Health Experts Debunk TikTok's Borax Health Trend

TikTok can go from cute and useful to downright dangerous within a matter of seconds. Yes, you can find fashion hacks like the fit fixer that help pull in a loose pair of pants for a better fit, but you can also find trends like the Tide Pod challenge and inhaling smelling salts that leave health experts rushing to debunk false claims. 

And now, TikTok is back at it with the borax health trend. The erroneous claim on the social media platform is all about diluting a pinch of 20 Mule Team Borax in water and drinking it. Apparently, this has many supposed health benefits, including treating inflammation, joint pain, arthritis, and lupus. You probably already associate the word "borax" with laundry detergent, and you're right. As explained by medical toxicology physician and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center, Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, to In the Know by Yahoo, "Borax is a chemical that contains the element boron. Borax and boric acid are used in disinfectants, and ant and roach killers." 

The TikTok trend is not only misleading but also extremely dangerous, according to health experts. The users claiming alleged health benefits might look like they're doing something harmless, but this is actually one of those TikTok health trends that is riskier than you realized

Borax is toxic and should not be ingested

Apart from the 20 Mule Team Borax laundry detergent booster's box itself advising people not to ingest the stuff, borax can actually be poisonous and lead to adverse reactions if consumed, according to pediatric emergency medicine physician Dr. Meghan Martin on TikTok. "Do not drink borax. Initial symptoms after drinking borax, usually around two-four hours [after], you develop nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, red eyes, and it can actually progress to kidney failure and death. Don't do this," she cautioned. Borax is best left as an insecticide, fungicide, and cleaner, as explained Martin in another video.

You might think that people would be wary about consuming anything manufactured by a brand of cleaning product to begin with, but this hasn't stopped influencers from jumping on the borax trend. Several health experts have used the same platform to debunk the myth, like the analytical chemist with a background in small molecule organics who goes by the name Science Bat on social media. "It will harm you ... Please do not do this," she shared on TikTok. Registered dietitian Andy Miller added, "It is not worth risking organ damage just so you can try the newest asinine health trend that's sweeping TikTok."

Talking about the supposed health benefits of the trend, Johnson-Arbor told NBC News, "There's really nothing to support the use of borax in humans for inflammation or reduction of oxidative stress or anything like that."

Our bodies have enough boron

The claim seems to have found its footing in the fact that boron (found in borax), a naturally occurring element found in leafy greens and grains, helps the metabolization of vitamins and minerals in our body. Although the boron in our system is linked to bone health, there is no dietary recommendation for the element, according to Healthline. While boron supplements are commercially available, our bodies usually get the 1 to 13 milligrams accepted daily intake if we're consuming the right foods, per WebMD.

Registered holistic nutritionist Lisa Kilgour also took to TikTok to debunk this dangerous health trend. "I'm big believer in natural health [and] supplementation. I'm well-trained in these things, which is why I need to talk about borax," she shared. According to Kilgour, you can find 250 milligrams of boron in just 1/16 of a teaspoon of borax — what TikTokers might be calling "a pinch." And this tiny amount is still 100 times more than what your body needs. "When we overtake one mineral at a very high level in non-food form, we can become deficient in cofactors [like enzymes for digestion] and we throw everything else out of whack," explained the nutritionist.

In addition to being a form of health advice on TikTok that straight up lied to you, the borax health trend is one more example of why viewers should be reaching out to registered health professionals and valid sources before trying anything they see on social media.