Boric acid is a chemical that’s been used to treat some types of vaginal infections. It’s available in several forms, including suppositories that you place into your vagina.
You may have heard that you can become very sick or potentially die from boric acid. Because of this, you may be wondering whether boric acid suppositories are actually safe to use.
There have been no deaths reported from using boric acid suppositories. While boric acid can indeed be toxic when ingested orally, vaginal applications are considered to be safe.
Continue reading to learn more about the safety of boric acid suppositories and more.
A quick internet search may bring up some concern about the safety of boric acid suppositories.
But while boric acid suppositories can cause mild side effects, no serious side effects or deaths have been reported.
While swallowing a boric acid suppository is very dangerous, inserting one labeled for vaginal application into the vagina is generally considered safe.
Is boric acid toxic?
A 2010 statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that ingesting about 30 grams of boric acid in a short period of time is toxic to humans and can eventually result in death.
This is much less than the amount of boric acid that’s in a boric acid suppository, which is typically 600 grams.
Because suppositories may appear similar to a pill that you take orally, there is the risk that they could be accidentally swallowed.
Swallowing a boric acid suppository is dangerous, but using one as labeled for vaginal application is generally safe.
Side effects of using boric acid vaginal suppositories as directed tend to be mild. They can include things like vaginal irritation or discharge.
A 2011 study looked at the effects of boric acid suppositories on the vagina. The researchers found that boric acid absorption into the bloodstream through the vagina was minimal.
Additionally, the researchers saw no abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix.
Boric acid and reproductive health
Because boric acid suppositories are inserted into the vagina, another concern related to them has to do with their potential effect on reproductive health.
Studies in animals have found that when taken orally, boric acid can affect fertility in male animals and affect a developing fetus in female animals. However, studies in humans haven’t returned the same results.
A 2020 research review examined the animal studies discussed above and compared them with studies in humans who are regularly exposed to high levels of boron, the key element in boric acid, in the environment.
Overall, researchers found that:
- So far, studies of human exposure to high levels of boron haven’t produced the same reproductive effects that have been observed in animals.
- Even the highest levels of environmental boron exposure were too low to reach blood and tissue levels that would have harmful effects on human reproduction.
Symptoms of boric acid poisoning
Boric acid suppositories can appear similar to pills that you’d take orally. If you or someone else accidentally swallows a boric acid suppository, call 911 or local emergency services.
Some symptoms of boric acid poisoning include:
Boric acid has been used, either alone or with other medications, to treat some types of recurrent vaginal infections, such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. (A recurrent infection is an infection that continues to return, despite treatment.)
In the 2009 trial, participants were given oral nitroimidazole, an antimicrobial drug used to treat vaginal infections, followed by boric acid suppositories.
Cure rates were between 88 and 92 percent after this treatment. However, the infection returned in many participants over the course of several weeks.
How exactly does boric acid work?
It’s unclear how exactly boric acid works to treat vaginal infections. It’s believed that it may work through disrupting fungal and bacterial growth.
It may also prevent these organisms from forming biofilms. Biofilms are a group of microorganisms that have organized within a sticky matrix. Organisms that have formed a biofilm can be harder to treat with some types of medications.
New boric acid-based therapies for vaginal infections
A novel boric acid-based therapy appears to be safe and effective in clinical trials. It’s called TOL-463. TOL-463 is made of boric acid and another chemical called EDTA, which can enhance the activity of boric acid.
Researchers found that a TOL-463 vaginal insert had a cure rate of 92 percent for yeast infections and 59 percent for bacterial vaginosis. The researchers note that this was comparable to the cure rates of other approved treatments for these conditions.
Additionally, side effects were mild and mainly included vaginal irritation. No serious or severe side effects were observed.
Using boric acid suppositories is associated with a few side effects. These are generally mild and can include:
If you’re using boric acid suppositories to treat a vaginal infection and experience significant discomfort, stop using them and contact your doctor for other treatment options.
Additionally, if you’ve been using boric acid suppositories and your infection isn’t getting better or gets worse, contact your doctor for a different treatment option.
Avoid having vaginal intercourse while you’re using boric acid suppositories.
It may also be a good idea to avoid oral sex as well to reduce the risk of your partner ingesting boric acid that may still be present in or around your vagina.
Boric acid products and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
It’s likely you’ll notice that boric acid suppositories are marketed as a homeopathic product. It’s important to know that homeopathic products, including boric acid suppositories, aren’t currently approved by the FDA.
This means that the FDA hasn’t reviewed these products for their safety and effectiveness in treating specific health conditions before they entered the market.
Because of this, it’s important to talk with your doctor before using any homeopathic product, including boric acid suppositories.
Because studies into the reproductive effects of boric acid are ongoing, avoid boric acid suppositories if you’re:
- planning to become pregnant
Additionally, avoid using boric acid suppositories if you:
- currently have vaginal bleeding, open cuts, or sores in or around your vagina
- have or suspect that you have an STI or pelvic inflammatory disease
- are currently experiencing symptoms that could indicate a more serious condition, such as fever, chills, or nausea and vomiting
- have certain underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system
- are currently taking blood-thinning medications
Boric acid typically appears as an odorless white powder. It can be naturally found in the environment in:
Additionally, boric acid is used in various commercial products, such as:
- plant fertilizers
- household cleaning products
- laundry detergents
- personal care products
Boric acid was first used as an antiseptic
Because boric acid is naturally found in the environment, many people consider it to be a “greener” option for treating vaginal infections. But this isn’t entirely true.
One of the main sources of boron and boric acid is the mining of minerals that have a high boron content. Not only does mining consume a lot of resources, but it can also introduce pollutants into the environment.
Boric acid suppositories can be used to treat some types of recurrent vaginal infections. Examples include yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Using boric acid suppositories as labeled is generally safe. Side effects are mild and may include vaginal irritation and discharge. No serious side effects or deaths have been reported.
Boric acid is toxic when ingested by mouth, though. Boric acid poisoning can lead to serious symptoms and can be fatal. Because of this, always keep boric acid suppositories separate from oral medications to avoid accidental ingestion.
There are some people who should avoid using boric acid suppositories. If you’re interested in using boric acid suppositories or have questions or concerns, speak with your doctor first before using them.