Saturday, February 16, 2013

Amber Teething Necklace

What is it

      The amber teething necklace is claimed to help infants with the pain of teething. Now the first thing I noticed about this, is that you're putting a string of choking hazards around your child's neck. To me, this doesn't seem like a safe alternative. As a parent I can sympathize with wanting to relieve the pain in your children, or even to have a few moments of quiet. Like most alternative medicine, I was not able to find a lot of science, or trials testing the efficacy of this, well actually none at all. As usual I found a lot of anecdotal evidence and post hoc fallacies. That being said, that alone does not mean it's entirely bunk.


      Let's explore how this is said to work. The best explanation I can find is that the amber releases succinic acid and that is absorbed into the skin. There are a few other more wild explanations like it's bio-interactive, or that it aligns chakras, or that it has homeopathic qualities. So lets ignore the explanations that we know aren't possible and look at the one plausible explanation. There are three assumptions being made in the claims for this product. All of these assumptions need to be true for this product to work the way it is described.

      1. Amber releases succinic acid
      2. Succinic acid is an effective pain reliever
      3. Succinic acid can be absorbed through the skin

Does it work

      Lets look at assumption 1. Amber does contain succinic acid, however getting it out of the amber requires a lot of processing. Amber is fossilized tree resin, that has been compressed, heated and cooled over hundreds of thousands to millions of years. The idea that it can release anything on contact with skin, after it has been pushed and polished for so long does not seem logical to me. The process of getting succinic acid out of the amber involves crushing it into powder and then distilling it. Looking at all the information available, while amber does contain succinic acid, I don't believe it's going to give it up just from skin contact.

      On to assumption 2. Succinic acid is used as an additive in the food on industry to control the acidity of products. There are reports that it has been used in the past (before modern testing) as a topical pain reliever. There is no evidence today that I could find that shows it is an effective pain reliever.

      Now assumption 3. Succinic acid, once extracted from the amber, is a solid salt like substance. While it could be possible to absorb it through the skin, this substance is known as a skin irritant. It is not considered a dangerous substance. When we look at it being a skin irritant, it would seem likely that if assumption 1 was correct we would see a skin irritation where the beads were worn.


      After looking at all the evidence and claims for this product, I would highly recommend not using it. This product poses a serious choking and strangulation hazard to infants. There is also no evidence to support that this relieves the pain in any way. As there has been no scientific trials conducted on this, most likely due to the high risk and no plausible method of it working, I can not say 100% that this will not work. All logical and reasonable examination of this points to this as being ineffective.

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