OCCURRENCE Found on alkaline lake shores, in playa lakes and other evaporite deposits, borax is a soft and light, transparent crystalline substance of sweetish taste. Extensive borax deposits are found in California [Death Valley], Turkey, Tibet, and the Andes Mountains.
PROPERTIES The decahydrate - named borax or Jaikin - consists of hard odourless crystals, granules or crystalline powder. Due to giving up of the water of crystallisation to the atmosphere, it becomes coated with white powder in dry air. When heated it swells up, while at the same time losing
water, and changes into a glassy mass, formerly called borax pearls. At 100o half of its water content is gone and at 320o it is free from water [anhydrous]. The anhydrous form, also called fused sodium borate or borax glass, consists of glass-like plates. It becomes opaque on exposure to air. The pentahydrate is used in very large quantities in the manufacture of insulation fiberglass and sodium perborate bleach. Dissolves many metallic oxides when fused with them.
USES Borax has many uses: soldering metals; manufacture of glazes and enamels; tanning; in cleaning compounds; artificially ageing wood; as preservative, either alone or with other antiseptics against wood fungus; fireproofing fabrics and wood; curing and preserving skins; in cockroach control. 1 The glass-industry is by far the largest market for borates [salts of boric acid], followed by the industries of detergents and of pesticides [algae in swimming pools; fleas; cockroaches; etc.]. As a mild antiseptic used in lotions, gargles, mouthwashes, and as a detergent. As a cosmetic ingredient used in cold creams, foundation creams, hair colour rinses, permanent-wave solutions, hair-setting lotions, freckle lotions, nail whiteners, eye lotions, and shaving creams.
TOXICOLOGY Since borates are rapidly absorbed from mucous membranes and abraded skin, toxic symptoms may develop from prolonged use. These include anorexia, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea [typically of a blue-green colour], skin rash [weeping eczema], falling of hair, convulsions and anaemia. Ingestion of 5 to 10 g of borax can cause severe vomiting, diarrhoea, shock, and death in young children. It has a drying effect on the skin and may cause irritation. Continued use of shampoos containing sodium borate causes the hair to become dry and brittle. Also used to prevent irritation of the skin by the antiperspirant aluminium chloride.
BORON Along with aluminium, gallium, indium, and thallium, boron constitutes group 13 [formerly group 3A] of the periodic table. None of the elements of this group occurs free [uncombined] in nature. Boron is more or less the black sheep of the family: it is the lightest member and the only one being considered a metalloid [having properties of both metals and nonmetals]. Boron's place in the periodic table is in between beryllium and carbon, above aluminium and diagonally to silicon. Physically and chemically, silicon is its closest ally.
OCCURRENCE The earth's crust contains about 0.001% of boron. It occurs usually as orthoboric acid in volcanic spring waters and as borates in borax, tincal, rasorite and colemanite.
PROPERTIES Boron has the optical characteristic that it transmits portions of the infrared. It is a poor conductor of electricity at room temperature, but a good conductor at high temperature. Like aluminium, its reaction with oxygen is self-limiting due to the formation of a boric oxide film. In pyrotechnic flares, amorphous boron provides a distinctive green colour. Boron crystals are almost as hard as diamond. Zinc borate makes plastics flame-resistant.
OPTICS In the boron mineral ulexite, nature provides its own version of fibre optics: closely packed fibrous crystals. If polished flat on both sides perpendicular to the fibres, ulexite will show an unusual optical phenomenon by transmitting images from one side of the specimen to the other; ulexite, resting on a newspaper will have the writing appear to be on top of the specimen without any distortion of the lettering. The newspaper can be read upon the surface of the ulexite! The manmade version - bundles of extremely thin flexible glass fibres - is used in optical instruments to transmit maximum light by total internal reflection, giving images of maximum clarity, and designed, because of their flexibility, for seeing into otherwise inaccessible places.
GLASS Boron occupies a special place in the glass-industry. Boron oxide is mixed with silica to make heat-resistant glass [borosilicate glass or Pyrex glass] for use in cooking ware and certain types of laboratory equipment. Borosilicate glass is less apt to break when subjected to rapid temperature changes. In addition, it is resistant to many chemicals and is an electrical insulator. Fibres and fabrics made of it possess excellent heat insulation and fire-resistant qualities. It is also an excellent encapsulation material for radioactive waste that had been aged for a decade.
