Amber Teething Beads: A Few Points to Consider

Being a new parent and a sceptic I have been on guard regarding dubious advice and practices. Parents, especially new parents like myself, are a vulnerable group. We tend to be full of anxiety that we are doing the “right thing” by our children. Where-ever you find a vulnerable group like this you also tend to find those who prey on such fears. I have actually been pleasantly surprised, despite my vigilance I have not yet been subjected to any dubious advice (that I’ve noticed). But early last week I was confronted by a practice from a fellow new parent that I found a little disturbing. I’m taking about using necklaces of amber beads to reduce the pain of teething for babies.

Teething can be an especially stressful time for parents and children, the child may be experiencing pain as the new teeth break through the gums. This means an irritable child and frazzled parents. Anything that promises to relieve or prevent this harrowing time is gratefully embraced.

On to the amber beads. This practice disturbs me for several reasons. First is safety, the necklace if left on the baby for long periods may pose a strangling hazard of it becomes caught on something. Most advertise that they are made to break easily to prevent this and that the beads are individually knotted onto the necklace to prevent scattering on breakage. However this still seems to leave a broken string of beads in reach of a baby, as as most people know – anything a baby can get it’s hands on goes straight into the mouth. So choking is also a concern[1&17].

Now, I’m not one to be a worry wart over every little potential hazard, used correctly under parental supervision I suspect that the likelihood of a tragedy of this kind is low. But not zero[15&16]. This coupled with the low possibility that the necklace actually does anything is what worries me. The second disturbing thing is that parents are accepting this via word of mouth and apparently not consulting their doctors before subjecting their child to an intervention of unknown safety and efficacy.

I have three main points I want to cover with regard to these amber beads that parents should consider before trying these beads (in addition to the physical safety above). The first relates to basic plausibility.

Before we get to that though it depends on which mechanism of action for the beads you subscribe to. There are several explanations regarding how the beads are supposed to work floating around the intertubes, many are of the tinfoil hat brigade variety, these will be ignored (but look here and here for a bit of a chuckle). Only one explanation I have found makes biological sense so that’s the one I’ll be focusing on.

That explanation is Succinic acid, baltic amber is known to contain between 3-8% succinic acid. According to proponents this is released from the beads and into your baby. The succinic acid then allegedly has an analgesic effect and so reduces the pain of teething. Here is where my first point regarding plausibility comes in:

Amber is tough, really tough. This is a material that has persisted for thousands and in some cases millions of years unchanged. Suffering through heating and cooling of innumerable climatic changes through the years. Yet this same tough unchanging material with happily give up it’s chemical components upon the gentle heating it receives on being placed next to your baby’s skin? Colour me unconvinced[1&2]. Related to this point amber has a hardness on the Mohs scale of between 1 and 3 [3], baltic amber which is usually touted as the therapeutic variety (because of the high succinic acid content) is at the high end of this scale 2 – 2.5. To put this in perspective, Tin has a hardness of about 1.5 and Gold is 2.5-3 [4]. But forget about this point, I don’t need it. Lets say for argument sake that clinically relevant amounts of succinic acid are released by the amber and absorbed by your baby’s skin.

My second point then, relates directly to the claims made for succinic acid. Succinic acid is made in the body (and in plants) as part of the citric acid cycle (aka krebs cylce)[5]. It is also use in the food and beverage industry as a food acid (additive #363 to be precise)[6]. Interestingly in this capacity there are recommendations from some quarters to avoid the substance[7]. Even so, apart from it’s early use as a topical treatment for rheumatic pain[8] there is no evidence that I could find (searching Pubmed at least, where I would expect a decent study to be referenced) that it is effective as either an anti-inflammatory or general analgesic. Let me be clear on that, I don’t mean low quality evidence, I don’t mean small poorly designed trials with equivocal effects, I mean nothing. Zip. Nada. In fact if anyone knows of any let me know because I find this complete lack quite surprising, I’m open to the idea that I was looking in the wrong place or was using incorrect search terms. So, unless there is late breaking news, it fails on that count as well. Meh, what do we care about evidence of efficacy anyway? Throw this point out too. Lets move on to my final argument, uh, I mean point to consider.

Lets say that a. the beads do indeed release succinic acid into your baby and b. this succinic acid has an analgesic effect once it enters your baby’s body. Doesn’t the very fact that an unknown amount of a drug[9] is being put into your baby’s body bother you? What is that I hear? It’s natural? Oh, well, that’s ok then. No wait, no it’s not. I don’t care what the origin of a compound is, the question is what are it’s effects on the body and do the benefits out weigh the risks. Ok, lets replace succinic acid with some other naturally occurring substance, salicylic acid. This is a compound with known anti-inflammatory properties[10]. Would you be happy with a product that introduced unknown levels of this compound into your baby? What if I said that overdoses with this compound could lead to a 1% chance of death?[11] It’s natural, it’s also the precursor to acetylsalicylic acid, otherwise known as Aspirin[12].

Now, lest I be accused of unnecessary fear mongering and drawing false comparisons I would like to admit that at present there is no evidence to suggest that succinic acid is hazardous, nor even that it is potentially hazardous[5]. This does not detract from my main point however, the point isn’t whether this particular compound is safe or not but that the reasoning[13] around it’s use is faulty and cannot be used as a substitute for evidence.

Based on the complete lack of plausibility on any level of efficacy any potential for harm, however small, must tip the balance of this equation away from the use of this product. Don’t trust me though, talk to your doctor, I suspect though that given the complete lack of reliable information on this topic they will be left to rely on their own philosophy of harm vs benefit. In the final analysis, there are not always clear answers[14], but developing good critical thinking skills will at least provide you with a small light in the darkness.

[Edit - I recently posted a follow-up article to this addressing some of the points raised in the comments below. It may be found Here]

[Update 20/07/12:  Commenter Heidi Pogner-Schultz has provided a thoughtful and researched perspective in support of amber beads (here), I disagree for reasons outlined in my reply to her (here). But this is exactly the type of reasoned evidence I was looking for so I thank her for the contribution.]

[Update 29/4/13: Apparently there is a chain email circulating blaming amber beads for a case of SIDS, a visitor mentioned this in the polling comments. This seemed implausible to me and a very brief check seems to back up my gut feeling. There is no reason to think that amber beads contribute to SIDS at all. For a more thorough break-down go here: http://www.hoax-slayer.com/amber-teething-necklace-sids.shtml . I am not one who feels we need to latch onto any reason to vilify our intellectual opponents and spreading misinformation (especially easily debunked misinformation) is a big no-no in my book.]

[Update 2/12/13: Before commenting that you tried amber and now your baby isn't/doesn't/has less trouble "Y" you might want to read This to see what is actually associated with teething.]

[Update 14/4/14: Science Based Medicine finally covered the Amber Beads topic, see here.]

Informal Poll:

After reading the preceding post I wonder if you’d like to help me measure what sort of effect this research is having. Please indicate on the poll below your attitude to using Amber beads -

[Edit: Preliminary results from the poll - most consider their opinion unchanged, what a shock. Also the "Other" section is not for insults, if you wish to call me an idiot please do so in the comments of the post where you may be held up for ridicule.]

Footnotes:

1. http://www.3news.co.nz/Teething-necklaces-dangerous—sceptics/tabid/423/articleID/160820/Default.aspx

2. I found this paper that analysed the volatile out gassing of amber, succinic acid was not mentioned as an identified component. http://www.springerlink.com/content/865ku15055np3x78/

3. http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/physic.htm

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohs_scale_of_mineral_hardness

5. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/fcn/fcnDetailNavigation.cfm?rpt=scogsListing&id=339

6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_food_additives,_Codex_Alimentarius

7. http://www.foodreactions.org/allergy/additives/300.html

8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succinic_acid#History

9. If it has biologic activity that can be used in a therapeutic fashion, it’s a drug, no quibbling on that point please.

10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salicylic_acid#Medicinal_and_cosmetic_uses

11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salicylic_acid#Safety

12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspirin

13. ie “It’s got to be good, it’s natural.”. Don’t make me barf.

14. Who am I kidding, there are almost never clear answers. Who wants certainty anyway?

15. http://safekidspiercecounty.health.officelive.com/Documents/Choking%20and%20Suffocation%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf This is an american document but I don’t think necklaces become safer just because we’re in NZ.

16. http://www.nzchildren.co.nz/infant_mortality.php NZ infant mortality statistics.

17. http://www.bpac.org.nz/magazine/2010/april/docs/bpj_27_oral_pages_30-41.pdf See page 33.

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  1. Hm, quick question, do you prefer comments here or on SciBlogs?

    • sciblogs would probably be better I think. Better atmosphere for discussion. Cheers.

  2. A Jewellery related comment was removed for looking spammy. If you think this is in error please re-comment and attempt to not be suspicious.

  3. Hallelujah – someone talking common sense – and science – on teething necklaces! I’m really alarmed by the number of people who will quite happily use them for their children. Admittedly they’re pretty. And they probably don’t do any harm. But the way people lap up the cod ‘science’ behind them, or even worse, believe in the purely anecdotal evidence, doesn’t bode well for scientific rationality.

    • Yep, the number of people who dismiss my arguments based on anecdote or personal experience is overwhelming. This, unfortunately, isn’t surprising. We are not natural scientific or logical thinkers, we also do not believe things for rational reasons. But, I am ever hopeful that we can learn.
      Thanks for the comment.

  4. Has anyone used them and had success? Have twins teething at the moment and would like a natural way of dealing with the pain. I am weary of putting a necklace around Jacks neck as he will surly find a way to get it off or get it caught in something. He is a messer.

    • That’s part of the problem ciara, the use of anecdotal evidence when making this decision.
      Lot’s of people say they work, but lot’s of people also say other things like Power Balance bands or homeopathy work too. The issue is that this sort of testimony is not reliable. Looking at the objective evidence (such as it is) there is no good reason to think they work and small but real risks.
      You also seem to have fallen into the trap of thinking natural = good. My advice is to look at the evidence of efficacy and risk and let that be your guide, not artificial distinctions of natural or unnatural.

        • Whit
        • April 4th, 2014

        I know I am a few years short of this conversation, but honestly, I would rather use homeopathic methods than drug my child by rubbing benadryl on his gums, tylenol every 4 hours, or using the thick teething gel, which is more of a choking hazard. I am not going to let him sit there and be in pain either if the amber works. As for small risks, ***NEWS FLASH*** there are risks for anything and everything. It’s raining outside . I can bundle up my child all I want to, but there is still a small risk he gets a cold. I can choose to use the baltic amber necklace/anklet, or I can rub benadryl all over his gums posing a greater chemical risk. Pull head out of ass please.

        • Ok, first off amber beads are NOT homeopathic, if you wish to recommend an ass/head extraction you should at least give some indication you have a clue what you are talking about.

          Second, risks – yes everything has risks but what we are looking for here is benefit. Going out when it is raining has benefit, you can get where you are going/achieve some end that is valuable to you – even if it is just enjoyment. But an activity that carries risk but no benefit is an irrational one to engage in. Imaginary benefits or doing something in order to FEEL like you have made a difference don’t count.

          How about comforting your child rather than drugs you you are so against them? It has benefits too.

          • Ginny
          • June 1st, 2014

          A CRITICAL FACT IS BEING MISSED. If the necklace helps, it is likely due to Succinic acid. Just because we don’t know of dangers of this product, does not mean there are none. FYI Aspirin is from a NATURAL product (willow bark), and was first produced in 1899. Until about 1980 it was considered safe. That’s 81 years. Then it was learned that aspirin given to children with flu symptoms was causing Reyes Syndrome, a disease that causes acute brain and liver damage, and causes DEATH If not treated promptly. Wow, how horrific–this natural substance known to be safe for 81 years could cause death in child-size doses. I have great empathy for those who lost children by giving their child a natural substance considered safe.

          Thus, I feel that we are all better off trying not to use any substance except comfort if at all possible. This is especially true if the child has a fever, because a fever is designed to help the body fight infection. For teething try ice on the gums to anesthetize– the old teething ring. If the child is old enough give him iced foods, like peas, grapes. I called these peasicles and grapesicles when raising my kids. They thought these were treats!

          Here’s a link for one poor woman who lost her child, Joshua, at 19 yr of age. She was aware of Reyes and Aspirin association, but “didn’t consider the over the counter medications we all take may contain aspirin”. Heartbreaking. http://www.reyessyndrome.org/teens.html

      • kay
      • September 4th, 2011

      my twins were soothed by them. when i took them off it was noticeable. i never left them unsupervised – buy the right length and watch them…..

      • Each positive anecdote has a negative anecdote. The science that everyone seems to want to dismiss is how we decide.

          • kay
          • September 4th, 2011

          and vice versa – as you’ve hinted at below, evidence based research is about making an informed risk assessment.
          ‘……..“Better the Devil you know”…..’

          i don’t think people are outright dismissing scientific evidence.

          it seems to me (and i may be mistaken) that you mainly have a campaign against/ irritation with people blindly following, but there are many parents who research, find that there is no evidence of harm, try an option out and then find it works – what is the problem with that, even if they do end up with personal anecdotes???

          at the end of the day, (or in the middle of the night), if one baby is more comfortable, one family is sleeping better, then it is worth that parent having decide to do something for their own family, against the commonly accepted advice in drs surgeries.

          i just had surgery a week ago, and knew that every step of the way the anaesthetic, surgery and pain relief have side effects (some of the non-life threatening ones which i have and continue to sadly have) but i made an informed choice and put myself through the cost of it (financially and physically) in the hope that the 80% positive outcome might work out in my favour. if it doesn’t it will have been all for nothing, but it was worth the risk to me try and imrpove my quality of life. if there had been a 1% chance of improvement i may also have taken the risk, because my condition affects me daily.

          i made another decision 2 years ago to try amber on my twins (which cost a lot less and didn’t require a loan!) as well as using ibuprofen on occasion, despite knowing the risks for that in my babies. i didn’t use amber or ibuprofen with my older children (i used calpol) and that was my risk assessment at *that* time.

          our risk assessments are constantly changing, as does evidence based medicine if we’re honest – many conventional therapies have eventually been thrown out for the side effects that trials missed. many new therapies/ drugs/ protocols are being ignored in hospitals because drs and nurses are stuck in their ways, it costs too much per patient or drug compamnies won’t make money from the new proven way forward. i work in health and see it.

          i personally feel that your interest in educatiing parents and pointing out there is no evidence for using amber in teething could be better put to use in debunking some of the more harmful interventions in life.

          but this is your blog and your platform, so peace!

          • I hope your medicals issues resolve well.

            I’m am not trying to make the case that scientific evidence is infallible or unchanging. That is an untenable position. But there is a big difference between imperfect evidence and no evidence. Sorry if my inability to trust anecdotes is an impediment in your eyes.

            I’m well aware that there are those who try to make an informed decision about these things but having read a number of replies and visited a number of boards discussing this topic, those people appear to be in the minority, by far.

            Finally, yes, this is my blog and but one post. Given that it is rapidly becoming my most popular post I think it is time well spent. Perhaps you feel that attempting to give people resources and shake them out of believing everything they hear (often without realising it) it a waste of time, you could be right. But it’s my time to waste.

              • raven
              • March 25th, 2012

              Just thought i would note…. science has proven the placebo effect a number of times!! if u had ‘success’ and noticed a difference when u took them off it could be attributed to ir concious and subconcious feelings that a child can pick up on.

              • ok, a few things about the placebo effect as this seems now to be the “go-to” explanation for all things unexplained. First off with regard to science “proving” the placebo effect, it depends on what you mean. The placebo effect started off being simply the control group for clinical studies. It was the group that was given everything except the active treatment. Therefore by definition the placebo response is what happens when people aren’t treated. It was the catch all for everything that could affect the outcome that wasn’t due to the treatment itself: poor method design, confirmation bias, reporting bias, observer effect on the patients etc, etc.

                Recently there has been some work done to see if there is a real change in people that is due to thinking they are getting an active treatment the so called “Placebo response/effect” this has been mixed. It is true that people will report less pain and their brain will show less activation in pain related areas. But people are susceptible to what they are told, it turns out if you tell people a cheap wine is expensive they will enjoy it more. Is there a placebo wine effect? possibly, but the wine didn’t change and neither did any underlying physiology in relation to placebo medical treatments. In fact recent studies in asthma showed that while people reported feeling better while taking placebo their ability to perform on breath tests remained the same, while those on active medications improved. If you feel better while still having a life threatening condition are you better? I don’t think so.

                So in appealing to the placebo effect you have to concede that 1. the beads don’t have any active ingredient, and 2. don’t make any difference to the underlying condition.
                They do nothing.
                Now notice this is not what I say, I merely point out there is no good reason to think they are doing anything, not that they definitely aren’t. A subtle distinction I admit.

