BORON THE NEGLECTED ELEMENT IS ESSENTIAL FOR SUSTAINABLE HEALTHY BONES AND JOINTS
Dr Rex Newnham
Author of "Beating Arthritis and Beating Osteoporosis”
I spent most of the period of the 1980s doing epidemiological work and researching the areas of the world where there is more or less than the normal prevalence of arthritis of about 20%, and areas where there is more or less than the norm of boron in the soil or water.
The motivation for this work originated 35 years ago when I was living in Perth, Western Australia. Most of the soils around Perth are white sands which are very low in all essential minerals, but there are a few isolated areas with clay soils. At first I lived on one of these and all was well and we grew most of our own vegetables. Then we moved to an area where there was sandy soil. This had grown Banksia scrub and the sand was dark on the top and the first vegetable crop was fair, but the next year there was a terrible crop and every trace mineral was seen to be deficient in some plant or other. I had been trained in botany and had been teaching botany and soil science, so I could pick these deficiencies readily. At this time I developed arthritis and found walking difficult. The local GP gave me something which did not help, so I started to try to discover the cause of my own arthritis. With my training I naturally thought of soil minerals when these were all deficient in my diet. I looked at what the literature had to say about all of them - boron, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, potassium and zinc. None were relevant to arthritis, but boron was written off as not needed by man or animal, yet I knew that it was essential to the green plant and that it helped in calcium metabolism in the plant.
I found out all that I could about boron and most of the literature dealt with its toxicity. 40-60 grams was a dangerous dose and children had been killed with much smaller doses, but there was nothing helpful. So I took 30 mg of borax twice daily, this was 6 mg of elemental boron a day and in a week the pain was less, in ten days the pain was less. In three weeks the pain, swelling and stiffness had all gone, so I stopped taking the borax. A year later the pain and swelling returned so I took more borax and in two weeks all was right again.
I then told the medical people at the university and the public health officials, but none of them were interested. Then I told a few people who had arthritis and they were thrilled as they were getting better. But it meant buying a packet of chemical that was labelled poison - for killing cockroaches and ants. Some were put off this recommendation and they persuaded me to have tablets made with a safe amount of boron.
I did this in 1976 and the first 1000 bottles took 2 years to sell. Then I got 2000 bottles and they went in 6 months, then 7000 went in six months, then 20,000 went in 8 months and another 20,000 went in six months, and another 20,000 went in 4 months and finally in 1981 the last 20,000 went in 2 months. That is 10,000 bottles in a month and all without advertising.
By this time I had retired from teaching and qualified as a naturopath, homeopath and nutritionist. I did attempt to do a normal medical degree but was too old to start at 55. I was employing people to handle the boron tablets and then I did a foolish thing and went to a drug company for help in marketing, thinking they would be interested in overcoming arthritis. But they were not interested; they were concerned at an opposition product. That company had men on at least two government committees and they had the law changed so that boron became an S4 poison and I was fined for selling a poison. They successfully destroyed my business in Australia, but by that time I had started exporting the same tablets and went to New Zealand, South Africa, America and Britain where they sold well. From half to 3/4 of a million people have benefitted from these boron tablets
From 1983 to 87 a double blind controlled pilot study was conducted in Melbourne. It only involved 20 people but of those who finished 70% gained much benefit. The trial only lasted for 2 months and later knowledge has shown that older people need 3 or even 4 months in order to get quite free of arthritic symptoms. Those in the trial were aged 50-75 and should have used the tablets for 3 or 4 months. There were no side effects and the 22 ancillary clinical, haematological and biochemical tests all proved that boron in these doses was not harmful or abnormal. (1) Then in the 1980s I carried out my epidemiological work and this meant nine trips around the world; I consulted Lawrence's book to try to ascertain where there was more or less arthritis in a population (2). This made me look towards Jamaica and Mauritius for a start.
In Jamaica I hired a car and somebody who could act as interpreter as not everybody spoke English. I visited many farms and markets and saw all the essential mineral deficiency symptoms in all fruit and vegetable crops. Even the pine trees showed boron deficiency symptoms. Boron deficiency was very common. I visited the university departments of botany and medicine and the agriculture and forestry departments. All these people were helpful and showed concern. Even Mr. Jones, the Minister for Forests told me that some forests were owned by private companies and these had added boron to their fertilizer. Soil tests and analysis had been done by Dr. Weir and these showed a severe boron deficiency. Of the 34 soil types 29 of these had less then 0.5 parts per million (ppm) of available boron. l .5 ppm boron in the soil is considered normal. This had never been published in journals but the files were in departmental records. The reason for the severe boron deficiency was that NPK fertilizer had been used every year since l 872 and in the: 70's and 80's l5 hundred weight of fertilizer was used on every acre of sugar producing land every year, according to the Sugar Industry Research Institute. The University Medical Department said that there was 12% with erosion arthritis and they estimated that 70% of the population had some form of arthritis. It was even obvious that the dogs in Kingston were limping. Compared with other country shows that these people consumed less than 0.5 mg boron per day. When the land would not grow sugar farmers were allowed to try to grow food crops on that soil and they had little success.