ENERGY Boron is an excellent energy source. Boranes - compounds of boron and hydrogenium - furnish high-energy fuels [double the energy of kerosene] used in rockets in the 1950s. Due to the toxicity of the exhaust fumes as well as the high costs, this application was soon abandoned.
USES "Limited quantities of elemental boron are widely used to increase hardness in making steel. Added as the iron alloy ferroboron, it is present in many steels, usually in the range of 0.001 to 0.005 per cent. Boron is also utilized in the nonferrous-metals industry, generally as a deoxidizer, in copper-base alloys and high-conductance copper as a degasifier, and in aluminium castings to refine the grain. In the semiconductor industry, small, carefully controlled amounts of boron are added as a doping agent to silicon and germanium to modify electrical conductivity. Boron combines with various metals to form a class of compounds called borides. The borides are usually harder, chemically less reactive, and electrically less resistive and have a higher melting point than the corresponding pure metallic elements. Some of the borides are among the hardest and most heat-resistant of all known substances. Aluminium boride, for example, is used in many cases as a substitute for diamond dust for grinding and polishing. ... Two geological settings are conducive for the formation of borate minerals. The first is commercially more valuable and consists of an environment where an impermeable basin received borate-bearing solutions that resulted from volcanic activity. Subsequent evaporation caused precipitation of hydrated alkali and alkaline-earth borate minerals. With increased depth of burial resulting from additional sedimentation, beds of compositionally stratified borates crystallized as a consequence of temperature and pressure gradients. Because evaporation must occur for precipitation of the borates, such basin deposits usually occur in desert regions. The second geologic setting for borate minerals is a metamorphic carbonate-rich environment, where they are formed as a result of alteration of the surrounding rocks by heat and pressure. Some compounds were produced by the reaction of boron-bearing vapour derived from hot intruding granites during metamorphism; others are the recrystallization products of evaporite borates. Numerous borosilicates [e.g. tourmaline] were formed under these conditions."2
PROTECTION The naturally occurring isotope -10 is used in nuclear chemistry as neutron absorber, as a control for nuclear reactors [by preventing chain reactions in uranium atoms from running wild and producing an explosion] and as a shield for nuclear radiation. The shielding property of boron-10 is quite remarkable: 1 cm of boron-10 provides as much protection as 20 cm of lead or 5 metres of concrete. In addition, it is used in delayed action fuses, as igniter in radio tubes and in air bags in motorcars, and as coating material in solar batteries. Boron compounds are extensively used in the manufacture of borosilicate glasses. Boron nitride can make material as hard as diamond, but also has lubricating properties similar to graphite.
INDICATOR Borax as well as phosphor salts can be formed into a pearl-like shape when heated in a flame. If the still hot pearl is brought into contact with the pulverised oxide of a metal, the pearl will change into the colour that is specific for the metal concerned.
GROWTH Boron is required for the growth of vascular plants and embryonic development in fish. Deficiency signs were first discovered in plants, showing it to be an essential element for plants as early as 1910. Boron is immobile in plants; hence deficiency symptoms show up first in younger tissues. The symptoms resemble calcium deficiency: leaves turn yellow and curl upward; tips of leaves fail to expand. Too much boron results in the same effects; excess of boron as well as lack of boron interferes with calcium intake of plants. Boron-deficient plant tissues are brittle or fragile, while plants grown on high boron levels may have unusually flexible or resilient tissues. In addition, boron is poorly absorbed from soils with low potassium content, e.g. saline soils. Gigantism of several species of plants growing in soil naturally abundant in boron has been reported. Boron plays a role in the formation of pectin in the plant cell wall.
PHYSIOLOGY Boron as a trace mineral was recently found to be of prime importance in humans for the proper absorption and utilization of calcium and magnesium. A study involving postmenopausal women who supplemented their diet with 3 mg of boron daily resulted in reduced calcium excretion by 44 per cent and dramatically increased the levels of estradiol. It also interacts with potassium, vitamin D and the essential amino acid methionine. There is sufficient evidence that it raises in women the level of estradiol, the most potent naturally occurring estrogen. Boron can therefore be beneficial in menopause. It has also been found to be effective in alleviating symptoms of arthritis, esp. juvenile arthritis. Deficiency symptoms of boron include bone demineralization, brittle bones, arthritis, low estrogen levels in menopause, and reduced growth. Body builders use boron supplements because these supposedly double testosterone in a short time, thus contributing to muscle growth.