                In essence your argument is, “If you think it works then it does”, well I would counter with why don’t you use something that we know does work and then you can capitalise on both effects: You will think it works and it will actually work too. Double goodness.

                • Patrys
                • April 11th, 2012

                Yes, like they say ‘all in the mind’, but some of us will agree that your mind can heal yourself and your child indirectly, seeing your child can pick up on you. And if one need a charm or in this case an amber necklace to help with that mind healing power, why not? Amber teething necklaces might not be scientifically proven, but you also can not prove that it is not working. You have pointed out the reasons or facts why you believe it can’t work, but have you tried it yourself as yet? People are all different, just as some medications will not work for the one person it might work for another, the same with anything else in life. We are all individuals, some scientist, some herbalists, etc. What I am trying to say is if you want something to heal you it will, doesn’t matter if it is popping pills or wearing necklaces, cause if you believe it, your mind can heal you, even if you need a gadget or pill to help focus your mind healing power. We are not all that advance as yet to use the mind to it’s full potential.

              • If you think I’m saying it’s “all in the mind” then you haven’t read carefully enough.
                Perhaps you should look at my follow-up article; Amber Teething Beads: A Follow-up.

                I can’t prove they don’t work, luckily it’s not for me to do that but for proponents to prove they DO work. That’s how this stuff works – make a claim, (amber beads work) back it up.

                Vague references to “healing yourself” and such are easy, evidence is the real key here, and no-one has any. In which case the null position should be taken – it probably doesn’t work. There are many more things that don’t work than do.

                • MrsHmmz
                • December 21st, 2012

                I think the placebo effect (which I realise is a catch-all for a number of different effects, but is a useful term nevertheless) is undervalued by people attempting to (quite rightly) correct people’s misunderstandings about the efficacy of “alternative treatments”. You say ” why don’t you use something that we know does work and then you can capitalise on both effects”, but the trouble with most effective treatments is that they tend to have side effects so are only worth trying if what you are treating is severe enough to justify the risk. I think what a lot of advocates of amber necklaces are saying is that they don’t appear to do any harm, therefore even if any perceived positive outcome is merely a “placebo effect” it doesn’t really matter.

                I think the key issue here, then, is whether there IS a risk associated with amber necklaces; I realise this is something you deal with in your article but the trouble is that people who are very “pro” amber necklaces will focus on your scepticism and the arguments about safety get overlooked. Personally I wouldn’t take the risk of putting a small string of beads within reach of my baby at all times, even if claims have been made that the beads are securely attached, as I can’t see that there’s any way you can make it impossible for the child to take the necklace off or for beads to come loose. People who say “but I never leave my child unsupervised with the necklace” must either be superhuman or else have nothing else to do but look after the baby, as I know I take my eyes off my baby quite frequently, although only in situations when I’m fairly sure she’s safe. Are these parents saying that they take the necklace off the baby every time they have to do something that requires them to be distracted from the baby for more than a few seconds? It’s always amazed me just how quickly babies can find ways of getting themselves into sticky situations (my youngest is at that semi-mobile stage where you take your eyes off her for a moment & she’s somehow moved a couple of meters and found the one tiny object nearby to put in her mouth!) so unless these necklaces are INCREDIBLY secure I don’t see how they can be totally safe.

                I have no doubt at all that amber necklaces (along with many other “alternative” treatments that have little to no scientific basis) have a positive effect for many people who use them, because the power of belief is incredible. Although it is the child who is experiencing the pain of teething, and a baby obviously has no concept of what the necklace is supposed to do, it is the parent who has the problem with the child’s behaviour & their perception of this behaviour will change based on their beliefs about the necklaces. The child’s behaviour also alters in response to their parent’s, for example a calm parent can sooth a child much better that a worried or distressed parent. So yeah, I’m sure the advocates aren’t “making up” the results they see, but they are almost certainly based on some kind of placebo effect rather than anything intrinsic to the necklaces.

      • Emily
      • December 1st, 2011

      My self and countless other Mommy friends have had surprising success with the teething necklace, noting a distinct difference between teething with it on and off.
      But I do notice if left on the necklace usually leaves a rash, if it’s from the necklace or improper use I’m not sure. My daughter has never had a rash with it on.

      She’s also the type to play/pull on anything and has never gotten it off or broken it. Never gotten it caught on anything either.

      • I wish you luck with that. So long as you understand anecdote =/= good evidence.

          • Emily
          • December 1st, 2011

          Luck with what?

          I didn’t see the entire thread of comments just the original asking if anyone had personal experience.

          Not trying to start anything or disprove anything but I do find if you can recreate positive anecdotal evidence then that’s usually a good sign. Enjoyed reading your post and found it informative so thank you!

      • J
      • January 18th, 2013

      They also have anklets. Though some think the necklaces work better bc they are closer to the teeth…..

      • If the beads work at all (which I doubt) through physical means (as opposed to magic) then anklets would work just as well as necklaces.

        If either is to be used then anklets should be preferred.

    • tsinn
    • June 27th, 2011

    You’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching, reviewing and studying a topic that would have been far simpler (and faster) to just tryout. Put a necklace on your kid and see what happens when you take it off after about three days (obviously, don’t have him/her sleep with it or take a bath with it). It’s not a big investment and the result is obvious. I am not one for “crunchy” cures, but it works for my son. He’s a drooling mess and constantly has his fingers in his mouth if he doesn’t have one on (he’s 18 months now and his molars are coming in)

    • yep, the easy way would be to use it and have my investment colour my evaluation. Unfortunately I’m actually interested in the evidence not what my single biased experience would tell me.

      llama, funny as always.

      [edit] I cover the “try it yourself” line of argument in the second half of this post

  5. @tsinn because they cause autism. That’s why.

      • Patrys
      • April 11th, 2012

      Has it been proven, like the MMR vaccination, that it causes autism? Please tell us more.

      • No, that’s a joke.
        and the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. that’s the funny part of the joke, saying things cause autism when they don’t.

      • It has been proven exactly the same way it has been proven that MMR vaccination causes autism. Didn’t you know? You should read up on the science a bit more.

  6. An immensely interesting argument and one that has swayed my decision on buying these ‘teething aids’. Your acuity and articulate argument leave many questions to be asked. Ultimately though you have made other ‘naive’ / new parents question what we are giving our beloved children. Well done, and thank you.

    • LuLu
    • July 13th, 2011

    I don’t know much about the scientific side of amber use for relief of teething, but when a mum sees her baby in pain she will try anything to help her little one! That’s how I ended up buying a necklace from [redacted as spam] a few months ago. I was very skeptical, but my baby was visibly calmer and less irritable after wearing the necklace for a couple of days. So I guess it’s worth a try, it’s cheap and won’t cause any harm, you cannot say the same for over-the-counter medication…

    • A couple of things:

      1. Any necklace would have done the same job.
      2. You don’t know how or why it works and that you don’t care is disturbing.
      3. Unless you know what it does, it’s NOT worth a try.
      4. HOW do you know it won’t cause any harm, especially since you have no idea how it works.
      5. Over the counter medication comes with clinical trials, contra indications and common sense.
      6. What are you going to do when you find out the beads cause autism? They do you know.

    • The Furious one has a point, we Think they don’t cause harm, we have no good evidence they cause direct harm (beyond a coking hazard) but we have no good evidence about them at all.

      I’ve seen a number of replies like this lately (on parenting boards) that say, “I don’t know how they work, or if they work, or if I’m fooling myself – but I’m going to keep using them anyway”. That’s your prerogative.

      The advantage of over the counter medicines is we DO know how they work, we DO know if they work and we DO know the risks. The phrase “Better the Devil you know” exists for a reason. If you have the information you can make an informed choice and take the risks into account. If you are working in ignorance then that option is taken away.

      Like I said, it’s your prerogative, but I don’t appreciate you essentially advertising a product on my website. Especially if I don’t get a share.

  7. We also THINK a lot of things are safe that aren’t, necessarily. How many drugs have been recalled because they turn out to cause more harm than good?

    I used an amber teething necklace with my youngest son. It seemed to work. When he developed tooth decay because of a genetic enamel deficiency, at around a year old, I looped the necklace around his foot like an anklet while I nursed him, and it did seem to help. (FTR: I asked our pediatrician about this and she was of the opinion that it wouldn’t release any of any of the succinic acid whatsoever, but could be a choking hazard, which is why he wore it on his ankle and only while nursing so that he would be completely, 100% supervised.)

    To be perfectly honest, I think they work because mom (or dad) THINKS they will work, and the child can sense the calmness in the parent, so they settle down. I think any object that you think is going to work, is probably going to work to some degree due to the placebo effect.

    • Thanks for the comment Rose,

      You’ve made a couple of good points. The first is discovering drugs (and therapies) that when we take an overview of the evidence do not provide a satisfactory risk/benefit ratio. The important thing to remember about this is we need the evidence to make such a determination. There is none for the teething beads.

      The second is about the placebo effect, this is something that is widely misunderstood and can confuse the issue. But I note that you make a very good observation that it is the parent that is contributing most to the placebo effect here. That may be true.

      Beyond that we get down to what level of evidence we are comfortable before trying something. For some things I need a reasonable amount of reliable (ie not anecdotal) evidence before deciding that something is worth it. Others have a different threshold.

      Thanks again.

    • Adam
    • August 10th, 2011

    Salicylic acid containing items are a big no-no for pregnant women, too – it can cause birth defects.

    Also, I also think Hyland’s Teething Tablets are also a crock. They are homeopathic and don’t do anything (my wife bought some.) Furthermore, they suggest using more of them for a higher dose – which is contra to what homeopathy is all about, isn’t it? It ought to be “one tablet as needed. If baby is still fussy, crush tablet, and put a single grain under the baby’s tongue’ or something.

    Finally: You should check out youtube for “That Mitchell And Webb Look: Homeopathic A&E” . It’s great.

    • Thanks for the comment. Just looked up the teething tablets, the company has a press release on their website announcing a product recall. Appears to be from last year, seem to be having internet issues at the moment so I’m not sure of the details but the FDA was involved and that in “working with the FDA, has identified manufacturing processes of Teething Tablets that can be improved to ensure uniformity in dosage”.

      A bit more digging shows that these products do actually have active ingredient (albeit small). The Zicam debacle a while ago showed people that homeopathic medicines are not all diluted into harmlessness. This reveals the ridiculousness of allowing homeopathic potions a legislative pass when it comes to showing safety and efficacy. And yet….lessons do not seem to have been learned.

      The Mitchell and Webb stuff is great, another one is Dara O’Briain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMvMb90hem8&feature=player_embedded

    • So because hylands teething tablets are homeopathic that means they wont work? How do you think drug companies come up with their drugs in the first place? They randomly put chemical compounds together and tested the results until they got a response they liked? Nope, they all have a basis in natural homeopathic rememdies. And you can take things in higher dosages in homeopathy if needed–you obviously have no clue about homeopthy at all.

      • I didn’t see the statement “they are homeopathic therefore they don’t work” anywhere, each item does have to be assessed on it’s own merits and as you say products labelled homeopathic aren’t necessarily produced using the enormous dilutions that are the signature approach of homeopaths. Witness the Zicam debacle for the possible ramifications of this as homeopathic medicines get a pass on the safety and efficacy trials that other drugs must show.

        Also I would be hesitant to put natural and homeopathic in the same sentence as if they are equivalent. Yes drugs can be discovered by looking at natural remedies but this does not mean that homeopathic concoctions are therefore effective.
        The statement that higher doses is against the principles of homeopathy was a reference to the law infinitesimals which states that the effects of a remedy are increased the more it is diluted. This is obviously not equivalent to taking multiple doses of a particular dilution but it does raise the question of “well, which is it – should I take more or less?”.

        Believe me the concept of homeopathy is quite well understood around here.

    • Superman’s Momma
    • September 4th, 2011

    I use an amber necklace on my son and it does work to soothe him. While there may not be ‘scientific’ evidence to tell me the how’s and why’s I see the difference and that’s all the evidence I need. I also wear one myself for chronic pain, because I breastfeed and don’t want to take any of the ‘scientifically proven non-harmful’ drugs that are too often recalled or later proven to actually cause harm.

    • Let me get this straight, your argument is “There’s no evidence, therefore it’s safe and effective”??
      Yep, that’s how everyone should do it, those drug company should stop wasting millions on safety and efficacy trials, just have a few people, “Think” them safe and away we go.

      Sorry, but the anecdotes do not move me. Plus, there is no chance you’ll change your mind so polite reasoning is no necessary.

        • kay
        • September 4th, 2011

        this is a very interesting point. many trials are only intiated because a drug company has a vested interest in selling their product. and it’s why a lot of at-first-convincing research is also flawed.

        • Agreed, which is also why post licensure monitoring is also required and how the problems are found and those recalls are enacted. All this requires rigorous evidence.

      • Im sorry the the problem in this statement is “Drug + Company” You do realize that the the safety testing is pretty much a front? They pay millions of dollars to get you to think these drugs are “safe” while collecting billions of dollars. Drug companies are just that, companies… they are there to make money. How long were the tobacco companies claiming safety of their cigarettes until we had our little whistle blower. Look at Tylonal…. TYLONAL… the only pain medicine approved for babies under 6 months of age, now proven to cause ASTHMA in children. My ped told me to stay away from tylonal if I could, but to only give it to my son if he absolutely needed it because of the risk of asthma!

        • “You do realize that the the safety testing is pretty much a front?”

          ah, got any evidence for this? Just asserting it does not make it true. Yes drug companies are for profit ventures but I don’t see people giving the teething beads away so what’s your point?
          Just because Tylenol isn’t recommended that doesn’t mean amber beads work, so again what’s your point?

          On the topic of safety, recently European countries have been issuing product recalls for amber beads due to safety concerns:
          http://recalledproducts.org/recall/view/albabia-amber-teething-necklace

          http://safetygonesane.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/amber-teething-necklaces-is-your-child-at-risk/

          http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/dyna/rapex/create_rapex.cfm?rx_id=424

          http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/dyna/rapex/create_rapex.cfm?rx_id=422

          I personally don’t think product recalls are necessary, I haven’t seen a reason to think they are particularly dangerous but the potential is there so authorities seem to be playing it safe. Especially given the lack of evidence of efficacy. Which is an aspect missing from your rant on drug companies, they must prove safety AND efficacy, I have seen no such requirement stipulated for amber beads. Sham or no.

            • Kathy
            • April 19th, 2013

            Actually, there is proven evidence, that the whole pharma industrie is designed to just make money off of their patients. My father was being trained to become an agent for them, when he realized what was all going on behind the scenes there. Drugs, lots of them are a great invention (don’t get me wrong), but they are designed to make the most possible profit off of us. My father also studied medicine and therefore knew the backgrounds to how drugs work etc. There is an incredible amount of corruption going on in the medical industry, all over the world. Why is this not commonly know and why don’t you find open studies on that just by typing it into google ? … This is an industry loaded with billions of money, an industry involved in politics, ethnics, science and pretty much every aspect of our world and lifes. Doctors (and this is background knowledge) are being influenced, often without knowing or sometimes rather ignoring it than to listen to their suspicions. My Dad had developed one of the most aggressive kinds of tumors in his brain in the last part of his life. He was told by common medicine that there was absolutely no chance of being cured. He did not leave it at that, because he was a very smart man and had a lot of SCIENTIFIC knowledge. After a lot of research (you don’t just find this on google) he found an alternative treatment that made sense on every level of science and therefore chose that treatment out of many others. But … those people had to cover up that they were actually treating tumors there, because there was other people that had advertised the exact same treatment and got sued till they had no money, honor, etc left by money moguls from the common medical industry – why? Because if they would officially accept treatments like this and others, they would have to put a one-time investment and maybe maintance fees for the facilities in and can’t make as much capital of it-because people might get healed. Heck it’s a whole lot easier to sell tons and tons of drugs that either don’t actually heal and/or only treat the symptons to the thousands of people that get sick all the time. They sell a drug, that has side effects, that need to be treated with another drug that has side effects itself, that need to be treated with another drug again and so forth…. Do you know anyone else that has a severe sickness? Do you know how they have to take dozens of medications at once even tho they might not actually treat them? Do you know how those medications are incredibly expensive? Do you know that alternative treatments like the one my Dad went under are very expensive because they are not covered by any insurances, because the money moguls in the medical industry pay a lot of money between the lines, to prevent those treatments from coming out?
            Your research seems to be mostly based on google and wikipedia research, that might still take lots of hours. You told this person ahead to actually prove their point, well here is the proof, where the was your proof when you said there is nothing proven to be manipulated therefore you trust them??? Doesn’t that sound like the pitfall you have described in your article. You trust the medical industry blindly just because you haven’t seen any proof against them yourself. Have you truly researched it, with phone calls, media and law envolved, have you been behind the scenes? You don’t know yourself.
            I liked your article about the teething necklaces, it is good to be cautious yes, but what really got me was how you yourself trust blindly – into a very corrupt industry with no evidence for or against and advocate it here. The other thing, like I said it is important to do a thorough research (thats how I ended up on this page), and I agree with your safety concern, but you asked your readers to give their opinion – they did as you asked, but comment after comment you fly off the handle every time they have a different opinion than you (yes it is still only an opinion) and when they agree with you you thank them over and over and over for their wonderful insight! This looks extremely biased, one-sided and closed off to me!
            When I went on this page I didnt have my mind made up over teething necklaces the one or the other way, now I am reminded through all of this why would I just trust the medical industry, in that case it can’t do any more harm to belive in amber teething necklaces. Contrary to you I believe other parents experience and advice, especially of the older generation is extremely important and to be highly respected, after all the older generation are the ones that raised or at least mentored us. In the old times, when they didnt have a medical industry yet, this is how they passed on the results of their medical trials and most times that was good. Look at what the “safe” medications of the newer times left with – Cortison kids and so forth.
            I wouldn’t be surprised if you would delete my post as spam or give me the thumbs-down because I am sure this reply does not exactly sit well with you. That is too sad. But at least I was able to inform you in return.
            And like I already said, THUMBS UP from my side for your cautiousness and a wonderful thought-provoking article. It is your responses to the by you requested opinions from everyone that made me write this response.
            Thanks again for provoking thoughts. I do appreciate that. :)

  8. I guess I wont be getting it …

    • Thanks for visiting.