Mauritius is another sugar producing island where similar fertilizer programmed were in use. Some prominent medical men from the Queen Victoria Hospital estimated that 50% of all people had some arthritic symptoms, and they were alarmed at the rise in juvenile arthritis; the Health Department would not give an estimate and would only say how many had entered hospital. Yet the Pampelmoussis botanic Gardens had wonderful plants that showed no mineral deficiency symptoms. This shows how continued application of NPK fertilizer without giving the soil a rest has a devastating effect on the health of soil, crops and people. In 1987 Dr. Woodun said that the soils of Mauritius were exhausted and nobody heeded him. Then in 1984 with my work a similar warning was given and was not heeded. Analyzes had shown that since 1962 the boron level in sugar cane leaf was steadily decreasing. The optimum level is 40 ppm and it was to decrease to 5-12 ppm by 1968. The critical level is 1 ppm when hardly anything will grow. The soil was worn out and so were the people.
Fiji is another sugar producing island in the Pacific where the sugar is produced by Indians who eat rice they grow themselves. At the other end of the island are the Native Fijians who eat starchy fruits and vegetables but little rice. The Indians had 40% with arthritis while the native Fijians only had 10%.
Visits were also made to Carnarvon in NW Australia where the water used for crop irrigation has 2 ppm boron. I met people who told me that they had gone there for a few months to enjoy the good climate so as to get rid of their arthritis. A survey was conducted in which school leavers took questionnaires to every fourth house, showed that 1% of the people had arthritis or joint problems. It was the good water and not the good climate. Some of the stations inland from Carnarvon had up to 7 ppm boron in the bore water and there was no arthritis in man or animal. Food crops often had over 100 ppm boron when analysed.
Ngawha in the far north of New Zealand has spa water with 300 ppm boron and they advertise that this spa is good for arthritis. In fact it is the main industry in Ngawha. Dr. Herbert in 1921 was the government balneologist and he wrote a book about the New Zealand spas in which he showed how some of these were very beneficial for arthritics. (2). He did not know why, but those that he mentioned as good for arthritics were all rich in boron.
Another interesting place was Israel where the water beneath the coastal plain contains 2-3 ppm boron, and this is used for irrigation. Even the Dead Sea is rich in boron and many have made claims that bathing in this water will heal many diseases including arthritis. Dr. Zve Bentwich has written a paper that shows there is 0.35% of the population with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and he estimated that a similar number had osteo arthritis (OA), (3).
In South Africa Prof. Meyers showed that the Xhosa tribal people had 2.2% with RA and this is consistent with other tribal peoples. When these same people go to live in the big cities such as Durban they soon develop the same prevalence for all arthritis as the rest of the population.
So it was decided to analyse some of their food which is mainly corn or mealies. That grown in the native areas is a poor looking corn with black, blue, red and yellow grains but it had 5 ppm boron, while the commercial ground maize sold in the supermarkets had only from 0.4 to 0.75 ppm boron. Even the commercially grown maize had only about l ppm or less of boron because it was grown with fertilizer. The University of Natal did many analyses for me to show this point.
In America and Finland there were many analyses of foods which showed the boron content, also estimates of actual boron consumption. The normal consumption of boron is between l and 2 mg per person per day, yet some consume 41 mg/day.
It is obvious that this average of 1-2 mg per day boron intake is not sustainable as regards good health. We need in the region of 6 to 8 mg per day and that will sustain good health as regards arthritic diseases. When we talk about sustainable medicine we should really be talking about sustainable health, and when this is applied to arthritic diseases and osteoporosis we need a good supply of boron and 6-8 mg a day is sufficient. Those with active disease are helped with 9-10 mg a day. I have been taking a boron supplement for 30 years and my wife also takes it every day and we have no joint problems.
The Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota has furthered some of my work and they have shown how 3 mg a day of boron will reduce the average loss of calcium in post menopausal women from 117 to 64 mg per day. The same boron will also raise the level of 17 beta estradiol to normal in these women. Dr. Forrest Nielsen shows that boron and calcium work together at the cell membrane and this affects the modification of hormone action. (5) Now there are many others who have shown how the arthritic diseases are associated with allergies. Allergies can also be caused by problems at the cell membrane level where the allergen or histamine or similar do not move freely across cell membranes. It looks as if boron may be very relevant here. In order to sustain good health we need 6 mg a day or more of boron which is now a food supplement or a medicine in some places. This is sustainable and is even essential for health.
l . Lawrence J,S. Rheumatism in Populations. Heinemann. 1974
2. Herbert L.S. The Hot Springs of New Zcaland, HK Lewis & Co. London. 1921.
3. Bentwich Z. & Talmon Y. Prevalence of Rheumatois Arthritis in an Israeli Population. Hebrew University 1980.
4. Meyers OL, Daynes G, Beighton P.Rheumatoid Arthritis in a Tribal Xhosa Population in the Transkei, Southern Africa. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. 36. 1977. P62-65
5, Nielsen F.H, Biochemical and Physiological Consequences of Boron Deprivation in Humans, Environmental HeaIth Perspectives. Vol. 102, Supplement 7, Nov. 1994. P59-65.