BIOCHEMISTRY "Boron is distributed throughout the tissues and organs of humans with the highest concentration in the bones and dental enamel. These range from 5 to 15 mcg per g ash and from 0.5 to 190 mcg per g dry enamel respectively. Blood plasma boron is high at birth but decreases rapidly within 5 days of birth. After ingestion of boron, the greatest increases occur in spleen, kidney and brain although thyroid levels remain at the same high figures as before."3 The total body burden is 20 mg boron.
FOOD The best natural sources are legumes, fruits and vegetables. Highly fertilized crops provide much less quantities of boron. Foods of animal origin are a poor source of boron. Legumes are particularly rich in boron. Of the vegetables, cabbage, asparagus, celery, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and beet are richest in boron. Fruits with a high content of boron include plum, quince, strawberry, peach, apple, fig, tomato, pear, sour cherry, red currant, and apricot. Boron appears to be important for plant nutrient content. It increases carotene level of carrots, and ascorbic acid [vitamin C] in cabbage, lettuce and snap beans. Beverages like wine, cider and beer contain significant amounts of the mineral.
MEDICINE The neutron absorbing properties of boron-10 are utilized in an experimental approach to cancer treatment called Boron Neutron Capture Therapy. "First, a boron-containing compound is administered to the test animal or patient. This boron-containing compound must be able to accumulate to higher concentrations in the tumour than in the surrounding normal tissues. Next, a beam of low-energy neutrons is directed at the boron-containing tumour. The interaction of the B-10 with a thermal neutron [neutron capture] causes the B-10 nucleus to split, releasing an alpha particle and a lithium nucleus. These products of the boron neutron capture reaction are very damaging to cells but have a combined path length in tissue of approximately 14 micrometers, or roughly the diameter of one or two cells. These charged particles release sufficient energy locally to kill any tumour cells containing high concentrations of boron without appreciably harming normal cells that contain low concentrations of boron [selective cell surgery by radiation targeting]. The selective delivery of radiation dose to the tumour during BNCT is due primarily to the biodistribution of the boron compound, not to the incident beams of neutrons. This provides a potential advantage of BNCT over other forms of radiation therapy. High tumour/normal tissue boron concentration ratios have been demonstrated in experimental animal tumours and in surgical samples from glioblastoma patients. If individual tumour cells or small clusters of tumour cells infiltrating the normal brain, preferentially accumulate the boron delivery agent to the same degree as has been shown for surgical tumour samples, they will receive significantly higher dose than the immediately adjacent normal brain. The concept of BNCT is not new. Patients with malignant gliomas were irradiated with thermalized reactor neutrons for BNCT at Brookhaven National Laboratory [BNL] [1951-1961] and, starting later [1959-1961], at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT]. The disappointing results of these trials were attributed to two primary factors: 1) inadequate tumour-specificity of the boron compounds employed, and 2) insufficient penetration of thermal neutrons. Efforts to deliver therapeutic neutron fluences to deep tumours resulted in excessive damage to the skin. The high boron concentrations in blood and brain tissue during irradiation damaged the blood vessels in normal brain. Since the 1950s, there has been considerable improvement in boron compounds and neutron beams. More is known now about the radiation biology of BNCT, which has re-emerged as a potentially useful method for preferential irradiation of tumours. Clinical trials have been initiated at BNL and MIT, with an improved boron compound and higher energy [more deeply penetrating] neutrons."4
