Thu, August 28, 2008 | Lisa Barger
“Do those teething necklaces made out of amber beads really work for teething pain? This just seems so weird to me.”
Weird or not, those strings of beads have become a popular home remedy for teething pain in toddlers and infants. How well do they work? Well, let’s find out.
What Amber Teething Necklaces Really Are
Amber teething beads are small beads made from a resin known popularly as “amber”. You’ve seen amber at craft fairs and farmers’ markets in the form of handmade jewelry. You may have also seen it made into paperweights or other desk items sold in gift shops—often with insects trapped inside.
Contrary to what you might see on the various parenting and natural living boards around the ‘net, these necklaces cannot be legally sold either as medical devices or as toys here in the U.S. and do not meet the standards set forth in the European standard EN 71-1. In fact, in 2007, Green Baby recalled their entire inventory after at least one “reported incident”.
What They’re Supposed to Do For You
Just as we expected, the various explainations for how amber relieves teething pain vary widely. Some of the most common explainations we found include:
- They act as a “bio-transmitter comparable to aromatherapy and homeopathy”.
- Friction with cloth creates “static electricity” and “electro-negative” charges.
- The warmth of the body releases “miniscule amounts of healing oils” which are then absorbed.
- Amber is “electromagnetically alive” with “organic energy”.
- Succinic acid is released from the amber when the beads are chewed.
And, of course, there’s a raging debate over whether the necklaces should simply be worn on the skin or whether children should be allowed to chew on them.
Is There Any Science To Back Up These Claims?
Although we could find dozens of web sites hawking everything from beaded necklaces to amber pacifiers, we could find absolutely no science to back up those claims. Given that these beads have supposedly been a “common remedy” for centuries—and how large the baby products market is—surely someone should have been able to prove them scientifically.
One thing that is proven is that amber is a source of succinic acid. In fact, at one time, amber was actually distilled to produce an anti-inflammatory remedy known as “spirit of amber”. Succinic acid is also a byproduct of sugar fermentation and is found in beer and other fermented foods.
I could not imagine putting a necklace of any kind on an infant. Not all parents leave these on 24 hours a day but on every parenting forum we visited in preparation for this article, we found plenty of parents who left them on their babies even when the babies were asleep. With all the precautions we take to avoid choking and strangulation deaths in our children and grandchildren, products like these amber beads seem like a huge step backward.
I’m also far from convinced by the “science”. The idea that you can absorb succinic acid by sucking on a piece of amber just seems ridiculous to me. And if you could, wouldn’t eating or drinking foods in which succininc acid forms naturally—like wine and beer—do just as much for pain? Yet no one is suggesting that beer drinkers have less pain than their abstaining counterparts.
Ultimately, amber teething beads are not a product I would recommend. There’s no science behind it and the potential dangers far outweigh any benefits, in my opinion. But, of course, only your child’s peditrician should be giving you medical advice about your child. If I were a young parent with a teething baby, I’d skip those online chat rooms and ask the only person qualified to give medical advice—a licensed healthcare provider.
ambernz.co.nz. (Unknown). Retrieved from www.ambernz.co.nz/facts.htm on May 20, 2008.
Bishop, K. (2006). Amber Teething Necklaces How Do They Work? Retrieved from searchwarp.com/swa84799.htm on May 20, 2008.
RAPEX. (2007). Weekly Overview Report of RAPEX Notifications. Retrieved from ec.europa.eu/consumers/dyna/rapex/create_rapex.cfm?rx_id=157 on May 20, 2008.
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