Amber Teething Necklaces—how could they possibly work?

I had not heard of amber teething necklaces before I had a child. I had heard of other types of healing jewelry such as magnetic bracelets and I had heard of healing crystals, but amber was something new.

A mother posted in our local babywearing group, asking if they worked and it spurred a very long and involved conversation. Some mother’s said that they absolutely believed that amber jewelry helped ease teething discomfort and other ailments, and others felt it was just another unnecessary and potentially unsafe baby product.

The idea intrigued me and I immediately wanted to know how it worked, it’s mechanism of action. From my digging, the majority of the information that I have found on how it works is based on informative blogs from amber jewelry companies. The suggested mechanism is via the release of succinic acid through the warming of the amber resin by body heat. The succinic acid then passes through the skin, enters the blood stream, and gives a therapeutic effect.

This is where this post gets highly nerdy with loads of scientific speculation. Feel free to skip down to the last paragraphs if this is not your forte. No offense taken.

From a strictly medical and scientific standpoint this all seems really far-fetched. A pediatrician and naysayer of amber necklaces as a therapeutic agent for teething did us all a favor and calculated exactly how much succinic acid is contained in an amber necklace in the blog post: https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/amber-waves-of-woo/. This is a very negative post and I disagree with the author on several points. One of the arguments against the potential therapeutic ability of amber is that it has a seemingly low concentration of its active compound succinic acid. However, in my opinion, 11.3 mg (10-3) is a significant amount! Especially when we are talking about a molecule that is typically restricted to mitochondria for its function in the TCA (Krebs) cycle and presumably not normally hanging out in blood. Sure, only a small fraction of that is released onto the skin and taken up into the blood stream, but I could easily imagine picomolar (pM, 10-12) concentrations reaching the blood stream, and there are many compounds that act in that range. Also, we are talking about babies here and I would be more worried about overdosing with higher concentrations anyway.

OK, I think we’re all on board that amber could release succinic acid or some other yet to be identified compound(s) onto the skin, which it turns out is much more porous and absorbing of environmental factors than most people give it credit… But, now what? How is a compound at such low concentrations taking action? My answer is, of course, NEUROSCIENCE! It could be affecting brain centers controlling drool production and potentially modulating pain perception.

Another common agument against amber’s therepeutic properties is “how could a molecule that is made by your own body have such an effect?” It’s true that the main, well documented role of succinic acid is when it is restricted to the inside of the cellular organelle, the mitochondria, as part of the Krebs cycle—not when it’s floating around in the blood stream. However, what a lot people fail to recognize is that similar to ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate, the molecular form of energy essentially), when succinic acid is found outside of cells, it can act as a signaling molecule, a ligand for a receptor. This is a fairly new idea, but it turns out that there is a recently discovered succinate receptor (that is part of the G-orphan coupled receptor family) that uses succinic acid as it’s activator. Unfortunately, going down this pathway of activation would not exactly explain the positive effects of amber teething jewelry, but it does remind us that we just don’t know everything yet. There could be other succinate receptors or other roles for the recently identified one that just hasn’t been discovered yet.

My conclusion is that not enough is known yet to say definitively if and how amber necklaces work, but I personally think it is possible that they do based on the arguments mentioned above and my own personal experience with them on my children. So far many of the parenting practices that have worked best for me have not been well studied in the world of western medicine, nor have they been recommended by my pediatricians, such as co-sleeping, nursing beyond the first year, and not using extinction for night sleep. With the exception of nursing, I have tried following the standard recommendations, but they just did not work for us so I moved on and found something that did. When it comes to infants and young babies who cannot speak, there is still so much that is not known. My advice is always to do what you feel is right. If you are curious and you are being safe about it, give it a shot and if it doesn’t work try something else.

Speaking of safety, it’s important to understand that anything put around your baby’s neck poses a risk for strangulation. One should always keep close watch of a child wearing an amber necklace and always remove it for sleep. Amber necklaces can also be worn on ankles without reducing their efficacy! Worn as an anklet, there is still some risk of the necklace getting caught on something or falling off, but risk for strangulation is greatly reduced. My kids have been preferring to wear them as anklets and don’t even notice them now…

Because you have been such a good sport, sitting through my highly speculative, possibly non-sense quasi-scientific ramblings, I would love to gift you your very own Umai Amber necklace to try! These are beautiful necklaces made of REAL Amber! Be sure to report back with your findings should you be the lucky winner!

Enter using the rafflecopter link below!

In the event that you are not the lucky winner and/or would like to purchase more of these  necklaces, you can order Umai Amber on Amazon! Also, a little tip… You can connect two necklaces to make an adult or big kid sized one.

FYI the images online do not do these necklaces justice! They are so pretty and vibrant in real life and I love all of the unique options that Umai has to offer!

Good Luck!

http://www.umaiamberus.com

*Official Rules for this giveaway

-Enter using Rafflecopter widget. Winner chosen at random by Rafflecopter.

-There are multiple options to gain entry points. Do one single option or all to increase your chances of winning!

-This giveaway is open to worldwide participation!

-This giveaway will close at midnight, Sunday, September 4th, 2016. The winner will be notified on Monday, September 5th, and the necklace shipped on Tuesday, September 6th.

-The winner will receive one baby/child sized amber teething necklace. No substitution or cash equivalent of prizes is permitted. First class worldwide shipping is included!

-This giveaway is sponsored by Umai Amber http://www.umaiamberus.com

-Limitation of Liability:

By entering this contest, the entrant agrees to indemnify, release, and hold harmless, the sponsor, administrator of the contest, facebook, twitter, instagram, etc, from any liability, damages, losses, or injury, resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from the entrants participation in the contest and the acceptance, use, or misuse of the prize.

Link to enter

Umai Amber Rafflecopter giveaway

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7 thoughts on “Amber Teething Necklaces—how could they possibly work?

  1. Thomasina Archer says:

    I didn’t know about Amber necklaces when my first kid was a baby, but I use them with my second and third, and no drooling!! They are great!

    Like

  2. Kayla Sheehan says:

    We’ve used amber on occasion. We would definitely use it more, if I could find the necklace haha but they definitely make a difference. Especially in the amount of drool.

    Like

  3. Marcie Berzinskas says:

    Great post! I’ve had Amber on both my kiddos, and have seen a difference with my son when I took it off for a few nights while he was teething. I figure if it doesn’t hurt them it’s worth a try!

    Like

    • ScienceDrMom says:

      Thank you for bringing this story to my attention. Such a tragic loss that I’m sure will bring a lot of negative attention to amber necklaces. One thing to remeber is that any string, rope, necklace, etc can pose a stangulation risk for an infant or toddler and for that reason, it is recommeded to remove amber necklaces during sleep or any other unattended period. For a child to become strangled without a caregiver noticing brings up a completely different, but important topic about our childcare these days– what circumstances we are allowing because parents need to work.

      Like

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