    • lek
    • September 17th, 2011

    Just two quick notes. First, my odler child’s pediatrician recommended them. When I voiced my skpeticism, he replied that though there was no “talking science” behind them, he’d seen them do good in his 15 years of practice (this in a country where the beads are more commonly used than in the US). The second point is that demanding a safety study on them is silly, given that they’ve been used for so long. Designing and conducting such a study makes sense if time hasn’t already done so. As for an efficacy study, it is a bit naive (and not, um, “scientific”) to say that since there are no studies proving amber or succinic acid’s efficacy, it/they must not be effective! Why would anyone conduct such a study??? There’s no money behind it. Finally such a study would be close to impossible given that we have no objective way of measuring pain in the verbal population, let alone teething babies. I like science but I don’t think it’s fair to trot it out in a somewhat sloppy manner in order to look down at other people’s choices. The theory behind amber beads’ efficacy is in-line wiith Paracelsus’ principles, which, though they are now taken to be homeopathic principles, are also cornerstones of allopathic pharmacology.

    • Two quick points multiplied?

      First, you are assuming that people cannot be confused as to causality. This is patently incorrect, people thought bloodletting was perfectly safe an effective for hundreds of years. Presumably they would have thought careful study equally pointless. Before you reply that that was before modern science etc. the difference comes in with that careful study, people are still people and can be fooled.

      Further, I couldn’t find any information that sucinic acid is useful as an analgesic in any population, not just babies. The study need not show efficacy in teething specifically just in a related enough field to provide plausibility. Also there is no good reason to think the sucinic acid even comes out of the beads at body temp, so that would need further plausibility.

      As for there being no money in such a study, are you kidding? Selling these beads is already profitable. Imagine taking the principle behind them an marketing it to the entire populace for everything. That would mean big bucks for the company who pulled that off.

      Finally, there is only medicine. Allopathic etc is only used when you have an ideological axe to grind. Something either works or it does not, you either apply strict safety and efficacy to a practice or you do not. You can’t have it both ways and still call both medicine.

    • Caroline
    • September 29th, 2011

    Thank you for this! I’m trying to convince new mothers that any necklace around their babies’ necks is dangerous, but most of them prefer anecdotal evidence…

    Your article is well researched and will inspire me to found more and better arguments. And to not let myself be discouraged by the amount of baffling answers / arguments I get.

    You have lots of patience. Keep up the good work!

    • It’s always nice to get a positive comment, thanks.

      I would caution over emphasising the dangerous aspect of this, the risks are low in absolute terms and you risk coming off as a crank yourself. I would suggest re-iterating how little evidence there is to support it, how implausible it is and how anecdote can be used to support any position and that without controlled evidence we can not make a reasonable determination.
      Also there is a time to let these things go. If after all of your arguments they are still wiling to keep going then admit defeat and wish them luck. It’s not worth causing antagonism over. It’s better that you part with them still respecting your opinion than for them to consider you simply dogmatic and not worth consulting.

      Best of luck.

      • I would point out that health authorities consistently state NOT to put necklaces or strings around a baby’s neck. These necklaces pose a risk of strangulation and choking, and are definitely against mainstream baby care advice. I don’t think that pointing this out is scaremongering in the least. The risk is definitely non-zero.

        • Agreed that the risk is non-zero. In my opinion this combined with the fact that there is no evidence of efficacy tips the balance away from using these necklaces.

          I also agree that pointing out this risk does not in itself constitute scaremongering. But there is a risk of such if the possibility of strangulation is hyped beyond the evidence. This is what opponents of mainstream medicine do (eg anti-vaccinationists) and I think we should be careful not to cross that line.

          If a parent is aware of the possible risks and is vigilant and responsible then the chances of an adverse event are much reduced.
          Just to be clear, I don’t think the “It works for me” argument is good enough to justify use of these items, but if a parent is adamant in their use then advising about the risks and letting them make their own decision is the best we can do.
          Cold comfort if something bad happens I know. But we can’t force people to follow our advice, and if we could…would we want people controlling our decisions in such a manner?

          Thanks for visiting.

    • Robby
    • November 2nd, 2011

    Unfortunately, your article reads much like the first reports of a snow-capped peak in Central Africa (present day Tanzania) during the mid 19th century. Everyone that visited Kilimanjaro could see it was real, but at the time of it’s European discovery, there was no way to document it’s existence beyond eyewitness reports. Since the mountain’s existence was a scientific impossibility, people that didn’t see it knew it couldn’t exist…

    Everyone I know that’s used amber beads to ease teething strife say they work. I only hope the people reading this are keen enough to reach the point of your entry that reiterates the lack of evidence to support any implausibility or safety ‘concerns’. Indeed, it seems you’ve thoroughly proven that the entire point it moot.

    …I agree with tsinn, you would have made your life much easier if you just visited the mountain to see for yourself.

    • You may have a point, but what you suggests would leave room for every other thing that people attest but for which we have no good evidence. What of alien abductions, bigfoot, fairies, angels, telepathy, ghosts, witchcraft, voodoo, leprechauns, ley lines, chemtrails, mind control, the evil eye, the myriad alternative medicine treatments, the many mutually exclusive deities that have adherents in the hundreds of millions? Must we accept ALL because there are those who say they are real?
      You may choose what to believe how you wish, I’ve chosen reason and scientific evidence.

      In the end there was good evidence for the mountian. I’ll be waiting for the same for amber beads and happy to change my mind.

        • Robby
        • November 2nd, 2011

        Yes, that is the proper measure. If someone feels something is real (leprichans, angels, et al) – especially if it has not been proven otherwise – we must accept it as their truth. Of course, you needn’t adhere by the same beliefs, but that is your perogotive…

        Ultimately, you miss the underlying dilemma within your post. If someone feels that an amber necklace alieviated pain, then it’s likely that no amount of science will change that “fact” for them. Now, if the same necklace doesn’t work for you, either from lack of prior evidence or due observation, then you are in no different position than the former individual – aside from the likelihood you won’t be using the necklace. So, just because you haven’t found something to be true for yourself, does that mean it’s untrue for others?

        In the end, it would be wise to tread more carefully over such issues that have no definitive answer. It’s one thing to build a case outlining a lack of evidence – perhaps even against the ubiquitous bigfoot sightings – but nobody on either side of this issue stands to benefit when you make conclusions that can only be empirically founded, especially when you have no experience with the item.

        I understand that it’s difficult to let individuals do what they like; humans seem destined to strive for unanimity in all things, but that isn’t feasible. It’s just unfortunate that you will speak so vehemently against something you’ve never tried to experience.

        • Then we use different definitions of “true”.
          I also don’t see my post as vehement, so I guess were working from different definitions of that as well. Thanks for the insight on the mutability of the world depending on belief.

            • Robby
            • November 4th, 2011

            I realize why you are unhappy with my remarks, but you needn’t be so defensive. I happen to agree with the foundation of your statement as I have no evidence to believe the necklaces work and recognize that they present several hazards beyond everyday encounters.

            However, I think you do a disservice to your argument by expounding to a point of belittlement and mockery of others. If you feel that your comments should be otherwise accepted, you would do well to note the manner in which readers are receiving them and adjust accordingly. Of course, this only relevant if you wish to remain an unbiased source of information on debated issues. If that is not your aim, I have misjudged this blog entirely and apologize for the unsolicited insight.

            On another note, I wanted to thank you for allowing varying comments to be posted regarding this topic. Some bloggers will filter these remarks to leave only the feedback that supports their argument – an unfortunate fact, of which I’m afraid many readers are unaware.

            • I didn’t intend my comment to read as defensive. More aghast that you advocate such solipsism. As such it seemed like there could be no common ground. As for bias, I recognise that complete removal of bias is impossible for an individual and direct you to the byline of my blog at the top of every page: “Just the biased facts”.

              To address a point of yours that was made earlier about lack of evidence to support implausibility. That is quite backwards, evidence must be shown that something works – not that it doesn’t. Lack of plausibility refers to the fact there is no good reason to think it could work ie that the active ingredient is either absorbed or does what is claimed even if it is – I am willing to bend on either of these points if someone can show me good evidence to do so. Anecdote does not count.

              Could you point out to me where in the post I have been belittling and mocking (I’ll cop to that with the tin-foil crack, but to me that is not where the legitimate claims about the beads are coming from – ridiculous claims do not deserve respect by default). I have have many comments of praise for this article and just as many disagreeing, you are the first to take issue with the tone.

              I try to allow every comment to be posted, I will filter and block those who are rude and insulting. I though can be as insulting as I like.
              :)

                • Robby
                • November 5th, 2011

                Again, I apologize. I now better understand the individual with whom I have been speaking.

                Cheers!

              • Yep, it’s all me. Glad we got that sorted out. :)
                Thanks for the comments.

    • what a load of rubbish
    • November 28th, 2011

    ..yawn

    • …Stretch.

      I know it’s rubbish, but people still use them.

  9. Thanks for your well-thought out post. I own a children’s store and people have been asking for these all year. I have not brought them in because the idea of wearing a pain-relieving substance on a baby all day makes me wary. I have asked these parents if they would dose their teething babies with Tylenol all day long just for teething discomfort and they have all said, “no!” in horror – I can’t see any difference. Except for the fact, of course, that we don’t know what a “safe” dosage is with these necklaces (that through continued anecdotal evidence, do work). The local health food stores don’t even carry them, and I will assume that’s because Health Canada has not approved them (??). My children are older, and between Sophie the Giraffe, frozen wet washcloths and the ocassional dose of Tylenol, we survived teething. I DO carry the hazelwood necklaces because a) they have Health Canada approval and b) they are supposed to work in the opposite direction (pulling crap out of your body instead of putting it in – your next researched post, I hope!)

    • Thanks for the comment. Interesting about the Hazelwood necklaces having Health Canada approval, I will certainly have to look into that. Thanks.

    • I had a look around about the Health Canada approval. Much seems to be made of the fact that these necklaces have a “Medical Device Establishment License” from Health Canada. But this seems to be a category error, according to the Health Canada website a Medical Device Establishment License is:

      “Medical Device Establishment Licensing was implemented to allow users to be made aware of who is importing and/or selling medical devices in Canada. It requires establishment licence holders to provide to Health Canada the assurance that they have met the regulatory requirements and have documented procedures in place, where applicable, related to distribution records, complaint handling, storage, delivery, installation and servicing, with respect to the medical devices they sell.”

      I take that to mean it is regulating the “Establishments” ie importers/manufacturers/sellers of medical devices. This is not about the device itself. Perhaps these sellers are just getting the name confused. As you sell these items do they have some sort of approval stamp or ID number or something that could identify what sort of approval they have?

      The claims made for Hazelwood necklaces (neutralise body pH) seem no more plausible to me than those made for Amber. The idea that the body (under normal conditions ie no underlying illness) needs help to stop it becoming too acidic, as well as the corollary that this is the cause of a wide range of illness from rashes to cancer, seems to be popular in Altmed circles now.
      Unfortunately there is no more evidence for this notion than there is that Amber is a pain reliever.

      I’ve just scratched the surface here, certainly I need to look into this further. Your help would be appreciated if you can give me more info on what exactly the Health Canada approval is.

      Thanks again.

      • Thank you so much for writing this; it’s been disturbing me that I know people using these and claiming they work. They need to be aware that correlation does NOT equal causation, so just because the baby appears calmer or is dribbling less when the necklace is worn (Why does drooling bother parents so much? Babies don’t seem particularly distressed when they’re slobbering!) doesn’t mean the necklace caused this.

        And of course, there’s the “placebo by proxy’ factor to consider: if someone has just forked out on something that’s “supposed” to work, they’re far more likely to perceive their child as being happier.

        Seems to me there’s a lot of misinformation floating around in parental circles and I admire you for doing your bit to clear this up. I think mums and dads deserve better than old wives’ tales, “anecdata” and hearsay, and to be armed with critical thinking skills (rather than letting paranoia and fear take over) is the way to go.

        • Thanks for the comment, and I love the term “anecdata”, thanks for introducing me to it.

          You make a good point about placebo as well, the way you’ve phrased it is how I would describe “investment bias” ie the bias created in someone because they’ve made a significant investment into it – whether cash, time, hopes etc.
          But the idea that placebo is this one thing that means “mind/body interaction” in the person receiving treatment is becoming quite popular and I think is misguided. Placebo is a collection of artefacts that contributes to an inert treatment appearing to work. So that may include regression to the mean, inaccurate reporting, poor observation, lack of blinding (as in amber beads) etc…

          Speaking of misinformation, I only recently discovered that there is scant evidence the “Gripe water” for grumpy babies. We used it all the time when our boy was younger, though I had never heard of it before my wife started buying it. It was stocked with the more reputable stuff so I didn’t really think about it. Even so I did do one experiment where I substituted plain water and that seemed to work just as well…I gather though that any real effect can be attributed to the sweet taste of the water.

    • Dannyb1982
    • January 18th, 2012

    So nice to read A well written article with some form of scientific grounding or in this case lack there of. These beads remind me of the power balance bracelets that were all the hype a year or two ago. My wife bought this for our child and I can’t believe that she has been taken for such a clown. What next time traveling amulets made out of gold spray painted lumps of coal, you never know they may or may not work why not try them out

    • Thanks,
      I try not to be too judgemental of those who are taken in by things like this. Often they just don’t know the facts (like me and the gripe water above). Where sympathy wanes is when after learning the facts they say something along the lines of “I don’t care if it does nothing I feel better using it” or some such thing….even son it can be painfully distressing to be powerless while your child is in obvious discomfort. The illusion of control is still a powerfully attractive option for some, even if at some level they know it’s an illusion.

      with regard to the power balance bracelets, before christmas I saw one in one of those “$2″ stores that are springing up all over the place here and had to laugh. Almost bought it just for fun.

    • Heather
    • January 19th, 2012

    Great article – it helps with parents making informed decisions. It is always good to read another side of the argument. This has made me want to do a bit more research before buying.

    onefuriousllama left a comment twice to say that these cause autism – is there any evidence of this?

    • Heather, thanks for the comment,

      ah, senior llama is engaged in the activity that is commonly referred to as “Joking”, in this case to get the “joke” one needs to be fully aware of various other claims around the causes of autism and claims made by those who attack modern medical science.
      A commentary on the methods of pseudo-science and fear mongering you might say.

        • Heather
        • January 19th, 2012

        Thanks for clearing that up – he sounded so serious that I wasn’t sure. I have heard of the odd other thing “supposedly” linked to autism which seem to be a load of rubbish also.

    • Jicjac
    • January 21st, 2012

    Thank you for the insightful read. I’m not going to use this product until actual scientific evidence of its effectiveness and safety of the succinc acid is produced. Magic mushrooms are natural- doesn’t mean I’m going to feed them to my baby.

    • Thanks for visiting,
      Waiting for proper evidence…that may take a while. :-)

      A good point about the mushrooms, the idea that natural = good is widespread at the moment. Unfortunately it distracts from the real question which is what is the risk vs benefit.

