by mixing Boron chloride, hydrogen and BCl³ vapour.
Boron plays an essential role in the growth of plants, humans and animals.²
Almost 90% of boron is found in the cell walls of plants. Studies have indicated that boron is required for flowers to bloom properly, high rate of fruit setting, pollination and improved fruit quality.
In humans, boron helps in reducing cholesterol levels of the body. This results in minimizing blood clots and reducing the chances of heart attack and strokes. Borates have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can aid in cancer therapy, wound healing and disease control.
Boron can help in the development and regeneration of bones. It also helps in the development and protection of the liver. Boron is essential in maintaining the electrical activity and proper functioning of the brain.
Uses of boron
Boron is an element essential for survival of plants, humans as well as animals. Let's discuss all the uses of boron.²,³
Boron is essential for the growth of cell walls in plants. It helps in providing shape, strength and rigidity to the cells. Other uses of boron in plants are
- Root elongation
- Sugar translocation
- Carbohydrate metabolism
- Growth of pollen tube
- Improved fruit quality
- Seed setting
- Boron is essential for maintaining growth by strengthening the cell membranes. Studies have shown that high pH levels in meat results in less moisture loss and gives a dark meat colour. Boron helps in regulating the pH levels of meat, thus improving meat quality. Apart from that, boron supplementation in water given to chickens results in increased levels of iron and zinc levels in the meat
- Another study on ostrich study showed a decrease in cooking loss with boron supplementation
- Another study conducted on rats showed reduced triglyceride and cholesterol levels by giving boron supplement at 8 mg/kg
- A study conducted on rats showed that boron deficiency leads to reduced femur strength
- Bone: Boron intake has been shown to improve bone growth as it prevents calcium loss and bone demineralisation. Boron supplementation helps in proper utilisation of vitamin-D to regulate bone growth
- Liver: Boron supplementation showed reduced levels of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) and serum thyroglobulin. High levels of VLDL in the blood can cause plaque growth leading to cardiac troubles
- Brain: Boron deficiency can lead to short-term memory, poor dexterity and attention. So boron is essential for maintaining normal brain activity
- Sex hormones: Boron increases the levels of hormone oestrogen in menopausal people assigned female at birth (AFAB). Boron supplementation increased the levels of testosterone in healthy people assigned male at birth (AMAB)
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Boron intake is essential for healthy immune system growth. Boron supplementation can help in maintaining growth of thymus, an important organ of the immune system
- Antioxidant properties: Boron compounds have antioxidant properties which make it a good option for cancer therapy. Boric acid shows reduction in prostate cancer cells. Boron rich diets can reduce the chances of prostate, cervical, lungs and breast cancers
- Wound healing: 3% solution of boric acid heals deep wounds as it improves extracellular matrix turnover
Daily life and industrial uses
- Amorphous boron can be used in rockets as fuel igniter
- Boron can be used in soap and detergents
- Boron fibers can be used in aircraft, high end sporting equipment such as golf clubs and fishing rods
- Boric acid can be used in crockery, cosmetics, leather, carpets, soap, insecticides for cockroaches etc
Sources of boron
Boron is an element which is essential for living as well as non-living things. Boron can be obtained from these sources.⁴
|Food||Amount ( mg/ serving)|
|½ cup avocado||1.07|
|1.5 ounces raisin||0.95|
|1 cup grape juice||0.76|
|1 medium apple||0.66|
|1 ounce roasted, salted peanuts||0.48|
|2 tablespoon peanut butter||0.46|
|1 cup apple juice||0.45|
|½ cup grape||0.37|
|1 medium orange||0.37|
|½ cup boiled broccoli||0.2|
|1 cup orange juice||0.18|
|½ cup boiled spinach||0.16|
|1 medium banana||0.16|
|1 medium carrot||0.14|
|½ cup cooked green peas||0.1|
|1 cup coffee||0.07|
|1 cup whole milk||0.04|
|½ chicken breast||0.03|
|½ cup cooked white rice||0.03|
Boron content of the soil where any produce is grown affects the boron levels in that specific product. Heavy rainfall results in leaching of boron out of the soil. So, countries such as Brazil, Japan and the US have limited availability of boron. Whereas countries such as Argentina, Chile, Russia and Peru have high concentrations of boron in their soil. Dietary supplements have elemental boron in the range of 0.15-6 mg. As boron is mainly found in plant-based products, vegetarians have high levels of boron compared to non-vegetarians in their body.