OSTEOPOROSIS There is a strong connection between the boron content of soil and the incidence of osteoporosis. High levels of boron are most likely to occur in soil derived from marine sediments and arid soils. The average soil concentration of boron is 10 mg/kg, while it has a concentration of 4.6 mg/l in ocean water. Israel has a soil comparatively rich in boron and also one of the lowest osteoporosis rates. Conversely, Jamaica's soil is extremely poor in boron and its population includes more people than average who suffer from osteoporosis. "Epidemiological studies indicate a relationship between boron intake in the diet and the prevalence of arthritis in various populations. Where boron intake is lowest, there is a high incidence of arthritis [50-70 per cent in Mauritius and Jamaica]. Where the diet provides more available boron [0.5-1.5 ppm] the incidence of arthritis is 20 per cent [UK, USA, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand]. Daily intakes of more than 1.5 ppm in boron give rise to the lowest incidence of arthritis [Israel and limited areas in other countries]. Trials indicate that human beings and animals respond well to supplements of 6-9 mg boron daily, and in a few weeks reduction of symptoms in 80-90 per cent of cases has been claimed. This therapeutic dose of 6-9 mg boron daily can be reduced to 3 mg once symptoms are relieved. When added to the 2 mg in the diet, these studies suggest that 3 mg supplementation [giving 5 mg daily in total] should relieve arthritic symptoms. Extra boron has been found to give harder bones than the normal arthritic femur. In one examination, arthritic femurs had only half the content of boron [29 ppm] compared to healthy bone [60 ppm]."5
COGNITION In 1994, the effects of dietary boron on cognitive performance were investigated in three studies with healthy older men and women. "When the low boron intake was compared with the high intake, there was a significant increase in the proportion of low-frequency brain activity, and a decrease in the proportion of higher-frequency activity, an effect often observed in response to general malnutrition and heavy metal toxicity. Performance [e.g., response time] on various cognitive and psychomotor tasks also showed an effect of dietary boron. When contrasted with the high boron intake, low dietary boron resulted in significantly poorer performance on tasks emphasizing manual dexterity; eye-hand coordination; attention; perception; encoding and short-term memory; and long-term memory. The data from these three studies indicate that boron may play a role in human brain function and cognitive performance."6
THEMES The main themes of boron seem to be hardness, protection and growth. It is the second hardest element [after carbon, diamond], it hardens metals and bones, and it makes glass more shatterproof.
PROVINGS ••  Hahnemann - 2 [male] provers; method: unknown.
••  Fischer - provings with tincture of Borax, 1857.
 Merckx Index.  Encyclopaedia Britannica.  Mervyn, Vitamins and Minerals.  Brookhaven National Laboratory Medical Research Center.  Mervyn, ibid.  Penland, Dietary boron, brain function, and cognitive performance; Environ. Health Perspective, Nov. 1994.
Occiput. NUTRITION [NERVES; MUCOUS MEMBRANES]. MOUTH. Skin. Kidneys. Bladder. * RIGHT SIDE.
Worse: DOWNWARD MOTION. MORNING. Wine. Sudden noises. Cold; wet. Fruit. Smoking [diarrhoea]. Before urinating. Salty or sour food. Touch.
Better: Pressure. Walking in open air. Smoking [toothache].
M Hypersensitivity to unexpected noise.
STARTING from SLIGHT NOISES ["unusual sharp sounds, a cough, sneeze, a cry, lighting a match, etc." - Mathur].
Starting from sleep, crying, terrified, clinging, without cause, or SHRIEKING IN SLEEP. Clinging as if frightened.
• "The child weeps periodically very violently, after some minutes it stops, and is then very friendly and laughs." [Hahnemann]
M Lack of shielding / lack of borders.
Confusion of own identity with that of others.
• "I am only worth something if I have something to give. As a therapist I feel the diseases of the patient. If someone has a toothache I feel it right away. In a past life I had a twin sister and I lost the place where I end and she begins. As a child I was told that there was no difference between me and my mother, that everything is just one. ... I don't have the ability to be an individual, independent and on my own. A feeling that I was dependant on her and she on me, and that we cannot be separated."1
• Borax patients are highly excitable individuals with a great intensity of both their emotions and thoughts. Their thoughts and feelings can be so confused that they cannot be separated one from the other. They are people who do not understand what it is to be cool and phlegmatic. There is a resemblance to Phosphorus in the vulnerability to external impressions and stimulus. However, Borax patients are not as receptive and sympathetic as Phosphorus." [Vithoulkas]
M Aggravation from mental effort.
Thinking is difficult and may bring on nausea.
M FEAR of and AGGRAVATION from DOWNWARD MOTION [aeroplane, escalator, stairs].
Causes anxiety, vertigo, confusion, headache.
