One of the newest trends is the use of Baltic Amber to aid the pain of teething. While this practice is not new at all, different civilizations have used amber for pain relief for many years, the use for babies especially has increased a ton over the past few years as more natural remedies have been favored over medication. So does Baltic Amber really work for teething? Short answer… probably not but let’s look at why.
What is it?
Let’s start with the basics. Amber is fossilized resin from trees. Baltic Amber is a specific amber that comes from a group of trees found in parts of Russia. Most amber has taken millions of years to become fossilized, picking up debris, insects, different plant particles, etc. during the process. This means that it is difficult to find amber that is all the same, but “REAL” Baltic Amber is tested and meets certain very scientific criteria which I can neither spell nor understand. The key here is that we are talking about really old resin.
How does it work?
Hypothetically Baltic Amber helps relieve pain because it contains Succinic Acid, which has been proven to act as an analgesic when used topically at the source of pain. So the thought process here is that the Baltic Amber slowly releases the Succinic acid and wearing amber beads (either as a necklace, bracelet, anklet, etc.) would allow the Succinic acid to be absorbed and help alleviate pain. Most subscribers to this idea recommend that you wear the Baltic Amber close to the source of pain in order to allow the acid to affect the painful area. In the case of teething, amber necklaces worn by baby are the recommended product.
Sounds too easy..
And you are right! We are going to get a little science-y here. Succinic Acid is a natural occurring compound that we already produce in our bodies. It can also be chemically engineered outside of our bodies or found in other natural things, such as amber as I stated above. The melting point of Succinic Acid is around 363 degrees, meaning in order for the skin to be able to absorb Succinic Acid it would need to be applied to the skin at a temperature of 363 degrees or mixed with another chemical to keep it in liquid form. Last time I checked, human body temperatures were 98.6 degrees so wearing Baltic Amber is not EVER going to heat the amber enough to release the Succinic Acid and allow your body to absorb it for pain relief.
BUT WAIT! Succinic Acid is also water-soluble, which means it dissolves in water based liquids without being heated. Problem solved, as long as you are sweating on the beads they would slowly dissolve enough to release the Succinic Acid and there’s your pain relief! Close! This theory gets us closer to actually working, but you would need to be sweating about 100 mL (about 6 tablespoons) at a time to dissolve enough to feel effects.
So basically, Baltic Amber has the compound necessary to provide pain relief but there is not a good way to access it that works for the purpose of pain relief.
Whatever, it works for my kid!
Enter the placebo effect! Yes, it does work for many, and there is NO scientific reason why it does but it does. I can know the power of it myself. With my first we were desperate. He was in pain for what seemed like FOREVER before his first tooth popped through. We tried everything and nothing was helping, until the magical Baltic Amber anklet we got him. Red Flag: remember how I said the amber would need to be close to the source of pain to hypothetically be helpful? Yeah, my son did not have his foot in his mouth 24 hours a day so wearing an anklet, even if Baltic Amber worked, would not have relieved pain from his mouth. But it totally worked. My theory, we were so desperate and tired and stressed from all his crying that we wanted the amber to work, and wanting it to work was enough to relax us a bit and my son’s magical pain relief was actually him not picking up on stressed, anxious parents for the first time in weeks. Calm parents make calm babies.
So we finally had pain relief. It lasted about a week. Why? Because it wasn’t actually doing anything to help the pain. So when his teeth hurt he was still hurting.
There are a few other things to consider when deciding if you should use Baltic Amber for teething:
- Your baby, who may or may not be aware of things like choking hazards, is going to have small beads wrapped around their neck. When you break it down like that it sounds like a pretty bad idea right?
- If the necklace (or bracelet or whatever) breaks you now have tiny beads near your babies mouth. Not sure how amber reacts in the tummy but also not in the mood to find out.
- Upon washing the beads, because if they are on a baby they will inevitably need to be washed, wouldn’t you wash away the Succinic Acid that is supposed to be helping? Not very well-thought-out plan…
Let’s agree, no Baltic Amber
So, in conclusion, I’m pretty sure I will not be trying Baltic Amber for teething with number two. Sure the placebo effect is nice and works for many, but Baltic Amber isn’t exactly a cheap placebo effect and I am still not convinced that a small beads wrapped around my little baby’s neck is the best solution for any problem.