Borax, also known as Tankan Bhasma in Ayurveda, and Peng Sha in Chinese herbal medicine, is being promoted as a supplement and herbal remedy with numerous benefits. Among other things it is believed to be anti-inflammatory, astringent, antimicrobial, expectorant, and even emmenagogue. But how much of this is true? And is it safe to use this crystal extract of the mineral to treat ailments both internal and external?
What Is Borax?
Sodium tetraborate, or borax for short, is used as a herbal remedy in traditional Chinese medicine and also in Ayurveda. You may be more familiar with it as a cleaning agent or an ingredient in detergents. It is also found in some makes of toothpaste and soaps. But it is its use as a medicinal treatment for health problems that is of particular interest to those who are seeing alternative remedies.
What follows are some common maladies for which borax has traditionally been used. However, be warned that there is not always adequate scientific research to back up these claims for mainstream use. And with the mineral being potentially toxic if used incorrectly or consumed internally, it may be best to avoid resorting to usage in lieu of other natural remedies or mainstream medicine unless specifically prescribed. If you do choose to try borax, never do so without the guidance of a trained certified alternative and complementary medicine or traditional medicine practitioner.
Health Benefits Of Borax
1. Treats Swollen Throat, Mouth, And Tongue Sores
According to the Concise Chinese Materia Medica, borax is a remedy to be used as a topical treatment for certain health problems like sores on the tongue or mouth, as well as swelling of the throat. It can cause toxins to disperse from the affected area, bringing down swelling.
Borax also eases pain linked to the swelling or sores. The remedy, made by combining borax with Cinnabaris, Borneolum, and Natrii Sulfas Exsiccatus, is usually applied topically.1
2. Heals Painful Swollen Red Eye
Another traditional treatment, borax is paired with Calamina, Borneolum, and Natrii Sulfas Exsiccatus to create eye drops. These are administered to soothe the eye when it is red and swollen.2
With an organ as delicate as the eye involved, and the importance of the correct mix of these ingredients, it goes without saying that this treatment needs to be done only with professional help.
3. Relieves Congestion And Tonsillitis
For those suffering from congestion in the lung or battling a hard to relieve cough with phlegm that isn’t coming out, Peng Sha is given to clear the phlegm. For this treatment, the borax is combined with other herbs to create a powder or pill. However, traditional practitioners also warn that borax is typically prescribed for external use and its internal use should be undertaken with care and the right form of borax. If this is not done carefully, it can be toxic.3 With such dire warnings, it may be best to avoid using borax internally.
Ayurveda too, views Tankan Bhasma as a good expectorant that has strong anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Research has shown it is able to relieve symptoms of chronic tonsillitis when used in a gargling solution.4
4. Cures Urinary Infections
Ayurveda believes Tankan Bhasma acts on the urinary bladder, uterus, and stomach, besides the lungs. Its antimicrobial benefits can therefore be tapped to cure urinary infections. Chinese herbal medicine has a similar application in treating urinary dysfunction that involves stone formation in the urine and is often painful. Homeopathy suggest borax for those with cystitis, a condition that causes a sharp pain in the urinary opening and a general ache in the bladder that gives you a feeling of urine being retained.5
5. Eases Menstrual Problems
Tankan Bhasma is an emmenagogue. It helps ease menstrual problems in women. Ayurvedic research has found that it helps with maintenance of normal uterine and menstrual function. This makes it beneficial to women with dysmenorrhoea or amenorrhoea, commonly referred to as irregular or absent periods. It acts by clearing obstructions in the body, alleviating kapha and vata and bringing balance to your system. Studies have evaluated its use along with other herbs to help treat Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS and found it to be effective.6
6. Helps Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis
Another application of borax has been for treating rheumatoid arthritis(RA). With its anti-inflammatory powers already being recognized by traditional medicine like Ayurveda, experts today are exploring it possibilities for treating inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis(RA). In one pilot study in Iraq, the use of boron was found to cause big improvements in clinical scores and brought down inflammatory markers significantly in patients with RA.7 Research suggests that those with arthiritis have lower boron concentrations in their bones, synovial fluid, and femur heads. This has promoted some researchers to suggest that boron is an essential nutrient for the health of your joints and bones, and indicated potential for its therapeutic use in treating arthritis.8
Risks And Side Effects
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners generally do not recommend using borax for those who have a Yin deficiency or anyone who has obstructions in the flow of Qi. Internal use is generally not suggested. Even for external use, the borax must first be calcined. Due to its highly alkaline nature, it might cause skin irritation in some people. There are also reports of adverse reproductive and developmental impact on the fetus. Which is why even traditional medicine says it is to be avoided in pregnant women.
Its use in the long term is not recommended as there is a possibility of causing renal dysfunction as the borax accumulates in the body. It can also cause fatigue or vomiting due to toxicity. Some research suggests it could also cause genetic damage and be toxic to lymphocytes, the building block of the body’s immune system.9
|↑1, ↑2||Brand, Eric, and Nigel Wiseman. Concise Chinese Materia Medica. Paradigm Publications, 2008.|
|↑3||Brand, Eric, and Nigel Wiseman. Concise Chinese Materia Medica. Paradigm Publications,2008.|
|↑4||Ravishankar, A. G., and T. S. Mahesh. “Tankana bhasma kavala in chronic tonsillitis.” Unique Journal of Ayurvedic and Herbal Medicines 1, no. 02 (2013): 41-44.|
|↑5||Urinary Tract Infection. University of Michigan.|
|↑6||Deshpande, Sarang, Kamini Moundekar, Shailesh Malekar, Patni Showkat, and Ujawane Pragati. “Effect of Polyherbal Formulation in Treatment of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).” Iosr-Jpbs 5, no. 5 (2013): 63-66.|
|↑7||Hussain, Saad Abdulrahman, Sattar Jabir Abood, and Faiq Isho Gorial. “The adjuvant use of calcium fructoborate and borax with etanercept in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Pilot study.” Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology 6, no. 1 (2017).|
|↑8||Newnham, Rex E. “Essentiality of boron for healthy bones and joints.” Environmental health perspectives 102, no. Suppl 7 (1994): 83.|
|↑9||Pongsavee, Malinee. “Effect of borax on immune cell proliferation and sister chromatid exchange in human chromosomes.” Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 4, no. 1 (2009): 27.|