How do amber teething necklaces work?
Recent media attention has brought up the question as to how safe amber teething necklaces are for your baby and how amber teething necklaces work, or whether they work at all. While we don’t have direct evidence of how they work, the testimonials of thousands of parents tell us they do help.
This is what we at MamaPukeko know….
For centuries the people of Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Poland) have worn Amber to help cure all types of pains and ailments. In these countries it is believed to help cure anything from sore throats to arthritis and epilepsy. Gintaras (Lithuanian for amber) comes from “ginte” (meaning to protect).
The scientific investigation into the healing properties of amber is ongoing and inconclusive, but there are two explanations about the way Amber works:
The main explanation is that Baltic Amber contains a substance called succinic acid and related compounds called succinates. These occur naturally in the body as part of cellular respiration, and Baltic Amber has much higher levels of this chemical than other ambers. For this reason it is also called succinite and the Latin word for amber is succinum.
Succinic Acid occurs naturally in our bodies and is claimed to be have antioxidant properties that help fight free radicals. It can act as an analgesic (pain killer), anxiolytic (anxiety reliever), anti-biotic and an anti-inflammatory and is used in the production of antibiotics, vitamins and amino acids (vi). It is believed that small amounts of succinic acid may be absorbed from the amber into the bloodstream when it is worn in contact with skin.
The second explanation we came across is that Amber is electromagnetically charged, as the Greeks believed thousands of years ago. This negative charge produces negative ionization on the skin surface which in turn has a positive anti-inflammatory influence on the body, however we are unable to find any proof of this and this is perhaps the more outrageous theory that is giving amber a bad name amongst sceptics.
Scientists have stated it is unlikely that chemicals will leach out of amber and into the skin due to body temperature alone, and would require much higher temperatures.
While we are unable to find any studies that have examined how succinic amber may get into your body, we were able to find studies that suggest how succinic acid could be responsible for the benefits described above from amber. See the science section below for a summary of the studies we could find and further insight into the question “How do amber teething necklaces work”?.
Of course just because there is no evidence yet, doesn’t mean that it won’t be found in the future. Science also says that homeopathy is nonsense, yet millions of people swear by its benefits…the same with sleeping on magnets to relieve aches and pains. Centuries of new scientific discoveries show that just because it can’t be explained now, doesn’t mean it can’t be possible.
We are not saying that we know exactly how these work, and because all babies are different in how they react to teething, we can’t guarantee that your baby will teeth better than the next with amber. But it is possible that the healing & soothing effect of Amber are due to both of these explanations, or none – maybe it’s all psychological – although babies can’t possibly know this!
What we do know is the testimony of people all over the world that agree that amber has helped their baby through teething (including ourselves) or say that wearing amber has alleviated their own pain (such as elderly people we know) cannot be ignored.
If you are sceptical that it won’t work then we don’t have concrete proof to convince you otherwise.
However if you have a teething baby and want at least the chance of an night with a bit more sleep you have nothing to lose trying amber. Or if you suffer from chronic pain we know you will be more than willing to try something that may even give you slight improvement.
The science behind amber
While many people will find this section boring, we have included it as many criticisms against amber necklaces are that there is no medical or scientific evidence as to the benefits of amber. While we are unable to find any studies that describe how compounds are transferred between amber and the body, we were able to find out this….
- Baltic Amber consists of up to 8% succinic acid and its related succinate compounds, whereas other ambers often have no trace of these chemicals (i, ii, iii)
- The 2003 study by Chen (and others) found that succinic acid at low doses, reduced the anxiety effects when tested on mice. They found that succinic acid reduced the stress induced temperature rises in mice. When babies are teething, they experience pain and associated with that a rise in temperature and stress. Based on this study we could assume that the succinic acid in Baltic Amber could therefore reduce this stress and temperature. They also mention that succinic acid has been reported to have a slight sedative effect, has prolonged anaesthetic sleep in mice, and has reduced seizures caused by noise in rats.
- Amber has been shown to have antibacterial properties with a 1-5% solution reducing bacterial growth on food (v).
- In past centuries succinic acid was produced from Baltic Amber and purified, and was therefore called ‘Oil of Amber’. It was reported that one pound of Amber could produce 1/2 oz of succinic acid (vii). This was then used to treat tuberculosis (viii), hayfever, rhematism and amber jewellery was a popular deterrant against cold and flu (vii).
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i) Gough, L. J. & Mills, J. S. (1972).
‘The composition of succinite (Baltic amber)’. Nature 239: 527-528. (doi:10.1038/239527a0)
ii) Mills, J. S., White, R. & Gough, L. J. (1984)
‘The chemical composition of Baltic amber’. Chemical Geology 47, 15-39.
iii) Alexander P. Wolfe, Ralf Tappert, Karlis Muehlenbachs, Marc Boudreau, Ryan C. McKellar, James F Basinger and Amber Garrett. (2009).
‘A new proposal concerning the botanical origin of Baltic Amber’. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences 276: 3403-3412
iv) Si Wei Chen, Qin Xin, Wei Xi Kong, Li Min, & Jing Fang Li. (2003)
‘Anxiolytic-like effect of succinic acid in mice’.
Life Sciences 73: 3257-3264
v) Davidson, P. Michael, Sofos, John N., Branen, Alfred Larry (eds). (2005).
‘Antimicrobials in Food: Third Edition.’
Taylor & Francis
vi) Xu, Jun, & Guo, Bao-Hua.
‘Microbial Succinic Acid, its polymer Poly(butylene succinate), and applications’. Page 347 in Chen, Guo-Qiang (ed) (2010)
‘Plastics from Bacteria. Natural Functions and applications’.
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
vii) Anshutz, E.P. (1996)
‘New, Old and forgotten remedies.’ Pg 487.
B.Jain Publishers Ltd, New Delhi. ISBN 81-7021-251-0
viii) Davis, F.A. (1894).
‘The Medical bulletin: a monthly journal of medicine and surgery, Volume 16′.
United States. Army. 3rd. Office of the Surgeon.
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