    • Stephanie
    • January 21st, 2012

    This was an interesting read and I have yet to draw any conclusions as to my feelings on teething necklaces. However, for future reference, you may want to reconsider using wikipedia as a source for information. While it may be a convenient place to find “facts,” no intelligent person seeking credible information would cite the database. This is rule number one in writing any sort of research document. I’m not trying to offend, just offering insight.

    • It’s a blog post.
      I think I’ll live.

  10. Funny, I ran across this blog as I was searching for a new baltic amber teething necklace for my 2.5 year old tot that has become quite attached to his first teething necklace that he has been wearing, round the clock, since he was 8 months old. It’s still in fantastic condition, but it is getting too small. Do they work? Who knows? All I know is teething wasn’t an issue for us, and the pinched nerve in my own neck finally resolved while I was wearing my own amber necklace. It could be all completely coincidence, but I’ll give a nod to at least some placebo efficacy with these necklaces. For us they’ve just become a trademark, and I have no concerns with their safety, as my own rough and tumble little boy is going on nearly two years of wearing his day in and day out with nary a fray in the knotted silk string. The necklace is my son’s security item, his personal “attachment” to it is so much better for him in the long run than a paci, bottle, or a blankie drug through the daily filth.

    • HDP
    • January 31st, 2012

    I was a total skeptic about the necklaces as well. And as a first time parent I was trying everything to ease my poor daughter’s pain. I was having to medicate her on average of 3 – 4 times a week at night just so she would sleep through (otherwise the pain woke her up several times which made the next day even worse for her). The medication I was using was over the counter teething specific syrup (which contains anti-inflammatory, anti-hystamine and a pain killer in an alcohol suspension). Then in the space of a week I had 5 different people swear by the necklace – after seeing how much she was suffering. I did a lot of research on it (I’m a born again Christian and don’t want to inflict some spiritual voodoo type healing crystals on my child unknowingly) and I saw the succinic acid info and thought I’d try it – anything’s better than the medicinal cocktail she was being fed. And despite my skepticism, it worked – she became a different baby! She still has bouts of teething where she requires pain killers to get her through the night (and sometimes the day) but these are much fewer and further between. I’m honestly not writing this to dispute your article in any way – I just wanted to post my first hand experience. And to be honest, even though it seems to work, I’m still skeptical, and still concerned that the acid isn’t necessarily good for her. But for now, as long as she’s not in pain 24 hours a day, I’ll go with it. Hopefully her teeth will come through soon and we can just be done with the whole thing!

  11. Thanks. Believe it or not, I did my own pubmed search and still bought the darn thing despite the absolute lack of evidence of efficacy. How gullible am I? I can tell you based on MY personal anecdotal experience that they don’t seem to do a thing to aid in teething pain. Happily traded mine for a new cloth diaper.

    • Thanks for the comment, it’s nice to have the negative anecdotes to counter the positive ones.
      And I wouldn’t say gullible, we have a certain expectation that products meet some minimum standard and it’s not always easy to determine if you have missed the relevant evidence. No one yet has pointed to any deficiencies in my search but that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be decent positive evidence tomorrow.

    • Brandon
    • February 4th, 2012

    Hello I found your article this morning after we put a baltic amber necklace on our baby boy and he began to have a severe allergic reaction immediately. His face swelled, his nose ran, and he was beginning to have difficulty breathing. He was opening his mouth and gasping. It was horrifying. Once we took the necklace off he immediately began to look and feel better. We were literally on our way to the door to take him to the emergency room and we had calls in to our pediatrician’s office. I wish I had read this article before subjecting our 5 month old (our first) baby to unknown levels of untested chemicals. I have shared this article and our experience with our friends who have babies as well.

    • Thanks for the comment Brandon,
      Given the severity and speed of the reaction I would be hesitant to ascribe it to the amber beads, I’ve never heard of such a thing and none of my research indicates that it is a significant possibility. I would consider a. that the amber beads are in fake and may not be amber, or b. that the reaction was actually to something else and the beads were a coincidence.
      I’d suggest having your baby checked out just to be sure, don’t want to settle on a diagnosis too quickly and overlook other options that may present a danger in future.

      Much as I’d like to have a serious adverse reaction to point to I’d rather have your baby be safe.

        • Brandon
        • February 4th, 2012

        Thanks for the response. I agree that it seems unlikely that it could be the amber beads, but the strange thing was that he wasn’t exposed to anything else new this morning. I supposed it could have been something to do with the packaging the necklace came it or other materials in the necklace, but the bottom line was that he was totally fine and within minutes of having the necklace on his face was red, his eyes were swelling shut, and he was gasping for air. We took the necklace off right away and while we were getting ready to go to the emergency room he recovered almost as fast. It was really strange and horrifying.

        • ok, well good luck.

    • Belinda
    • February 5th, 2012

    Hi, i was really skeptical about amber too, a friend had beads on her baby since he started teething and used panadol a handful of times, whereas my neice has had panadol alot due to teething, and i thought might as well try it for my neice and nephew if their parents wanted to, ( my nephew is a very unhappy, cranky thing!) they have just started searing them, however my neice’s are off already, thats fine, and i will be interested to see what happens with my cranky nephew! But i thought id give them a go… So i joined two together and wore them as a bracelet, as a result my knee has felt better, however, i put new thicker earings in, my ears were bright red, but no pain, i could not believe it! I havd ended up wearing them for a while now, a just took them off last night, and today have had a migraine, 3lots of drugs later and alot of nausea, my mum asked where they were, so i put them back on, an within half hour my migraine was gone! They usually last on average 3 days! And i realised i have not had a migraine since i started wearing them.
    So i am starting to turn my skepticism, and i would say give them a go! Y not!

    • I’m glad you appear to be getting some benefit but the plural of anecdote is not data.

      see post “I was a Skeptic, but…”

      Before we can start looking for a reason why they work we have to objectively determine that they do work, anecdotes are not objective. But we find our own experience more powerful than abstract concepts like plausibility, therefore I predict that most people will be highly unconvinced by my insistence on hard evidence unless or until they have a contradictory anecdote.

      Thanks for the comment and I don’t intend to sound harsh but if heard so many of the “but it works for me” type argument…

    • Belinda
    • February 5th, 2012

    Oh i am also a nurse who believes in science and logic. If something works, it works, not because of some higher being, but because there is a logical reason for it, amber beads- just dont know the logic yet

    • ROZ
    • February 29th, 2012

    I found this post very captivating and honest. I happen to sell amber necklaces, but I am always in support of a good honest discussion. I am more concerned over the use of acetaminophen to treat teething pain. There is a lot of research on this drug that shows it leading to increased risk of asthma and potential for liver toxicity. I agree parents accept way too much on blind faith, but we have medical professionals recommending something that we KNOW is harmful. I am in support of science, unfortunately studies are not often as un-biased as we would like.

    • Thanks for the comment, you do raise good points.
      First, whatever the case with amber beads that does not mean all medically treatments are absolutely safe. Second, medical interventions always carry some risk but this is balanced by the benefit. It may turn out that the risk/benefit for acetaminophen is unacceptable. In which case there are other products available. My point with the post above is that we have no reason to think that amber beads work at all (I’ve noted before that I don’t consider anecdotes to be of high enough quality to be good evidence of efficacy).

      Should it turn out that amber beads do have some plausible mechanism of action AND (more importantly) are shown to work better than placebo then I would have no problem with them being used. The trouble is there are so many products out there that have only anecdotal support that should we decide that is the only criteria for use then we have to accept every claim that comes along, even the contradictory ones.

      Finally, bias in science. Yes that is an issue and why replication of findings is important. But most of the information available for amber beads is provided by those selling them, could this not also introduce bias? I’m not saying this is deliberate (as it needn’t be in science) but those with a vested interest in selling the product would likely be interested in providing information that supports their claims and either not looking for or disregarding information that contradicts them or casts doubt on them.

      Objections such as yours are common I’ve found but often neglect the other side of the coin as I’ve pointed out (proven benefits of medicine, bias on the side of those promoting natural products). That’s not to say your comments are incorrect or invalid, quite the opposite, but they are not the full story.
      Thanks again.

    • Erasmus
    • March 1st, 2012

    Asked our (well respected) pediatrician about possibly getting one for our boy. He said it was a great idea. There is a noticeable difference in how he reacts to the teething pains when he has it on.
    Anecdotal, sure. But call it a case study. I suppose someone could study whether trace amounts of the analgesic are present on the skin after wearing, and then try to find an assessment tool that a toddler can use to accurately self-report pain. Until then, we have to rely on anecdotal “case studies”.

    • You may call them “case studies” if you like but this does seem to be a distortion of the term if by case study we mean observing an individual in a rigorous and intensive way in order to answer a question. (eg http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR13-4/baxter.pdf).
      That is not what I see in amber bead use however.
      Playing with terminology does not make these observations any more reliable.
      Also the respectability of your paediatrician does not make positive evidence appear out of no-where, as I noted in the post, with the lack of evidence what you are likely to get is your doctors own philosophy – not a judgement on the facts.

      I also noted in another comment that evidence of analgesic effect need not be restricted to infants. If any evidence was produced in adults this would at least lend plausibility to the claims. Thus we do not need to restrict ourselves to the harder task of measuring pain in non-(or minimally)communicative subjects.

      I’m glad you have had a positive experience but personal experience is not necessarily a reliable guide, however much we wish it to be.

    • Will72
    • March 16th, 2012

    The Therapeutic Good Administration in Australia has classed Amber Teething Necklaces as a Medical Device. So I guess they have some reasons behind that decision! Therapeutic properties I would imagine!

    41BD What is a medical device
    Medical devices:
    -are used on humans
    -have therapeutic benefits
    -generally have a physical or mechanical effect on the body or are used to measure or monitor functions of the body.

    I have put them on my children with fantastic results. There are NO strangulations documented from wearing an Amber Necklace throughout the entire world. I believe the Pharmaceutical Companies are behind the push to have parents not put them on their children. Just imagine the loss of revenue for them if a $25 necklace can replace $100/year for other Medicines.

    Maybe you should look into the Immunisation coverup from the Govt point of view. There is your cause for Autism!!

    • Curious, I just searched the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods under both medicines and devices, looking for amber or succinic acid and found nothing. So care to support you claim? ARTG Id should do it, or the product sponsor name should narrow things down.

      Otherwise I suspect you have been told something that isn’t true.

      I also suspect that intended therapeutic benefits would be enough to fulfil the therapeutic benefits category. Unless the Register is in possession of studies that are not published elsewhere there is no way that they could be sure that an actual benefit is occurring.

      As for the “Big Pharma” argument, I cover this further up. You think the pharma companies wouldn’t take over the amber necklace industry and rack in the big bucks if it worked? There are websites out there claiming that the amber beads “run out” of therapeutic goodness so you have to buy another one.

      The autism thing? give me a break..

    • Plus I just found this on an amber website:

      “Amber Teething Necklace Information – TGA Australia

      Due to regulations of the Therapeutic Goods ACT, policed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), whose register does not recognise the claimed healing and theraputic properties of Amber we are unable to offer any detailed information on Amber Teething necklaces or Amber in general in a theraputic advisory capacity.

      Therapeutic goods are defined in the Act to include goods that are represented in any way to be for therapeutic use. Therapeutic use is defined to include use in or in connection with influencing, inhibiting, or modifying a physiological process in persons.

      In all amber related cases that we have seen, the TGA Panel note “that the advertisement appeared likely to breach section 42DL(1)(g) of the Act, which prohibits the publication of advertisements for therapeutic goods that are not included in the Register“”

      Found here: http://www.allaboutamber.com.au/amber-jewellery/amber-teething-necklaces/

      So I think someone is telling you porkies.

    • On the topic of Australian government then, I also found that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commision issued a safety warning about Amber teething beads end of september last year (see here and here and here)

      While it’s not impossible I do find it unlikey that one branch of the government is condoning their use while another warns against them.

      That would be amusing though. I almost wish you were right just to see that happen.

    • Finally, there was a complaint against a supplier made and upheld for making claims about the therapeutic benefits of amber beads because a. they aren’t in the register and b. the claims could not be verified and may therefore be “likely to arouse unwarranted and unrealistic expectations of product effectiveness”.

      http://www.tgacrp.com.au/index.cfm?pageID=13&special=complaint_single&complaintID=1758

      Glad you dropped by. :)

      • just found this story and thought it might be relavent to the conversation:
        http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/news/tga-releases-list-of-tested-cam

        a couple of key quotes:
        “Officially, all TGA registered products are evaluated for quality, safety and efficacy.

        But evidence-based medicine campaigners have long warned that this is not the case for most registered complementary medicines, as they were “grandfathered” onto the register without an assessment, misleading consumers.

        This has now been confirmed, with the TGA last week releasing a list of “evaluated registered complementary medicines”, including only a small fraction of those registered.”

        “The cost of the TGA registration process is about $150,000 per product, which is paid for by
        the manufacturer or supplier, Dr Harvey said.

        In addition to the 200 complementary medicines on the register, thousands of other
        untested products, regarded as low risk, are “listed” with the TGA by the manufacturers
        and carry an “AUST L” label.”

      • Phoebe
      • April 2nd, 2012

      you are an idiot. Andrew Wakefield, the ex-Doctor behind the DISCREDITED claim that the MMR was linked with increased rates of autism has been barred from practicing medicine the UK.

      • Thanks Phoebe but I prefer that we not degenerate to name calling – even if I agree with the content of your comment.

    • Amber
    • March 26th, 2012

    It seems that I am late to this conversation, but none the less, I am here now and I’m glad for it. This is our first baby. I’m a stay-at-home mom and we only have one income. This is the information that we needed! We are on a very tight budget and we can’t spend money on needless items. I understand that this is my opinion and I am entitled to my opinion as well as other are to theirs. We found this information very informative. Thank you for “wasting your time” on researching everything that you have found in this matter. Thank you for making sense of things that didn’t make sense. To cast our vote, we are NOT going to make this purchase due to the statements and comment here. There just isn’t enough creditable facts. Thank you once again.

    • Don’t worry, this conversation just gets more popular as time goes by :).

      I’m glad you found the info here helpful and good luck with your young one, we’re well into the toddler stage now.
      Boy is that fun.

    • Jazsmin
    • April 5th, 2012

    I was skeptical until I tried one with my son. He was one and a half and nothing would soothe his poor gums do we tried an amber necklace. It was almost magic. I thought it might help a little but he honestly was a different child within 24 hours of us putting it on him. Now my 3 month old is teething so we borrowed his necklace(which he has not taken off for 2 years) and it has worked really well with her. I was super freaked out about the fact that I was putting a necklace on my children but it has not caused any problems whatsoever. The amber necklaces have a knot in between each bead so if it did break it would be a chain and not a pile of beads which is nice.

    • Glad you haven’t had any problems.

      I note in a previous comment however that anecdote =/= evidence and it is the lack of good quality evidence that this article is about. Many therapies have nought but anecdotes to support them, to determine whether they actually work we need more than this. People can be fooled (note, this does NOT make them fools) science is about not fooling ourselves.

    • Tattie
    • April 12th, 2012

    Does anyone else think it odd that an earlier comment from a Born Again Christian supports the efficacy of amber beads. Many BAC believe the earth is only about 5000 years old, yet amber Is millions of years old? I wonder how, or if, they reconcile those two issues?

    • I don’t have access to that person’s history so it might not be odd at all, (I don’t know, I live in a country where most people accept the age of the earth so…) .

      But then again, compartmentalisation is a wonderful thing, I’m sure most young earthers don’t think too deeply about where oil comes from either. Or, if god can plant oil s/he/it can do it for amber. Who knows?

  12. An excellent example of why natural and ancient =/= safe and effective,
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/herbal-medicine-and-aristolochic-acid-nephropathy/

    • Rosemary
    • April 26th, 2012

    [Edit- Moved to correct post]
    Ok first of all to the person that said that Amber necklaces cause autism…. wow what a joke!! My two sons and daughters wore necklaces when they were babies and NO they are not autistic. Now will I ever purchase another necklace if I ever have another child? My answer is no. My mother in law sweared it made a difference. Lol! They still drooled like crazy they we’re in pain and very fuzzy till I gave them tylenol. If you think they work and are not harmful try them. They are very cute :)

    • “wow what a joke!!”

      Yes, I do explain the joke a couple of times. As does the commenter in that the claim of autism is made on the same amount of hard evidence as other alleged causes. Thanks for the comment.

  13. I think any baby tools are bound with hazard issues. Whatever it is around babies, best course of action is to be on constant lookout on what they’re playing with … and what they place in their mouths.