• "Very timid, in driving down a mountain; quite at variance with his customary bearing; he felt as if it would take his breath away [the first 5 weeks]." [Hahnemann]
• "The child is timid while being dandled; when it is rocked up and down in the arms it makes a very frightened face during the downward motion [the first 3 weeks]." [Hahnemann]
• "A new understanding of Borax that can be suggested is that they feel that they don't have ground under their feet and that is why they are afraid of going down. Ground means something solid, basic, routine, structured. That is when their pathology starts, at the age when we are supposed to build our ground, our basic identity. The process of separation from our guide goes wrong. That is why the Borax child clings to his mother; he doesn't have his own identity and is afraid to let go."2
M Nervous, anxious, fidgety.
M Anger; takes offence easily.
Scolding and cursing about trifles.
• "Before the stool, which ensued easily in the afternoon, he was peevish, cross, lazy, discontented; after it cheerful, contented with himself and with the world, and looking brightly into the future." [Hahnemann]
G Infants with pale face refuse to eat or have little appetite and little gain in weight; after birth-trauma.
G Young women with shining red nose.
G Chilliness [general] but heat in / of single parts.
Heat in mouth, vagina, palms of hands.
Hot head of nervous, crying infants.
G Desire for open air, but cold air <.
G Appetite decreased or wanting.
G Thirst increased or extreme.
[Thirst after sweating; after sleep; before chill; during chill.]
G Easy conception, during the use of borax, observed by Schreter in five women.
G < Fruit. [Fruit is rich in boron.]
• "After eating stewed apples with mutton, fulness of the stomach, with peevishness and ill humour, and fulness in the head, as if the blood were violently pressing in."
• "After eating pears, esp. in the morning or forenoon, pressure in the scrobiculus cordis, with discomfort." [Hahnemann]
Stomach pain after fruit.
Diarrhoea after fruit [pears].
G < AFTER menses.
G < During SLEEP.
G < RIDING on the cars.
G > Seashore.
G APHTHOUS, catarrhal tendency. Mucous stools.
G Clear, thick, hot, biting discharges.
P Hair tangles easily; cannot be combed smooth.
P Aphthous stomatitis: white patches with red areola [prevents child from nursing].
During dentition [and excessive salivation].
Hot mouth; hot urine making the child cry when urinating.
Sore mouth from plate of teeth; < after eating salty or sour food.
P Pain in the OPPOSITE BREAST during nursing.
P Slightest injury suppurates; DRY SKIN, festers easily, won't heal.
Tendency of old wounds and ulcers to suppurate.
[1-2] Rosenthal and Azriel, 'I lost the place where I end and she begins', A case of Borax; HL 1/00.
Fruitlessly busy . Clinging, child awakens terrified, knows no one, clings to those near . Cursing about trifles [1*]. Delusion he is possessed by a devil . Dulness > walking in open air . Fear of contagious disease ; from sudden noise ; of thunderstorm . Idiocy with shrill shrieking . Mistakes in space and time . Changeable mood, > epistaxis [1/1]. Thoughts sexual [1*]. Fritters away his time .
On descending . After animated talking .
Sensation of current of air or wind, above the eyes [1/1]. Hair sticks together at ends [2/1].
Sensation as if he could not move his eyes, during fulness in head and pressure about eyes [1/1*].
Waves of light [1/1].
Obstruction, alternating sides , with lachrymation [1/1].
Pain, > tobacco smoking , during wet weather .
Nausea from thought of food , from mental exertion , while talking . Pain, after fruit .
Sensation as if full of hard pieces which were jumbled together [1/1*].
Sudden urging to urinate during menses . Frequent urination at night, seldom during the day [2.].
Odour, like cat's urine .
Itching of vagina during pregnancy . Menses, in morning , only at night , copious and of short duration , during lactation .
Pain, > lying on back , > pressure , when sneezing , while talking , > walking slowly , when yawning . Sensation as if the heart were on the right side [2/1], and was being squeezed off .
Chilblains > open air [1/1]. Sensation of cobweb on hands [1/1]. Coldness and blueness of hands alternating with heat of hands [1*]. Eruptions, eczema of fingers with loss of nails [1/1]. Trembling of hands from mental exertion [1/1].
Disturbed by coldness . Late falling asleep, early waking .
Sensation as if about to perspire, but no moisture appears .
* Repertory additions [Hughes].
Aversion: : Meat; milk; mother's milk.
Desire: : Sour. : Brandy; cold drinks; milk, milk in the morning.
Worse: : Fruit; sour; pears; wine. : Apples; chocolate drinks; cold drinks; hot food; mutton.
Better: : Cold drinks; cold food.