Living your best life with arthritis.

AS it Goes – Amber as Therapy?

Amber bead necklace in heart shapeMy friend, her daughter and her 6-month old son recently came for an afternoon visit and while the baby entertained us with his antics, his shirt opened to reveal that he was wearing a necklace made of small amber beads.

The baby’s mother, a university-educated and grounded young woman, told me that many young babies wear these necklaces because it is believed that amber has strong anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Babies wear amber as a remedy for teething; Baltic amber, in particular, is thought to soothe and calm a fussy baby without resorting to drugs.

I have written many blogs on purported anti-inflammatory fads or natural products, and I am genuinely interested in alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs to counter joint and muscle inflammation. However, the skeptical look on my face about the power of amber was enough that my friend’s daughter immediately grabbed her smartphone, Googled ‘amber’ and then read me the following: “Amber is fossilized resin, which warms against the skin, releasing its therapeutic properties safely and naturally.”

So how would tree resin (not sap), an organic solid that takes millions of years to fossilize under the earth’s intense pressure and high temperatures, emit healing qualities when warmed by a baby’s skin? It’s true that any jewelry, real or fake, becomes warm when worn against the skin for an extended time. And it’s also true that amber will melt when heated above 200 degrees C, which allows manufacturers to compress small amber pieces into jewelry such as necklaces. The ancients discovered that they could pulverize and distill amber into a spirit of amber, which they used to combat rheumatism aches and pains.

Baltic amber is the most commonly referred to type of amber on websites devoted to the resin’s natural healing qualities. The Baltic region in Europe has one of the largest deposits of amber and because that amber contains 8% succinic acid, it is referred to succinite. (When you heat succinic acid, you get oil of amber). Succinic acid is currently used in the food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries, to regulate or control acidity. It also is an FDA-approved food additive and dietary supplement.

I am mystified how this acid manages to leach out of a piece of amber, permeate the skin and enter the bloodstream in sufficient quantities to have an effect on pain. I could not find any scientific evidence on the Internet that explained how this magical transfer occurs.

However, today’s parents are seeking alternative and holistic approaches to bringing up baby, and amber’s mysterious healing abilities fall into that category. There are dozens of testimonials online from mothers who swear the amber necklaces have countered their baby’s teething issues. Of course, the baby necklaces also have an unquantifiable “cute” factor, which may add to its attractiveness. Special powers indeed!

What about baby ingesting the small beads (these necklaces are for teething babies who put everything in their mouths)? The websites reassure readers that if a strand of beads Fran Halterbreaks, there is a knot before and after each bead, which reduces the risk of baby eating a bead or choking (whew).

So, all in all, amber sounds innocuous enough. My research into the science behind this folk medicine indicates that wearing amber may be just that: harmless. Looks like today’s informed and web-savvy parents still believe in Old Wives’ tales. ~Fran


What do you think of amber as a therapy? Have you tried it, and did it work? Let us know!