  14. Somewhere in the sea of comments you mention that just because something is natural or homeopathic doesn’t mean it is safe. Actually I’m pretty sure you reiterated this point many times. I’m really glad you have and I hope people take that message seriously, even if it is taken seperatly from the amber necklace message. Herbs and other naturopathic remedies don’t have to be tested for side effects or proven in any way so people think they are safe and sound, but there have been MANY I’ll effects of people taking herbs, ranging from mild depression to attempted suicide and I’m sure there are others. These things need to be taken a little more seriously.

    • Thanks for that, it is a point the bears repeating. The number of times I see a comment like “I prefer natural products to drugs” is truly lamentable. If a product has a biological effect on the body beyond providing energy and nutrients then it IS a drug, often in these cases a poorly tested drug.

      Do you have any references for the adverse effects you mention, I imagine that would be a useful resource.

        • Jennifer
        • June 11th, 2012

        “Complementary and alternative medicine are increasingly used to diagnose or treat allergic diseases, and numerous studies have reported benefits of this type of medicine. This article presents a review of the literature on risks of these methods. The potential sensitizing capacity of numerous herbal remedies may lead to allergic contact dermatitis and more rarely to IgE-mediated clinical symptoms. Mechanical injuries may be observed following acupuncture leading to pneumothorax, cardiac tamponade or spinal injury. Infectious complications after acupuncture include hepatitis and bacterial endocariditis. Organ toxicity has been observed associated with various herbal preparations involving the liver, kidneys, and the heart. Some herbs may have cancerogenic properties. Severe nutritional deficiencies can occur in infants and small children given strict alternative diets, resembling ‘kwashiorkor’. Finally, among other miscellaneous adverse effects, adulteration with steroids, and herbal and drug interactions are discussed. The pattern of side-effects is similar to that observed by the use of conventional medicine. Therefore, caution may be justified using both conventional and unconventional methods. Only if the benefit is proven and the side-effects are established, should a given method be chosen.”
        This is an abstract that I found on pub med. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12859546
        There are many sources, and it is easily searched.
        I am a Certified Lactation Counselor, and during my training we talked a lot about not suggesting our clients take or use anything to help advance their lactation. For one, nothing actually helps except ones own physiology and two because we are not trained naturopaths and it would be malpractice! We discussed the seriousness of herbs and mineral and how many people take them thinking natural is good for you no matter what. I am a believer in holistic treatments and have benefitted from them many times myself, but it has never been without the guidance of a trained herbalist or naturopath. Unfortunately they are not covered by most insurances, so these things are out of reach for most. Anyhow, the resources I have regarding depression and suicidal behavior is stacked away in books somewhere, but you seem to have a handle on googling, lol. I will keep searching for specifics on it though.

        • Thanks for that, very interesting.

    • James Hunt
    • June 17th, 2012

    FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC!!

    At least you have shown how to do some research and take responsibility into your own hands, and not just nod because a fat guy in a white coat says its good for you. Love your work..

    JH

    • Thanks.

      I’m trying to demonstrate a process but people do focus on the conclusion. My main message here is: How does is work? is that reasonable? How does this fit into existing knowledge?

      If a person feels that magical healing energy that is recharged by the sun is reasonable then this process is not for them…

    • Dawn
    • June 25th, 2012

    But here´s the thing, I wear an amber necklace most of the time, and when my joints start hurting, I almost always notice that I´ve taken off the amber necklace a few days earlier. Do you not consider that evidence? You should not completely disregard the countless number of people who have used them and DO think they have seen a reduction in discomfort and no ill side effects. Just because the scientific method was not used, that does not mean there is no evidence they work. My children have worn them, and displayed very little discomfort from teething. Of course, I can´t be certain it was because of the amber (perhaps they wouldn´t have had pain anyway). Now that my daughter has cut her 2 year molars, I will remove it. I do wonder and worry a little about not knowing the exact amount of succinic acid she might be getting (if any). But the absolute absence of any evidence of negative side effects made me think there was nothing to lose and she looks darling in the necklace!

    • What you are describing is called “confirmation bias” you notice when your joints hurt that you are not wearing the necklace. You mentally note that down as evidence the necklace works. Do you notice every instance that you are not wearing the necklace and your joints are not hurting? Noticing something that ISN’T happening is difficult.

      In addition, there is a statistical phenomenon called “regression to the mean” that could explain how the necklace appears to work after you put it on. If you put the necklace on when your joints flair up then you have started treatment at a point of peak discomfort. Once you have then the discomfort is likely to subside. Now it is possible that the amber contributes to this, or it could be that your joint pain would have subsided on it’s own. No way to tell.

      You are correct that because they haven’t been studied scientifically that is not evidence against them working. I would say however that anecdotal evidence is not enough to conclude that they are. People can be fooled, and we are extremely good at fooling ourselves.

      • and this logic you apply to teething babies. parents are looking for evidence that it works, they apply the necklace during peak pain which then subsides on its own. they ignore or attribute further crying as being unrelated to teething (they are wearing the necklace, after all). on top of this is the extra attention given to the child once the beads are on – because the parents are cautious about this new “tool” and are probably giving more eye contact, smiles and cuddles. all of which go some way to reducing crying.

    • For those interested, I found a good sciencebasedmedicine.org article that cover why personal experience is an unreliable guide to whether something really works:
      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/why-we-need-science-i-saw-it-with-my-own-eyes-is-not-enough/

    • Pauline
    • July 5th, 2012

    Amber has worked very well for me when my wisdom teeth were coming through. I’m curious as to why you would think anyone would call you an idiot for having an opinion. I’m sure you wouldn’t call anyone an idiot for having a different opinion to yours would you? You mentioned amber possibly being dangerous. Have you ever thought about the chemicals put into plastic toys being dangerous? The chemicals that thousands of factory workers have died of cancer from. Or the dangers that heating food in a microwave…. Amber works well for a lot of people. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.

    • I don’t “think” someone would call me an idiot for having an opinion, I know – they did in the “other” section of the poll, hence the remark. You wouldn’t think people would be so petty, but you’d be wrong. I also had a comment all in caps saying get a life. Not everyone who uses the internet is mature enough to handle differences of opinion.

      Yes I have thought about chemicals in toys, the difference is that toys do get tested, sometimes too late but they do and they have to adhere to strict rules. Amber necklaces were recently tested for safety in the UK and failed. Not for chemical components as far as I know.

      There’s not really much danger in microwaves, other than over heating I suppose. And bad cooking.

      I’m glad you feel amber worked for you, but I think I’ve covered anecdote enough in these comments.

      I see that you are generally trying to say that we live in a dangerous world. True, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remove certain risks if we can. I don’t think it’s dangerous for you to use amber though and continue if you wish.

      Thanks.

    • Heidi Pogner-Schultz
    • July 20th, 2012

    I was wondering on your thoughts about the studies below:

    •Baltic Amber consists of up to 8% succinic acid and its related succinate compounds, whereas other ambers often have no trace of these chemicals (i, ii, iii)
    •The 2003 study by Chen (and others) found that succinic acid at low doses, reduced the anxiety effects when tested on mice. They found that succinic acid reduced the stress induced temperature rises in mice. When babies are teething, they experience pain and associated with that a rise in temperature and stress. Based on this study we could assume that the succinic acid in Baltic Amber could therefore reduce this stress and temperature. They also mention that succinic acid has been reported to have a slight sedative effect, has prolonged anaesthetic sleep in mice, and has reduced seizures caused by noise in rats.
    •Amber has been shown to have antibacterial properties with a 1-5% solution reducing bacterial growth on food (v).

    References

    i) Gough, L. J. & Mills, J. S. (1972).
    ‘The composition of succinite (Baltic amber)’. Nature 239: 527-528. (doi:10.1038/239527a0)

    ii) Mills, J. S., White, R. & Gough, L. J. (1984)
    ‘The chemical composition of Baltic amber’. Chemical Geology 47, 15-39.
    (doi:10.1016/0009-2541(84)90097-4)

    iii) Alexander P. Wolfe, Ralf Tappert, Karlis Muehlenbachs, Marc Boudreau, Ryan C. McKellar, James F Basinger and Amber Garrett. (2009).
    ‘A new proposal concerning the botanical origin of Baltic Amber’. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences 276: 3403-3412
    doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0806

    iv) Si Wei Chen, Qin Xin, Wei Xi Kong, Li Min, & Jing Fang Li. (2003)
    ‘Anxiolytic-like effect of succinic acid in mice’.
    Life Sciences 73: 3257-3264

    v) Davidson, P. Michael, Sofos, John N., Branen, Alfred Larry (eds). (2005).
    ‘Antimicrobials in Food: Third Edition.’
    Taylor & Francis

    vi) Xu, Jun, & Guo, Bao-Hua.
    ‘Microbial Succinic Acid, its polymer Poly(butylene succinate), and applications’. Page 347 in Chen, Guo-Qiang (ed) (2010)
    ‘Plastics from Bacteria. Natural Functions and applications’.
    Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
    ISBN 978-3-642-03286-8

    I do not agree in natural rememdies not being regulated, although I do feel natural rememdies have solid footing among synthetic medicines. Conversing with dentists and pediatricians, they are not opposed to using baltic amber (with supervision), although as stated, no garantee it will work (but does not hurt to try).

    I think there is firm evidence of baltic amber providing relief of teething issues, but I do believe it is as effective as thought. On this thought, I believe babies and infants are provided relief because they are not subjected to succinic acid (as stated per Chen study, low doses showed to have effect) on a regular basis. When dosing with synthetic drug such as acetaminophen on regular basis within approved dosage (liver damage only suspect if beyond recommended dose and for long periods of time), immunity can become present (I believe many Pediatricians and Registered Nurses would confirm this; my Pediatrician has confirmed). As a result, where acetaminophen no longer has an effect, now baltic amber will. Again though, risk of immunity building up against succinic acid.

    Doses emitted of succinic acid into skin into body (whether ingested or through skin, which provides very little succinic acid, considering natural skin oils, pollution, old skin, etc.) too low to cause noted concerns (no studies conclusive to show allergies from amber).

    Personal conclusion: I think if you are dosing your infant with acetaminophen daily due to their discomfort (beyond what plastic teething rings, chilled devices, or vibrating toys, would be able to provide), it would be worthwhile to try baltic amber. Recommend supervision at all times. Do buy anything expensive.

    • Well you get the prize for most researched comment. :)

      Regarding the first three studies, interesting and relevant to ensure people are getting what they think they are getting but not particularly relevant to the question of whether they work. For the purposes of argument I assume the amber being used is the type containing the succinic acid.

      The fifth and sixth studies, also interesting but not (I think) especially relevant.

      Which leaves the forth study which I thank you greatly for finding.

      I’m not sure it particularly supports the use of amber teething beads but it at least provides some limited justification.

      There are several points I wish to make in relation to this. First is the method of delivery:
      The succinic acid was introduced by mouth, not skin absorption. So a known dose was introduced.

      Second the amount used was on the order of 1.5-6 mg/kg, this is a relative measure of dose so for each kg of body weight the recipient gets 1.5-6 mg of active ingredient.

      If we relate this to amber beads then, from what I can find the weight of a necklace can range from 4.5g-12g (i,ii). If we take the highest weight, 12g, and assume that 8% of this is succinic acid – that gives us 960mg of active ingredient. The average 6 month old is say 7.5 kg (iii), so lets divide our succinic acid content by this (assuming the entire amount of active ingredient is available for absorption). We then get a max dose of 128mg/kg.

      Now, we have no idea what the rate of absorption is (if indeed any absorption occurs, which I am dubious about), perhaps it is high – a massive dose all at once – in which case there is a good chance the necklace would be effective for a short while.

      Or perhaps of is prolonged, lets say the infant gets 1.5mg/kg a day, in which case the necklace is possibly effective but the necklace is depleted in about three months. What if it is extremely prolonged, only very, very small amounts are released. This would have to be the case with necklaces when it is claimed that they can be passed down between children for generations. In this case there would be such a tiny amount absorbed that it’s unlikely any therapeutic effect could be observed.

      Which ever way you cut it you end up with a situation that conflicts with at least some claims made for the necklaces.

      I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comment, and the study provided partially addresses at least one of my concerns about plausibility, for which I thank you again.

      I would dispute your assertion that there is firm evidence that the beads are effective, this can only be concluded if you consider anecdotes to be firm evidence, which I do not.

      Once again, thank you for the comment, it is the most reasoned and reasonable one in support of amber so far. I still don’t agree but I am somewhat heartened by there being at least some work that sheds light in this general direction.

      i. http://www.babytimeia.com/products-page/mama/baltic-amber-necklace-raw-caramel-ovaamber-17-5-inches/
      ii. http://amber24.com/9-baby-teething-necklaces
      iii. http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/clinical_charts.htm

        • Steve
        • January 12th, 2014

        If absorption did occur would not the amber shrink in size or weight, or at least be physically depleted in some measurable way?

    • Heidi Pogner-Schultz
    • July 20th, 2012

    “I think there is firm evidence of baltic amber providing relief of teething issues, but I do believe it is as effective as thought.”

    Correction: I do not believe it as effective as thought

    • Richard
    • August 2nd, 2012

    My wife bought teething necklace as a last resort for our 8 month old son. We’ve tried everything else and use of Calpol was becoming dangerous. The effect was imeadiate. better sleep, less screeming (and I mean hours of it) and a much happier mum.
    A few days ago the old pattern of behavior resumed including lots of scrreming, teething rash, inflamed cheeks etc., so the necklace was changed (about 30 minutes ago) the change was instant, back to calm and happy baby whos now having a nap.
    The reason Im writing this is that I find the fact that the effect of this so quick and pronounced startling. It clearly does work (for us). But from my perspective there are 2 points, Id rather my boy doesnt wear a necklace. Secondly I have a masters in science, I dont do mumbo jumbo, so there must be a fundamental reason for the effect. What is it and is it detramental to his health? In the short term I can only see positive reasons for there use. But is there a long term consequence?

    • First off, thank you for sharing your perspective. Unfortunately I don’t have much else positive to say about what you have written (except for the end so hold out hope for that).

      You have a firm belief that the beads work for your child but you have employed the same faulty reasoning as those who do “do mumbo jumbo”. These people are not stupid, they are drawing conclusions based on their personal experiences, just as you have done. If we are to accept your testimony as a factual, accurate and correctly interpreted description of reality then we must do so for the crystal healers, the spiritualists, the alternative medicine proponents. These people have equally and even more impressive stories.

      Your startling experience notwithstanding, our perceptions of how the world works and our ability to draw causal connections is imperfect to say the least. What your comment demonstrates is that those with scientific training are not immune to this in their personal lives. You have in effect taken your experiment of n =1 and drawn a conclusion that is not necessarily supported by sound evidence.

      What then of the antithesis of your experience? The negative anecdote? By your logic we must simultaneously conclude that the beads both definitely do and definitely do not work.

      You have made an appeal to your own authority as having masters in science and a person who doesn’t “do mumbo jumbo” but backed it up with the same anecdotal stories that everyone else has. Why should your carry more weight? I’ve seen more thorough attempts to gauge the effectiveness of the beads that I have found interesting but not compelling.

      You have also made the same errors as those who develop whole disciplines of pseudo-science based on their own idiosyncratic experiences, leapt to trying to find a reason for the effect before firmly establishing that there is an effect to explain.

      You have drawn the inference that because you have a degree and you are opposed to “mumbo jumbo” that you can not be fooled, that is a dangerous inference to make and one that leaves us at greatest vulnerability of being fooled.

      I think you will read this and be entirely unshaken in your firm convictions, just like those crystal healers and spiritualists I mentioned earlier. This is a prediction that the evidence of psychology allows me to make, it is extremely difficult to discount our own experiences as flawed and few are able to do so. I’m not sure I would be able to in your place so I don’t hold it against you.

      Lest I be accused of being equally dogmatic, well that’s a possibility, but I have asked for hard evidence and with the exception of Heidi’s comment above I have been given stories. As interesting as these are they do not make the grade I’m afraid. Anything can be claimed by genuine people (UFO abduction, suppressed memories of satanic abuse, personal visits by angels etc etc) but that does not mean they are worth taking as seriously as higher forms of evidence.

      You saving grace is the thought given to the consequences of long term use of the beads, this is more that I usually see from the “crunchy” sector for whom “natural” is always best and can never have a down side. So well done for that.