Boron is found mainly in plant-based products as the boron levels in the soil affect the levels. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), boron intake for adults should be around 1-13 mg/ day.⁴
Side effects and other concerns
Accidental intake of boric acid or borax (sodium borate) can result in symptoms such as:⁴
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
Boron toxicity can cause symptoms such as:²,⁴
- Renal injury
We have discussed health effects and toxicity related to boron. But, do you know the different boron compounds and their roles? Boron forms covalent bonds with its compounds. Let's check boron compounds and their uses.
- Borax: The most common compound, also known as sodium tetraborate. It is found naturally in the salt beds and used in soaps and antiseptics
- Boric acid: Also known as boarcic or orthoboric acid. It is obtained by combining concentrated solutions of borax with sulphuric or hydrochloric acid. It is used as a mild antiseptic and in eye lotions
- Boron oxide: On heating, boric acid loses water to form metaboric acid. With further loss of water, it forms boron oxide. Mixing boron oxide with silica results in heat-resistant borosilicate glass used in cookware and laboratory equipment
- Boron carbide: Boron carbide is a hard substance formed by mixing boron with carbon. It is used as an abrasive
- Boron nitride: Boron nitride is formed by mixing boron with nitrogen. As it is very hard, it can be used in making high-temperature abrasives
Frequently asked questions
What are the uses of boron?
Boron and its compounds can be used in making crockery, cosmetics, leather, hats, aircraft, rocket fuel igniter, sports equipment, nuclear reactors, abrasives, antiseptics etc.
Why is boron special?
Boron is special as it can be found in many forms and its compounds have numerous uses for humans, plants as well as animals.
Is boron a metal?
Boron is a metalloid as it has mixed properties of both metals as well as non-metals.
Which food products have boron?
Boron can be found in oranges, raisins, rice, broccoli, avocado, spinach, milk etc.
Boron is a metalloid having properties of metals as well as non-metals. It comes in group 13 of the periodic table. Natural boron can be found in spring waters and as borax deposits. Boron compounds are put to a variety of uses for animals, plants and humans.
They can be used in aircraft, nuclear reactors, leather, hats, carpets, laboratory equipment, golf clubs, crockery, cosmetics, cockroach insecticides, soap, detergent, mild antiseptic etc.
In plants, they are used in root elongation, seed setting, flowering, pollination, improved fruit quality etc.
In animals, boron can improve meat quality, decreased food loss, reduced triglyceride and cholesterol level.
In humans, they are beneficial for bone growth, liver functions, maintaining brain activity, anti-inflammatory properties making it good for the immune system, antioxidant properties making it good for cancer therapy and wound healing.
Dietary boron can be found in several food products such as avocado, grapes, orange, apple, broccoli, milk, rice, banana, spinach, green peas, chicken breast etc.
Boron is essential for growth in plants. But, only in small amounts.
Boron toxicity occurs when boron is consumed in high quantities. Boron intake is around 1-13 mg/day for adults. Symptoms can be headache, anorexia, renal injury, hypothermia, inflammation, dermatitis etc.
Boron deficiency could lead to osteoporosis in bones. So, it should be consumed in limits.
- Boron - Element information, properties and uses | Periodic Table [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jul 31]. Available from: https://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/5/boron
- Khaliq H, Juming Z, Ke-Mei P. The physiological role of boron on health. Biol Trace Elem Res [Internet]. 2018 Nov [cited 2023 Jul 31];186(1):31–51. Available from: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s12011-018-1284-3
- Pizzorno L. Nothing boring about boron. Integr Med (Encinitas) [Internet]. 2015 Aug [cited 2023 Jul 31];14(4):35–48. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4712861/
- Office of dietary supplements - boron [Internet]. [cited 2023 Aug 1]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Boron-HealthProfessional/