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Boro-glycerine is a transparent yellow, tasteless,[1] compound of boric acid and glycerine.[2] It is a powerful antiseptic and is used primarily in oral and dental applications. Historically, it was also used in the preservation of food.[2]


At a meeting of the Society of Arts, on March 29, 1882, Professor Barff delivered a lecture, in which he announced his discovery of boro-glycerine. Barff had been attempting to find a way in which boracic acid, a known antiseptic, could be used to preserve meats, at a time when beef prices were considered high. He hoped to find a suitable alternative to freezing, which would allow cheap imports to be obtained from around the world.[3]


Food preservationEdit

As early as 1883, scientific reports recommended boro-glycerine as a safe, suitable preservative for a range of foods, including meat, oysters, milk, and butter.[1] Various experiments, including shipping meats dipped in a boro-glycerine solution on long sea voyages,[2] proved Barff's technique.

Historical medicalEdit

The discovery of a safe means to apply boric acid drew much attention within the medical profession, and by 1835 various experiments, relying on the antiseptic properties of boro-glycerine, were being carried out. Ailments ranged from psoriasis, and other scaly conditions of the skin[4] to chilblains,[5] and the search for a treatment of cancer of the uterus.[6]

Boro-glycerine found its way into many "medicinal" products, including shaving creams,[7] in which it was considered a skin conditioner,[8] and applied directly as a lip balm[9]

Oral and dentalEdit

Boro-glycerine proved most effective as an oral and dental antiseptic. In particular, it is effective in the treatment of mouth ulcers,[10][11] stomatitis and glossitis.[12] It is also frequently used as a wash for the care of the mouth in unconscious patients.[13] Preparation - It comprises 88% glycerin and 12% borax. Finely ground borax is dissolved in glycerin and the solution is ready for use (Ref. IP 66)

Boro-glycerine can also be used as a suitable base in controlling the setting time of Zinc Oxide pastes whilst taking a dental impression.[14]

Other medicalEdit

Boro-glycerine, in solution, is used in the treatment of conjunctivitis,[15] earache and ear infections,[16] and is a suitable antiseptic lotion in cases of ophthalmia and diphtheria.[17]


Alfred P.Wire recommended boro glycerine as a mounting medium in the preparation of microscope slides.[18]


  1. ^ a b The Morning Herald (Jul 22, 1883) A Half Dozen Scientific Notes Science Section Retrieved June 2011
  2. ^ a b c Popular Science. (Sep 1883) Vol. 23, No. 37. p.626. Bonnier Corporation. ISSN 0161-7370. Retrieved June 2011
  3. ^ Waikato Times, Volume XVIII, Issue 1548, June 6, 1882, Page 2. Retrieved June 2011
  4. ^ Culbertson, J.C. (1835) The Cincinnati lancet and clinic Volume 16; Volume 55 p. 174. Retrieved June 2011
  5. ^ Keppel, W. H. (Reprint 2009) The Ladies' Beauty Book and the Old Home Doctor p. 344. Read Books ISBN 1-4446-5233-8 Retrieved June 2011
  6. ^ Culbertson, J.C. (1835) The Cincinnati lancet and clinic Volume 16; Volume 55 p.604. Retrieved June 2011.
  7. ^ The Morning Leader. (Oct 11, 1923) Advertisement Retrieved June 2011
  8. ^ The Montreal Gazette (Sep 25, 1923) Advertisement Retrieved June 2011
  9. ^ The Carroll Herald (May 13, 1896) Secret of Pretty Lips Retrieved June 2011
  10. ^ Jones, Eli G. (2000) Definite Medication p.93. B. Jain ISBN 81-7021-244-8 Retrieved June 2011
  11. ^ Prasad, B. (1997) Principles and Practice of Medicine a Textbook for Students and Practitioners p.343. Jaypee Brothers Publishers ISBN 81-7179-516-1 Retrieved June 2011
  12. ^ Jaypee Brothers (2005) Essentials of Pharmacology for Dentistry p.464. Jaypee Brothers Publishers ISBN 81-8061-583-9 Retrieved June 2011
  13. ^ Ganguli, I.K. & Ganguli, A.K. (1983) First aid to the injured: nursing & bandaging 3rd Ed. p. 88. Academic Publishers ISBN 81-87504-96-X Retrieved June 2011
  14. ^ Chandra (2007) A Textbook of Dental Materials p.99. Jaypee Brothers Publishers ISBN 81-7179-738-5 Retrieved June 2011
  15. ^ Norton, A. B. (1997) Ophthalmic Diseases & their Homeopathic Therapeutics p.203. B. Jain Publishers ISBN 81-7021-587-0 Retrieved June 2011.
  16. ^ Kumar, R. (1992) Social and preventive health administration p.357. APH Publishing ISBN 81-7024-454-4 Retrieved June 2011
  17. ^ Nadkarni, K. M. (1994) Dr. K. M. Nadkarni's Indian Materia medica, Volume 2 3rd Ed. p.107. Popular Prakashan ISBN 81-7154-143-7 Retrieved June 2011
  18. ^ Hardwicke's Science-Gossip (1885), pages 139-140 (figure 4). Quoted at Retrieved June 2011