Doctors say the #borax TikTok health trend is more dangerous than beneficial. Here’s what you need to know.
Scroll through TikTok under #borax, and you’ll find users recommending the cleaning agent for pools and tough stains. You’ll also find videos saying you should drink it or add it to your bath.
Why? The recent fad claims that adding borax — a white mineral powder found in the laundry detergent aisle — to a glass of water or bath will help with inflammation and pain, according to @accensionmamaofficial (69.9k followers), who posted a video on how to make a borax solution to ingest daily.
However, doctors are rushing to shut down the unfounded claim that consuming borax is safe or beneficial.
What Is Borax (Sodium Borate)?
Borax is powdered sodium borate, a popular cleaning agent that can remove stains, clean surfaces, and kill insects, according to 20 Mule Team Borax, a company that has long sold the product.
Borax is partially composed of boron, a trace element present that’s necessary for plants since it promotes cell wall growth, pollination, and seed formation, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Boron is also naturally present in food and beverages like prune juice, avocados, peaches, apples, potatoes, and coffee. While there is no solid evidence that it’s necessary for humans, the NIH says that boron (not borax) may have beneficial effects on brain function, metabolism, and immunity, among others.
What Are the Supposed Benefits of Borax?
On TikTok, users claim that either ingesting or soaking in powdered borax can help with “pain” and “detoxification.”
@Webwelder (7,511 followers) posted a video on TikTok claiming that taking borax in a glass of water cured his chronic pain. The video has over 183,000 views.
@Leonellabellettini (36.8k followers) posted a video on December 6, 2022, discussing how she adds borax, baking soda, and epsom salt to her bath to “cleanse toxins” from her body. Her husband found out about the fad at first. She claims that the “toxins” we encounter everyday will come to the surface of the skin and can then be scrubbed off. The video has 347,000 views and the user has several videos about bathing in borax. Some videos even have warnings from TikTok that the bath could be harmful.
And @thetruthaboutparasites (47.2k followers) uploaded a now-deleted video recommending adding a spoonful of borax to coffee to get the supposed benefits of a boron supplement. The user mainly posts content about “killing parasites” in the body. It’s not clear whether the video was deleted by the user or by TikTok.
According to safety information from 20 Mule Team Borax, its borax product is only meant to be used as directed for cleaning, should never be used undiluted, and may be harmful if swallowed. Borax should never be ingested or bathed in.
What Experts Say About Bathing in or Ingesting Borax
Simply put, don’t do it, experts say about the borax trend.
A recent review of the toxicity of boron-related compounds note that there are case reports of harm or death in children from high dose exposures to boric acid (a compound related to borax, often used in powder form for pest control). The NIH also noted a variety of symptoms associated with overdose of borax, which may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and seizures, among others.
Dan Park, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine physician from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says several parents have contacted his office asking about the trend. But he was quick to say that the risks of consuming borax outweigh the benefits.
“I’m just gonna shut it down right here: None of these [purported benefits of borax] have been substantiated at all with any evidence. It’s not a serious claim at all,” Dr. Park says. He strongly advises against the consumption of any amount of borax.
There are over-the-counter boron supplements, which are meant for human consumption and may provide boron in a potentially safer manner. But boron isn’t necessarily a mineral most people should be concerned about getting through a supplement, according to the NIH.
“In general, as long as you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you don’t need dietary supplements at all,” says Lewis Nelson, MD, chief of the division of medical toxicology at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey.
Supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but to a lesser degree than over-the-counter and prescription drugs. The FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they come to market, meaning it’s on the manufacturer to ensure that their products are safe, contain the ingredients the label says they do, and are effective.
Dr. Nelson says that caution should be exercised before beginning any kind of supplement, including a boron supplement, since unlike medications, supplements do not need to prove their effectiveness.
Boric acid suppositories, however, have been shown in studies to be effective for treating vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis — but not for vaginal cleansing, as had been claimed in a previous TikTok trend. These suppositories should also never be taken orally.
The Bottom Line on Consuming or Bathing in Borax
There is currently no evidence supporting the specific use of borax for any health benefits. Park says that no amount of borax is safe to consume or bathe in. The effects of borax poisoning can include stomach irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes.
Long-term consumption or high-dose exposure can cause anemia and seizures, as well as kidney injury, hypotension, and even death, according to one study. Bathing in borax, no matter the amount, can cause skin burns, according to both doctors.
If you or someone else is experiencing borax poisoning, call your local poison control center.
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