        • Vero
        • October 17th, 2012

        Your perspective is clearly from a Western scientific paradigm. As a fellow scientist I understand your concerns, but consider other cultural paradigms. There is vast literature on what in Anthropology is called ethnoscience. The fact that a cultural practice, such as these beads has been in use for centuries may stem from beliefs and traditions, but many of these behaviors and traditions stem from generations of people having trial and error, experience, that although may not be called controlled experiments under our narrow western paradigm of what is science or not, should not be discarded because our arrogance in thinking that our paradigm is the only one that is “true” or “factual” or “real”. I also find that US culture, in terms of parenting and kids, leans quite heavily towards looking for dangers, hazards, and fear.

          • Dave
          • October 17th, 2012

          The problem with employing the ethnoscience line here is that in every other case where an old cultural practice appears to work, there are plausible scientific explanations for why. Here there appear to be none – on the efficacy side at least.

        • I’m fine with admitting that other cultures can arrive at useful practices that haven’t yet been proven by science. But, and here’s the crucial part, if you want to argue that it works then an argument from antiquity can only take you so far. It can say “Look, here’s something people have been doing for ages – I wonder why”, after that you’ve got to have actual evidence.

          Again, it’s the fallacy of assuming that people cannot be confused as to causation. With something that can be as variable as teething (both within individuals and between them) this argument simply does not hold up.

            • Dave Joyce
            • May 21st, 2013

            What kind of evidence do you need to assert a cause and effect? Just because I’m unable to explain how something works doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work – just that I can’t explain how it does. It’s like trying to prove or disprove a theory of gravity before conclusively establishing that gravity exists.

            There’s a theory behind why Amber beads reportedly make a difference. And maybe it’s entirely wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that it has reportedly (through story) made a difference.

            So Instead of trying to figure out *how* they might work, perhaps you could address the question of wether or not we can establish a cause and effect relationship. What is necessary to conclusively establish that relationship?

            • I have detailed this somewhere else but I can’t find it so I’m not surprised you haven’t seen it either. I have not said the beads to not work, merely that anecdotes can not be used to say that they do and that the given mechanism of action appears implausible.

              Steps that would convince me of the amber analgesic hypothesis (substitute which ever is you favorite mechanism of action for the compound):

              1. Studies that show analgesic effect for the compound, dose response curves would be good. This need not be carried out in babies – for practical reasons. Anecdotes are not applicable.

              2. Work that shows the compound can be leached out of the amber beads under the conditions it would normally be exposed to on the babies skin.

              3. Evidence that the compound is absorbed transdermally and in sufficient quantities to cause the analgesic effect (see those dose response curves of #1).

              Should your preferred mechanism of action be more mysterious than a compound within the amber (static electricity, magnetism, healing energy etc) then step #1 becomes very important and would need to be of extremely high quality.

    • Meaghan
    • August 17th, 2012

    I am sorry but after reading your article I have not changed my mind I brought one for my son and it has given him great relief…this was after pumping his little body with Nourfen and bonjela every day and night and I think that would be worse! Your opinion though and each to there own.
    Let it be noted that I have it on my son 24/7 but place it AROUND HIS ANKLE AT NIGHT AS A SAFETY MEASURE. :)

    • You need not be sorry, I don’t recall adding the comment “And you must agree with me or else”. However I must point out that you are employing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. ie after this therefore because of this.

      That’s not to say that you are wrong of course, cause and effect to tend to turn out that way after all.
      But merely because your son’s symptoms resolved after putting the necklace on him (good to hear it’s around the ankle) does not mean that the reason is because the necklace is relieving them.

      There is a statistical concept “Regression to the Mean” which could also explain what is happening. You Give your boy the necklace when symptoms are most severe, the symptoms subside as a return to the “mean” (average) comfort level is inevitable at some point. Teething pain does not last indefinitely. The improvement is then attributed to the necklace. Entirely straightforward, understandable and wrong.

      Just to make it clear, I’m not saying that’s precisely what happened. Just that with the available evidence it is not possible to differentiate between the hypotheses “The necklace worked” and “The symptoms got better on their own”.

      Thanks for the comment and I hope your boy continues to be comfortable. My little one just turned two and he’s very happy.

    • Evangeline
    • August 22nd, 2012

    Probably way off here, but….
    Has anyone tried a necklace of another material around a baby’s neck? (Safely designed and observed of course). In reading this well researched post and the other comments, I suddenly wonder if perhaps it’s not the material, but the presence of the necklace that distracts from pain/soothes – think acupressure.
    Overall, being gullible, I tend to believe in just about any homeopathic/ wholistic remedy that is sent down the pike to me, but haven’t tried the necklaces on my daughter as I couldn’t bring myself to fork over the 20 bucks for a handful of brown beads, when her teething symptoms are never too severe.

  15. I gather Hazelwood necklaces are also popular. I mention these briefly in my follow-up post here.

    I’m not sure substituting one unproven mechanism of action (succinc analgesic) with another (acupressure) really gets us anywhere though.

    Thanks for the comment

    • molly
    • August 23rd, 2012

    Scepticon, you sound like a typical know it all – rudeness and conceit thinly masked as a desire to inform and debunk. Unless individuals have the facilities and time to run double blind experiments they only have personal stories to provide as ‘evidence’, as well you know.

    I am not a crystal jingler, scientist or religious fanatic but recognise there are affects, substances and processes we do not yet understand, although science is attempting to. Give the teething necklaces a go/don’t give them a go – let parents decide and apply common sense.

    Either offer constructive advice or keep your clever comments to yourself or you risk becoming like those you accuse of preying on the fears of new parents.

    • I am attempting to offer constructive advice ie. this has no good evidence for it’s worth, ask your doctor.

      If that strikes you as being a “know it all”, good for you – snap judgements are always right.

      • Ok, had my deep breaths now.

        Thanks for the insulting remarks. My style can run somewhat to the abrasive but I try to temper it with useful information and steps people can use to work through things for themselves. Perhaps that’s paternalistic. Do you understand regression to the mean, cognitive biases like the confirmation bias, confounding factors? If you do – great.

        Not everyone has even heard of these things though so another perspective can be useful. What I’m trying to provide here is what is lacking in most approaches I see with regard to Altmed and these new fads – some critical examination. If you don’t appreciate it, fine it’s not aimed at you. I can’t control who reads my material. I make it available so that those looking can find it.

        Given that this is by far my most popular post I think there are many who appreciate it.
        So thanks for your vitriol, I’ll try to take what constructive criticism I can from it.
        Get thicker veil, check.

          • molly
          • September 19th, 2012

          Abrasive and sensitive but challenging, I like that.

          There was no intention to insult. I appreciate your frankness and believe as you do that one thing does not necessarily follow another. An absence of negatives is not proof of success and anecdotal evidence is no basis for a decision.

          However, you come across as a know it all, laced with not a little conceit. Your tone and sarcasm suggests a need for approval and I don’t find that at all interesting, in the same way as I wouldn’t find it interesting in someone really pushing for the use of amber beads and stating their results as miraculous. Maybe it’s just your written tone but this is your blog.

          I am the parent of a teething child and have not been encouraged to use amber, not by anything written here and not even by the very persuasive powers of an exceedingly sensible family member with children.

          • So you describe the author as a needy, conceited know-it-all but you have no intention to insult? I would suggest that you are a hypocrite, and your efforts to present yourself as impartial are disingenuous.

      • LIrana
      • August 31st, 2012

      I absolutely agree – when after 12 hours of unsatisfactory medication my husband broke the bottle we had to stop the analgesic and the baby stopped crying immediately. I am prepared to accept stopping may not work for everybody but surely it is worth trying. It did really work for us.

  16. I like abrasive.. me too.. it comes with wisdom.. I am never brutal but I don’t mince words.. some of my best critics make me think outside my little box.. thanks for lots of great perspective.. traditional medicines worldwide use stones, beads, and seeds to adorn their babies.. all have medicinal stories.. real science or not, for many humans, for eons, these things have “worked” just sayin…

    • you are right geri same for me to..

  17. OK for whoever wants it I’ve uploaded a version of these two posts onto google Drive. I’ve cleaned it up a bit, replaced broken links changed the wording here and there etc.
    link is:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ewDAcxoJQAqiY2q_supjDIRYoRawLZ8BNa8keHFROTA/edit

    I just ask that if you use it please let me know so I have a rough idea what is being done with my material.

    • My opinion
    • September 12th, 2012

    Scepticon, I was approached by someone trying to convince me to buy a necklace, because it reliefs the pain of teething, no fever etc.

    I then googled to learn more about this. I want to thank you for the information (facts) provided.

    I would not give my child medicine that has not been medically approved, so why should I experiment any other products on my child?

    I found your research very helpful, and also feel (and I know I could be wrong), that most people commenting here approving this, could be just another sales rep trying to convince people reading your article that they should still consinder buying a necklace.

    Thank you for helping me decide NOT TO use it.

    • Jon
    • September 18th, 2012

    Hi, Fantastic article,

    One thing I noticed in many comments though were people saying something like, “After putting on the beads, the child can sense the calmness in the parent, so they settle down”. Saying something like this doesn’t put any supporting evidence toward the beads, it is simply saying that if you calm down, and accept that teething is going to happen, then you and your child can get on with your lives, and find an activity to distract yourselves.

    Anyway, that aside, I was always sceptical of any homoeopathic therapies but always struggled to put up a good defence against others I know who are very supportive of shoving something random onto/into their child. This article has helped me shed some light, and open some eyes on the subject to a few other friends and parents.

    Like I said, great article, it is also good to see that your are still putting in the time to make responses, even though this article appears to be nearly 2 years old.

      • Jon
      • September 18th, 2012

      Oh, you also mentioned you wanted to know if anyone did anything with your story, I used an extract of it, then pointed people to this site on my local online news paper when they ran an article about amber teething beads. It seemed too many people were leaving very naive comments, and were happy to let folk lore rule out against science and common sense.

      • Much appreciated, thanks.
        It’s true the article is old but it gets ever more popular over time, I passed 40,000 views of it a few weeks back. With this in mind I feel a responsibility to reply to comments that come up as an ever widening pool of people will be reading it for the first time.

      • Ash
      • April 29th, 2013

      I am not a parent, yet. However having taken care of many infants in my “Nanny-ing” (Proper term?), I’ve observed that parents, especially new ones, often forget that the infant tends to feed of of whatever emotions the parent is emitting. In any case, one COULD say that the beads help, but let’s be realistic. Did the beads actually help? Or did your teething little darling settle because you were finally able to breath again?

      … LOVED your blog post by the way. I had been on the fence about considering experimentation (I’m talking one day TOPS, and probably an anklet) with my newly teething 3 month old Niece whom I care for 4 days a week. Thanks to the many great points in your blog post and resources, I am not sold. My little angel will tough it out with cuddles, teething toys & frozen washcloths. :)

      • Happy to help :)

    • Rich
    • September 18th, 2012

    In follow up to your babling rant, on my post from early August which is disproportionate to the length of my original post by some margin, its all very well to discount a great deal of it by analysing my thinking paterns. But indeed my subject sampling of n=1 can be slightly subjective rather than objective. fine so far. But mumbo jumbo that works is science.

    There is a basis for it working and though my sample of 1 may seem anecdotal its taken against the raft of other positive opinions on this and many other forums. To be frank I havnt seen negative feed back, so why then on a sound and reasoned basis do they work?
    After all if Fairey dust is real it must have a chemical formula. I dont argue that alternative medicine may work, its just that in most cases when it does its just called medicine.

    • Gee, sorry I gave your comment any consideration, doubly sorry that you don’t seem to have understood it. Well perhaps other readers will.
      You might find my post “I was a skeptic, but…” equally baffling.

    • Optamizm
    • September 28th, 2012

    Just a bit of information about the hardness of amber… You said Baltic Amber has a hardness of 2-2.5… Well Zinc has a hardness of 2.5 and it can be absorbed through the skin… Here are a couple of articles about it:
    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/30/4/528.abstract
    http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s2830477.htm

    I don’t know my position on Baltic Amber for teething, but I wanted to let you know about this… Thanks for your article and I’ll let you know any other information I find…

      • Optamizm
      • September 28th, 2012

      Another little bit of information:
      “Smell – Vigorous rubbing (on cloth or even on your palm) until the piece of amber gets slightly warm, may cause it to emit weak resinous fragrance (of pine or turpentine) but copal may even begin to soften and the surface may become sticky. A smell of plastic or synthetic chemical indicates fake amber.”
      This was found at this link: http://www.green-crafts.com/content/how-recognize-genuine-amber

      You might know that you smell molecules… Molecules can also be absorbed through the skin… An example is Essential Oils…

    • to your first comment, thanks for that, I didn’t know that and it does help. My point was slightly more subtle than that but it bears well enough on my conclusion that I’m happy enough to take correction.

      for your second, that’s good, keep it up you’re on the right track for making a convincing argument. :)

  18. Thank you for this article.as a new parent I was considering this, but I will not now…..thanks again

    • Dave
    • October 12th, 2012

    Thank you for your excellent blog on the subject, and keeping it open all the time, which has turned it into a great resource for information and debate.

    As a newish parent I’ve recently had some experience with amber necklaces, but fortunately/unfortunately I won’t be giving much anecdotal evidence. We used one for a while then got rid of it. It’s impossible to say whether it did much because a) our baby isn’t teething much yet, and b) there was absolutely no difference in our baby’s teething behaviour (maybe because of a) maybe not).

    My gut reaction (and I’m a first time parent) on seeing the necklace was very uncomfortable about putting anything tied in a loop round a baby’s neck. I have heard stories of blind cords in loops etc. I’m aware that strangulation risks may be quite low, but I’m also aware that babies can get themselves into all sorts of situations where adults are quite surprised about how they did it. It does happen, and there are tragic cases every year.

    So, I believe manufacturers have designed the necklaces to ‘break’ if pressure is put on them (as an aside, if they wanted to be sure about this, they’d have their design and machine processes tested so that there was some *measure* of tensile strength. In the end though, the only way to know about *your* necklace is to pull it until it breaks)

    So, we now have a broken necklace, and in an open admission that that is a choke hazard, manufacturers have tied knots between each bead to reduce the risk. My thoughts on that are again at the level of how do you know the knots will work and one bead is enough to choke anyway.

    In my mind then, the necklace is either a choke or strangulation hazard 100% of the time. I personally don’t feel comfortable about the risk, and I consider myself a pretty laid back parent when it comes to the inevitable risks that are everyday life, but everyone has to make their own mind up.

    Those risks seem to be facts to me. If anyone disputes that, please feel free to say way – I’d genuinely like to hear it.

    And I haven’t even talked about the efficacy yet. It seems to me that if they do work, then making them strong and ankle sized would be a clever way to go.

    We got ours because other parents were swearing by them. Having read the science, it’s pretty unconvincing, but if so many people have success with them, some fairly simple studies wouldn’t be hard. For example, using identical items, some with the succinnic acid and some without, might at least shed some light on whether they may work for some unrelated and undiscovered reason. If succinnic acid alone was able to work, I’m rather surprised some company in some country hasn’t simply come up with standardised drops/spray to use. (Maybe they did, and it did nothing. I am aware of the strict testing controls in many countries, but there are countries that care less about that)

    Like the OP, anecdotal evidence alone means little to me as evidence. I did, however, find the anecdotal evidence to be pretty large, and I do think it might be worth asking why. My opinion is that it may be explained by a combination of things, mostly already mentioned on here – regression to the mean (you try it after 2/3 days of suffering when the suffering was about to abate anyway), parents relaxing because they’ve done something that their friends said worked, and lastly I think this is quite a solution-centric emotive topic. Parents want to do something for their babies when teething, and they want to help other parents with a simple natural solution. So they really want this to work…

    • Thanks for the comment.
      Regarding choking/asphyxiation, I always get the answer that the beads are individually knotted but I’m not sure how that stops a child shoving the whole broken necklace into their mouth and choking. Just watching my son trying to eat spaghetti that we haven’t cut up properly gives my the willies.

      Further I have been personally touched by the loss of life caused by strangulation hazards, and you are quite right that we cannot foresee every possible hazardous situation. Some things are only obvious after the fact.

    • amber
    • October 19th, 2012

    The necklaces were tested , the safety clasp did break away, and the correct tensile strength is in place. The individual beads are not a choking hazard, but the necklace as a whole item is, this is the only failiure on safety testing.
    Hence all amberware should have a warning for choking , and is not recommended for children under three. There should be no claims for miracle cures, and are not supposed to be advertised for teething in babies, A|nyone doing this is flauting tradings standards recomendations.

    • Thanks for that, I mention the safety testing in the follow up post but it’s not the main focus so nice to have that stated.

      I suspect restrictions on “miracle cure claims” can be fairly easily circumvented using testimonials and this is what I seem to see more of now.

      Thanks again.

    • Sceptical Jane.
    • October 30th, 2012

    Hi Scepticon,

    Interesting article, interesting debate. Thank you. I too am perplexed by the sudden onslaught of amber necklaces around babies, and I’m pleased you’ve taken the time to research this “word of mouth” and unsubstantiated craze.

    Just one little criticism, and it’s to do with grammar – important if one wants their published articles taken seriously. Possessive “its” never splits. In other word, the possessive pronoun “its” does not have an apostrophe. This was the one thing that distracted me from your very convincing arguments in the original article. Sorry to digress but I believe grammar is extremely important in online debates.

    Thanks again,

    A Fellow Sceptic from Australia.

    • it’s, its, its’ – is my kryptonite. I stopped caring and I’m happier for it.

    • Bree
    • November 4th, 2012

    THANKYOU!!!! Having worked in childcare and recently given birth to my second child I was really unsure of my view point on using these teething necklaces… Im so glad a stumbled upon what you have written! Whilst trying to sort through many websites in search of some substantial information regarding these necklaces I can now easily put my mind at ease, knowing that i listened to that little voice in my head saying “something just doesnt sit well” … I think i will just stick to old school remedies – rusks, ice, massage, teething toys… I say thankyou once again ;-)

    • Glad to be of service :)

    • Nina
    • November 9th, 2012

    Hi Scepticon,

    Thank you for all your hard work on gathering all this info. Do you know anything about the Hazelwood Teething Necklace?

    Cheers,
    N

    • I haven’t directly researched them but came across them in the course of looking into amber necklaces. The basic claim seems to be that all your ills are caused by acid and the hazelwood neutralises this. No good reason to think either claim is true though. Even less likely than the amber to work.

    • naturalchild
    • December 11th, 2012

    How refreshing to find such a sensible and clear article on this subject!

    Take a look at this article for a great overview:
    “Why Bogus Therapies Seem to Work”
    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/why_bogus_therapies_seem_to_work

    Jan

    • Thanks, that’s a good article. I would have made several of the mistakes and biases a subset of the placebo effect but it’s a decent overview and I encourage others to check it out.

        • naturalchild
        • December 12th, 2012

        Glad you liked it! Yes, it could use a little reorganizing.

        BTW I’d love to know what you think about Richard Dawkins’ article “Let’s all stop beating Basil’s car” at http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins .

        Jan

        • As piece of speculative writing I like it. I certainly agree with the premise that we are what our brains do and that responsibility for our actions is in direct proportion to the extent we could have acted otherwise in a given situation.

          That said, I think any move to institute this ideal in the current world would be not only doomed to failure but ill advised in and of itself. Not because it’s a flawed ideal but because we don’t currently understand the underpinnings of our behavior nearly well enough.

          I agree that in discussions about criminal justice, those who don’t outright say that it’s about revenge/retribution (which is surprisingly often) also betray that this is what they have in mind at heart. I do find it disheartening when actually fixing the problem could be (I suspect) both cheaper and better for society in the long run.

          Thanks for the interesting reads.

    • Willowbel
    • December 14th, 2012

    Research at the University of Hamburg, Germany confirms the safe and positive effects of succinic and fumaric acids in cellular metabolism.

    Succinic acid is now produced commercially. And it is approved for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
    Dr. Veniamin Khazanov of the RAS’ Institute of Pharmacology at the Tomsk Scientific Center says “For aged people, succinic acid has proved to be indispensable. It is capable of restoring the energy balance at the cellular level, which is often upset as the years go by, and helps the patient regain his youthful energy.” He says also that it has proven the equal or better of many commercial drugs and is significantly less expensive.

    And once again following up on what the Europeans have known from their use of amber for centuries, science has found that it helps cure a hangover by helping the body rid itself of the toxins that cause the hangover.

    Recent scientific research suggests that succinic acid has a very positive influence on the human body. It can improve immunity and balance the bodies acids when absorbed into the bloodstream. It can stimulate the thyroid gland, which may help to reduce drooling and soothe red inflamed cheeks.

    Amber’s anti-inflammatory and therapeutic properties are recognised by Allopathic medicine as a natural analgesic.
    This will help to relieve teething pain and calm a baby without resorting to drugs.

    In countries like Austria, Switzerland and Germany, Amber teething necklaces are commonly sold in local pharmacies as a mainstream treatment for teething. These pharmacists and doctors have long known about the healing properties of Amber, which include, calmative, analgesic, expectorant and febrifuge (anti-fever) functions.

    Another theory is based on scientific findings which have shown Amber to be electromagnetically alive and therefore charged with a significant amount of Organic Energy. It’s special attribute is that it is electronegative. Wearing Amber produces negative ionisation on the skin’s surface. This, in turn, has a positive effect on the human body. The negative ions may assist in the prevention of illness. 
These health promoting effects apply to babies, toddlers, children and adults alike.

    The soothing and calming effect of wearing Amber teething necklaces,which has been empirically observed, is based on a combination of all the factors listed above.

    • Quite a lot there that doesn’t address the claim of amber helping with teething pain. Almost as if you are hoping to “baffle with bullshit”

      Be that as it may, I’m sure with all that quality research you could manage a single citation to back up your assertions?

      “Another theory is based on scientific findings which have shown Amber to be electromagnetically alive and therefore charged with a significant amount of Organic Energy.”

      Uh, whoever told you this was scientific was pulling your leg. It’s meaningless gobbledegook. But thanks for playing.

    • Dave
    • December 14th, 2012

    What a wonderful example of pseudo scientific rubbish. Full of arguments like ‘can..which may..’ and meaningless terms like Organic Energy. Brilliant. Makes the point much better than I could.

    • Melinda Perceval
    • December 17th, 2012

    *yawn* Wayy to long and drawn out. I read the first few paragraphs but you lost me when you brought up safety and effectiveness (efficacy). Why would one ask a medical doctor about something natural?- What class did they take to gain education in that department? Thank goodness more and more parents are not seeking advice from doctors and educating themselves about natural alternatives.

    • I am hoping that your comment was pure sarcasm, if not, please continue reading my response:

      So you would rather ask, say a friend, or a work colleague how to treat your babies viral infection instead of a trained professional? You seem to be missing the entire point of the article, the safety and effectiveness/lack of ‘efficacy’ is precisely what is being debated here.

      So why would one ask a medical doctor about some random natural therapy? Possibly because they have dedicated their lives to helping and curing people of any illness they may have.

    • Db
    • December 17th, 2012

    I am skeptical about whether amber necklaces work, but…
    If a study was to be conducted to test whether amber works, a group of babies would be given the real thing and another group would be given fake amber. The parents would then be asked to record whether there was a difference with and without the amber necklace at various times, and any health issues. From my research into anecdotal stories, I have found many positive stories. All that is missing is the control group to see whether its all in the parents heads.
    As for risks, I think that a necklace is clearly a choking hazard, perhaps there is a better way of wearing it. If I get one for my baby, I will definitely be suoervising her when she wears it.
    I’m still undecided on the issue of an acid potentially being slowly released into my baby’s blood. I would never use a slow release paracetamol on her for days or months at a time. Good article in terms of making people think about potential risks, but I’m going to continue to do some research before deciding whether to use the beads.

    • As you say, anecdotes are uncontrolled. If you find any more convincing information please comment again.

      Regarding a study on efficacy, it needn’t be restricted to babies. As noted elsewhere, to show that it is useful as an analgesic the active ingredient could be applied to any population as a proof of principle.

      Given the relatively small pool of safe (ie non-addictive/hepatotoxic) painkillers it seems adding to the repertoire of drugs would be a welcome development in the medical community. That it’s not speaks volumes to me about it’s credibility….”natural” sources not withstanding.

      • Dave
      • December 18th, 2012

      Ironically, I’ve allowed my baby to wear an amber anklet that has been bought for him, specifically because I know there’s no way it *does* release acid into has bloodstream

      • Ticy
      • March 8th, 2013

      That is exactly what I was thinking about.
      To end with the doubts, let´s proof it scientifically and test the babies, with groups of control, taking the necklaces, putting them back, checking the reactions, urine tests ONLY, then test it in adults (and in those make some blood AND urine tests as well, I dislike the idea of poking the cute little things).
      Then we can finally have a plausible answer rather this back and forth child like “yes” – “no” game. People need trustworthy answers right?

      And yes, it is a stupid idea to put it around the neck of the baby!

  19. Mmm it is possible this works in a sense, a placebo effect. You feel relaxed because here is “something” that can help ease pain so your relaxed state works on your baby. We know kids pick up on our emotions and react in kind, so maybe relaxed parent = more relaxed teething baby.

    • Please see my follow-up post Here, which largely deals with the placebo effect.
      Not that I think you are wrong, just that I have considered this option.

    • joules
    • December 22nd, 2012

    Thanks, Scepticon, for the well thought out and articulated post about the amber necklaces. When I asked about teething, a technican at my pediatric dentist’s office recommended amber teething necklaces, and I found quite positive reviews on amazon (for example). I am a scientist so was somewhat skeptical, but it took me a little searching before I came across your post. I agree with all of your statements about placebos, acids, etc.

    As one small data point to add to the larger…I have an amber necklace myself that I bought for ornamental purposes. I have sometimes found that when I remove it, I feel “naked”, or like something is missing. I think this may be occuring because the stones heat up with the warmth of the body, and they are soothing against the neck. So while I do not subscribe to the ion answers or many other things, I can say from my personal wearing of this necklace that it provides me with a pleasant sensation. (Interestingly, it’s not true of a second amber necklace that I had, which may be because of differences in the size or shape of the stones.) This could also explain why at least one child (in amazon reviews) pointed to his neck and asked that the necklace be put back on.

    However, regardless of any warm feeling the necklace might give me or a child, the dangers associated with a child wearing such a necklace, or that type of jewelry while sleeping especially makes me quite concerned. I noticed in some product descriptions that they now state the necklaces are only for children older than 3. Perhaps accidents are not as common as SIDS yet, so have not arisen in attention, but I find it worrisome.

    Thanks for your information and detailed back and forth with your site guests.

    (ps, i’m wearing my amber necklace today, and my neck feels very toasty :))

    • Cortney
    • January 15th, 2013

    I always thought the idea of a necklace relieving pain was a bit crazy. Until I tried one myself. A friend swore by them so I decided it couldn’t hurt. I found a necklace I liked and it was just another piece of jewelry for me. I have Chiari and had started having bad headaches a couple weeks before the necklace arrived. Everything that normally at least helped a little was not controlling.g my pain at all. The day the necklace came in, my headache was at a level 7 out of 10 and I couldn’t do anything around the house. I put the necklace on and promptly forgot about it. Less than two hours later I was up cleaning when I passed a mirror and saw it…my headache was down to a manageable 2! I was convinced! Have only taken it off twice since then and both times ended up with a massive migraine. So, yes it may sound crazy and there may not be a lot of scientific proof but they DO work!

    • Cortney,

      It sounds to me that your anecdote is a classic regression to the mean fallacy. The necklace came when symptoms were quite severe, later you felt better and attributed it to the necklace. Had you tried something else you might have felt that was what helped you and if you didn’t try anything you would have forgotten about it.

      I don’t doubt that you sincerely feel the necklace helped you but this sort of attribution of causation is so common that it is quite unsatisfying as evidence.

        • Cortney
        • January 15th, 2013

        As I said, nothing else was helping, including drugs. Believe me, Ive lived with this for years now and know from experience that nothing was going to get rid of this headache, especially in less than two hours. Also, the mysterious migraines which have only happened on the days I did not wear it…. I know you don’t see positive reports as evidence and will never be convinced but there IS a ton of evidence for those who are willing to see it.

        • As I said, I’m sure you are sincere. But I’m equally sure that people can be confused as to causation. If you can say that your pain is never below a say 3, and you are normally at 4 until you got the necklace – that would at least be a start.

          As it stands, based on the information given, your experience is not convincing.
          As I have said ad nauseum, anecdotes are a very poor basis by which to determine the truth of medical claims. The factors are simply too complex. But I also know that personal experience is too powerful for mere argumentation to shake. So please, I hope your pain relief continues.

          • As usual Dr. Steven Novella has a good article on the unconvincing nature of anecdotes and why more isn’t better:
            http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/anecdotes-cheaper-by-the-dozen/

    • Jennifer
    • January 24th, 2013

    I really enjoyed this this post. I have watched intelligent, discerning, thrifty and enducated women around me snap these things up. I am astounded at this idiotic cash grab and the willingness of its vicitms. I have worked in laboratory medicine for years and cannot, despite my best efforts, sway the understanding of these women, and after some considerable thought, have accepted that these necklaces are in fact relieving pain…of the parental variety. Perhaps what an amber necklace provides is some sense of having done everything you can, which, during teething time, is basically nothing. So given that I do not believe for one minute that they are more than decorative and appallingly stupid, I will hold my tongue and make a mental note that, for my own kids, a little Tylenol goes a long way. To each her own after all.

      • Dave
      • January 24th, 2013

      Everything you can do is not ‘nothing’ though. Teething toys put in the fridge are liked by teething babies and do provide some relief. They take effort though as they fall on the floor and need cleaning and putting back in the fridge. Something you wear which ‘slowly releases a solution’ is clearly preferable. I do have sympathy with wanting to cut down on the effort involved, and it’s maybe inevitable that solutions that involve little effort will become popular even if they don’t actually work.

    • Larry
    • January 30th, 2013

    Here’s why I think they do harm:
    From a very early age, you are teaching your kid to rely on voodoo instead of science. That’s not a good life skill.

      • Ticy
      • March 8th, 2013

      I do not think voodoo is good, but I do knot that science is also not the only source of truth! That is also a good life skill to have, to understand that not everything in life has a reasonable explanation, like good people dying and evil people living, or why bees can fly when scientifically they should not, for example!
      You do have a good point there though

      • I would be careful to note the distinction between not knowing an explanation and there not being an explanation. Just because we cannot explain something (at this moment in time) does not mean that it is inexplicable. Your bee example is a case in point, there was a time when we didn’t know how they could fly (not the same as science say they shouldn’t be able to fly) but now we do (or at least are getting better at approximating the true answer).

        There is no fundamentally mysterious thing here.

        The observation that science is not the only source of truth, is itself true. But with respect to physically observable, repeatable and explicable phenomena – it’s still our best bet.

        I appreciate that you are generally positive in your comments here. I just wanted to expand and clarify points that we no doubt agree on :).

        With regard to a comment elsewhere on investigating the action of amber beads; I disagree that experimenting on babies should be the first course of action. This is a purely pragmatic point. Babies and young children are poor at communicating inner states – they may cry to indicate pain or discomfort but they may also do so for myriad other reasons. We might try objective measures (the urine test you suggest) but test for what? The active amber ingredient? That assumes what we are hoping to test – that amounts in the body correlate with improved outcomes. It also discounts that the active ingredient is also naturally occurring in our bodies.

        As I have obviously written far too much already I will end by saying – thanks for the positive comments and urge all to consider how you might objectively evaluate the claims made for amber beads without shackling ourselves to the narrative provided by sellers.

    • Jane
    • February 4th, 2013

    Thank you for writing such an excellent, logical and well informed piece about amber necklaces for infants. Your clarity of thought on paper is much appreciated.

    • Thanks, not everybody thinks so. :)

    • kc
    • February 5th, 2013

    Sometimes anecdotes are all we have. After hours and hours of research I have found no studies to prove or disprove the effectiveness of amber. What does that mean to me? It means that there has not been a study that proves it works and there has not been a study to prove it doesn’t work. It makes me wonder why. Why have no studies been conducted on a widely practiced natural remedy for a number of ailments. Not being from the scientific community myself, there is little I can do in the way of changing that. So does that mean I shouldn’t give it a try?

    I have suffered from headaches since my teens. I have good days, only slightly annoying, and bad days, can’t get out of bed. Not a day has gone by in the last 15 years that I have not had some sort of headache. I have seen many doctors, tried many natural, and mainstream remedies through the years trying to find something to help. Nothing worked. I had just learned to accept this as part of life. Recently I heard about amber as a possible remedy, and thought if all else fails I will have a nice decorative piece of jewelry. One week in and I have had not one hint of a headache. I feel better than i could have ever imagined. Is it the amber or placebo? I wouldn’t know, but sometimes a placebo effect is better than no effect at all (symptomatically speaking). Do I regret buying the bracelet? Not a chance, like I said I have a nice decorative piece of jewelry.

    • As an adult, I support what ever choice makes you feel good.
      Should you cross over to “Therefore people should put it on their babies”, I will have to respectfully disagree.

    • Dave
    • February 5th, 2013

    Anecdotes are not all we have. We have scientific mechanisms and reasoning. There’s no proof that there is or isn’t a teapot on the other side of the Sun, but we use what we do know about science to conclude that it’s extremely unlikely. Same with amber necklaces. Great that the placebo effect works for you. No one is discounting that.

    There are two reasons that a proper scientific study hasn’t been performed. Firstly, no one will pay for it as there’s nothing in it for them. Secondly, no scientist will do it because they realise the mechanism is so unplausible that it’s a waste of time. Incidentally, the one community that would benefit from the study (the manufacturers and sellers) have shown no willingness to fund a scientific study.

    • Deborah
    • February 13th, 2013

    here’s what I don’t understand..if you want to use one…just put it around baby’s ankle..zip him/her into a footed onesie and put him/her in a sleep sack…no way the baby can get to the necklace in any way shape or form. unless he/she can undo zippers ..in that case call Ripley’s believe it or not.
    I for one got sooo desperate b/c my 7 month old was getting a tooth per day and waking every hour miserable and doc said no orajel..that I bought one….have used it past 3 nights and he has slept 5 hours at a time..the most he has ever slept in a row. I was a completey skeptic but now I’m not sure..just thankful for the sleep.
    btw I’m an MD.

    • Dave
    • February 13th, 2013

    Deborah :

    here’s what I don’t understand..if you want to use one…just put it around baby’s ankle..zip him/her into a footed onesie and put him/her in a sleep sack…no way the baby can get to the necklace in any way shape or form. unless he/she can undo zippers ..in that case call Ripley’s believe it or not.
    I for one got sooo desperate b/c my 7 month old was getting a tooth per day and waking every hour miserable and doc said no orajel..that I bought one….have used it past 3 nights and he has slept 5 hours at a time..the most he has ever slept in a row. I was a completey skeptic but now I’m not sure..just thankful for the sleep.
    btw I’m an MD.

    Let me ask the MD a question ;-)

    Left to do things completely naturally, how many nights in a row do you think your baby would wake every hour. Every night until the teeth stopped coming through? Or do you think nature would do something about it….

      • Deborah
      • March 3rd, 2013

      Hi Dave
      Well since he had been waking every hour every night for 3 weeks without any sign it was going to let up…I’m not sure how to answer your question. We’ve all heard about babies who cry all night long without needing to stop..you would think they would just exhaust themselves.. and it sounds like it can’t be real…but it is. So when you ask me how many nights do I think he was going to wake every hour in pain….I don’t know. After 3 weeks of not getting any sleep, you get very desperate for an answer.

    • Mary Kershaw
    • March 1st, 2013

    You are one very patient person. Thanks very much for the article :-)

    • HA! Thanks,

      Sorry, but no-one has ever accused me of possessing an over abundance of patience before.
      This has amused me greatly. :D

    • Pebbs
    • March 2nd, 2013

    I am a frazzled returned to work mother who is of a scientific bent. I have asked two mothers why their babies are wearing necklaces as I thought it was a bit odd. When they explained and gave me stories of trouble-free teething, I vowed to do some more research. Thank goodness you are in the first page of google listings. I don’t know what on earth would possess me to think that a necklace full of beads round my baby’s neck would be a good idea at any other time, other than with my sleep deprived, “let’s try anything” brain. I am of the firm belief like with any of the supposed colic cures, time will sort it out and you may be lucky or not. Neither I can see that anything “seeping out” of Amber would be useful or pleasant. Anything that helps you as a parent, feel that you are helping your baby, helps! Good luck to all, I’m on my second gorgeous girl so I know, however horrid teething is, it soon passes and then you get your troubles from other zones. Thanks for steering me away from losing my senses and pressing “buy it now”!

    • Another satisfied customer :)
      Thanks

    • Ticy
    • March 8th, 2013

    Thank you so much for this post, I was looking for something clear like this!

    • Kayla
    • March 12th, 2013

    You have WAY too much time on your hands. As for the people calling it a ‘drug’, whats the difference between paracetamol, ibuprofen or bonjela?

    Some things work for people that don’t work for others. If you don’t want to use one, don’t.. If you do, your choice.

    Jeez, some of you new mothers are padantic!

    • As a new father, I found time to research items of relevance to my child.

      The point about it being a drug is to say that it’s the same as those items you mention – in opposition to those who think describing something as “natural” negate any possible harm that drugs might incur.

      Finally, I agree you have a choice whether to use it or not. But having accurate information helps you make that choice. I chose not to, but apparently simply articulating the reason for that choice is enough to get me vilified. Thanks for your comment :)

    • Heidi
    • March 13th, 2013

    Wow! Scepticon talks about how parents are quick to believe whatever claims are made without educating themselves. Scepticon also is supposedly educating us with the science, or in their opinion, lack of science supporting the claims parents make regarding teething necklaces.

    So, I looked into the sources listed. Having two degrees in biology myself, I too like to have answers. But in the case Scepticon is trying to make is misinforming and not accurate either.

    Amber is not a hard, or tough, as Scepticon claims. On the Mohs scale a Diamond is 10 and talc, baby powder, is 1. Amber, a tree resin, not even classified as a stone, ranks between 2 and 2.5. To give you a better idea of what this means..
    2 is gypsum which is like the hardness of a fingernail and 3 is calcite which is like a bronze coin. All are not tough not even a little bit.

    Also the article referencing how Succinic Acid wasn’t found in amber. First off the researches were looking for volatile gasses, Succinic Acid is a white odorless solid, not a gas. So what that means is the researchers weren’t even looking for Succinic Acid. Second, all that was available to read was the abstrac, which is a quick explanation of their whole paper. If you are going to cite a paper, you have to first understand the science you are trying to explain to your readers Scepticon and then secondly read the whole article, not just the abstract.

    I found faultiness in Scepticon’s rant in just reviewing 4 sources. Don’t take my word for it, do some research yourself. Read a lot before you form a opinion.

    I am not for or against these necklaces, but I do know that Wikipedia isn’t a reputable source to cite on a college paper, so Scepticon should find reliable sources and secondly understand what they are reading.

    Last, everything in life poses some sort of danger. Vaccines cause a number of reactions, but my pediatrician tells me they are safe so that must mean they are!

    • Well done, you can obviously think for yourself.

      I’m all for people looking into things for themselves. The vaccine jibe kind of undermines you a bit but kudos anyway :)

      But like I say in that article you read so closely – those other points are just food for thought. What matters is Do they Work?
      Have to say the lack of evidence is no very convincing….

        • Heidi
        • March 14th, 2013

        It’s only food for thought if the thought is coherent and accurate. Twisting or inaccurately “educating” people isn’t really doing anyone justice.

        • Feel free to address Dave’s take about the intent of the points you take issue with – I think he’s managed to get the take away message.

        • And funnily enough, you’ve done just that. You might want to consider the fact that succinic acid is routinely detected via gas chromatography techniques.

      • Dave
      • March 13th, 2013

      Actually the article about finding succinic acid did say that succinic ester was in Baltic Amber, but I think the point about the article is this – if it’s supposed to leach into your skin somehow as a result of body heat, don’t you think it should be ‘volatile’ in some way?

      I think you’ve missed the point about hardness too. The point was that amber is hard (so wouldn’t easily release stuff into you, like, say, a cream, which isn’t hard at all.) To show how hard, the rating was pointed on the Moh’s scale which is a scale of minerals that are pretty much all hard to touch – i.e. the average person would say it’s hard. Amber isn’t a mineral so to put it on a mineral hardness scale around the level of gold or silver I’d say most people would agree that it’s hard. The point was simply that it’s very hard compared to pretty much everything else you put on your skin that releases a chemical through your skin.

        • Heidi
        • March 14th, 2013

        Glass is hard to the touch but is really a liquid that is ever moving and changing. Just because a substance appears to be one thing to the naked eye doesn’t mean that is its reality.

        As far as there being a scientific explanation, for the claims made by the parents that swear by these necklaces, there are many possibilities to take into consideration. First, medical based studies are usually only started if there is money to be made on corporate levels. Since, Baltic Amber is readily available, there wouldn’t be much of a benefit in studying its affects on teething babies. Pharmaceutical companies rarely invest in, let alone support, natural remedies because there is no money to be made.

        Secondly, as I was not trying to undermine or be disrespectful, rather than make a point, that over the years many parents screamed that vaccines damaged their child. All the while pediatricians stood by stating that vaccines are safe. My point here is that, although you think parents are willing these necklaces to work, that maybe just maybe they do work regardless of the evidence or lack there of. Just because the science has yet to prove the how or why, does not mean that all these parents are willing the placebo effect as it was put. All these parents should not be dismissed and considered uniformed, the same happened with my earlier example. The lack of science is the basis that Scepticon uses to prove that these necklaces don’t work. The fact is, that neither side can make a strong case. There isn’t enough science to prove or disprove either side. The fact is research is lacking to support either side of the argument.

        • Thank-you for the clarification. I don’t think the glass example is apt as no-one is claiming that therapeutics are leaching out of their windows. And glass is actually hard regardless or not of it’s flowing properties. But that said I think I can appreciate your point. I’m not convinced but I see where you are coming from.

          The Pharmaceutical argument I think I address elsewhere in this thread. It has some merit though.

          Finally, I’m very careful not to say the beads don’t work. I point out that they are implausible on their face and that there is no evidence that they do work. I also point out that people can be confused as to causation and that this can be summarized as the “Placebo Effect” (covered more extensively in my follow-up post).

          My contention is that in the absence of compelling evidence we must accept the null hypothesis that they have no effect. This combined with the (admittedly very small) risk of harm means there is no good reason to use them. You’ll also note I have never told parent Not to use them, the choice is theirs.

          A small point about the vaccines, there is no evidence that vaccines can be held responsible for all the ills attributed to them by the anti-vax crowd. To imply otherwise as you do (if only rhetorically) indeed undermines your stance slightly (as the rest must be taken on it’s own merits).

            • Heidi
            • March 18th, 2013

            There is more evidence than one may think on the vaccine issue, so please don’t make a blanket statement of there being no evidence.

            Buttram, Harold, and John Chris Hoffman. “Vaccinations and Immune Malfunction.” Quakertown, PA.: Ralndolph Society 1985

            Levinson, Warren, and Ernest Jawetz. “Medical Microbiology and Immunology.” Stamford, CT: Appleton and Lange, 1996

            Romm, Aviva. “Vaccinations A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide.” Rochester, VT: HAP, 2001

            Cave, Stephanie M.D., F.A.A.F.P. “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations.” New York, NY: Grand Central, 2010

            The list goes on. I just want to go on record that I am not anti-vaccination. However, I think there are higher risks with some than others. And as Melissa points out with not everything natural as being safe, ie poisonous tree frogs, the same holds true with the medical community. Just because it is endorsed by a doctor doesn’t make it safe either.

            I had fun bantering a little and wish you all safety and good health throughout your lifetime!

          • Sammy
          • May 4th, 2014

          I like the article on the necklaces. I’ve been looking for more detailed information regarding the science behind it, but haven’t been able to find anything either.

          I just want to clarify a few things. Glass is not necessarily a liquid. It more depends on what kind of glass you are talking about and what temperature it is at. Normal window glass is not a liquid and it does not flow. Room temperature (even on a hot day) is still far below its glass transition temperature (the temperature above which a glass will flow) and does not flow. The idea that glass flows is a myth brought about by the observation that old windows are thicker at the bottom than at the top. In reality, they are thicker at the bottom because they were made by hand and not poured evenly, and they were likely installed with the thicker side at the bottom because people thought they would be more stable.

          Also, I’m not sure it’s a correct to link the concept of hardness and the ability of something to leach. For example lead has a Mohs hardness of 1.5 and gold and silver have a hardness of 2.5. They’re not far off. However, I will not hold lead with by bare hands, but I don’t worry about gold or silver poisoning by touch. Maybe a more dramatic example is talc, a mineral used in common household products with a Mohs hardness of 1. In fact, talc is used as the standard for defining a Mohs hardness of 1. However, not many people worry about talc poisoning. Moreover, Mohs hardness is a test of how easily something is scratched. This is somewhat different from how easily chemicals containing it can leach out. I very well could be mistaken about that connection though.

    • Dave
    • March 14th, 2013

    Heidi :

    Glass is hard to the touch but is really a liquid that is ever moving and changing. Just because a substance appears to be one thing to the naked eye doesn’t mean that is its reality.
    As far as there being a scientific explanation, for the claims made by the parents that swear by these necklaces, there are many possibilities to take into consideration. First, medical based studies are usually only started if there is money to be made on corporate levels. Since, Baltic Amber is readily available, there wouldn’t be much of a benefit in studying its affects on teething babies. Pharmaceutical companies rarely invest in, let alone support, natural remedies because there is no money to be made.
    Secondly, as I was not trying to undermine or be disrespectful, rather than make a point, that over the years many parents screamed that vaccines damaged their child. All the while pediatricians stood by stating that vaccines are safe. My point here is that, although you think parents are willing these necklaces to work, that maybe just maybe they do work regardless of the evidence or lack there of. Just because the science has yet to prove the how or why, does not mean that all these parents are willing the placebo effect as it was put. All these parents should not be dismissed and considered uniformed, the same happened with my earlier example. The lack of science is the basis that Scepticon uses to prove that these necklaces don’t work. The fact is, that neither side can make a strong case. There isn’t enough science to prove or disprove either side. The fact is research is lacking to support either side of the argument.

    Not sure what your point about glass is but it sounds a bit of a straw man. The fact is simply that amber is much harder to the touch than everything that releases chemicals through your skin. Hey, creams actually have substances in them to *help* get chemicals through an organ with is actually designed to keep most stuff out. You *do* get the connection between a hard surface and stuff not getting out? I hope so, for all the people who have mercury in their fillings ;-) (disclaimer: yes, I am aware that those fillings are an alloy designed to keep the mercury in, and yes, I am aware of all the conspiracy theories regarding these fillings)

    I think it harms your point that you say things like – we always said vaccines were harmful (there’s still no evidence of their harm though), just maybe they do work, the fact is neither side can make a strong case, etc etc.

    The lack of science is NOT the basis that Scepticon uses to prove that they don’t work (partly because he doesn’t prove that they don’t work) In fact, the evidence as it stands points to them being unlikely to work. He deals with anecdotal evidence, placebo and statistics on the one hand. But the key evidence which reduces their likely efficacy is the complete lack of plausible method of action.

    Sure there are things we don’t understand in science, and can’t yet explain, but they are very unlikely to pop up here to explain how this substance gets out of the amber and into your bloodstream. When scientists determine no known plausible method of action, they conclude low probability for the claim. They don’t say, hey, there’s no evidence either way.

  20. A few things I have noticed since following this thread is that people seem to argue the same points over and over: no profit for therapeutics, placebo effect, science has not proven they don’t work, etc. I would like to point out that if people would take the time to read through some of the comments, then Scepticon would not need to repeat himself over and over, addressing the same arguments.

    I will also note that at no point does he say that the beads do not work, he merely states that for all intensive purposes, no-one has done any thorough unbiased documented research with proper medical references and controlled tests to prove that they do. He also points out the obvious dangers associated with putting such items on small children, and also the carelessness towards thought before experimenting with an item because someones friend of a cousins great aunt said it worked.

    It was however refreshing to see a new argument posted about the solidity of amber and going on to glass being a liquid. Whilst this was addressed already, I would like to point some attention to the properties of glass. (Instead of going on about it myself, I will just give you the websites that undermine the theory of glass changing form over a long period of time).

    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/Glass/glass.html
    (references for information found at bottom of page).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass#Glass_versus_supercooled_liquid

    I know that one is a wiki page, and I remember someone saying wiki pages are not a reputable source, however I would like to point your attention to the bottom of any wiki page, to the extensive list of references that the information was sourced from.

    On a final note, I ask for people to source some proper research before making assumed statements based on rumors or something someone told you sometime. (some references to actually research would not go astray). =)

    Regards.

    • Thanks for the extra input there, I was aware that the glass windows being thicker at the bottom was not actually evidence of flow but I wasn’t cognizant of the more technical aspect of the question.

      On repeating myself – please be reasonable, if I didn’t repeat myself I’d have nothing to say :)

    • Melissa
    • March 16th, 2013

    So *if* the beads work, theoretically, some of the “active ingredient”, the acid, is being transferred into the skin cells of the baby and travelling internally to pain receptors. That’s fine, there are plenty of transdermal medications out there. But would you take a random dosage of any medication or treatment? I think the argument that the necklaces work better than the anklets, if they work, could be related to contact with the surface area of the beads, i.e. longer strand around the neck = more beads = more contact. So you could be massively overdosing your child with pain killers, again, IF there is any science behind this transfer. Just because you think Tylenol works and there are droppers of different sizes and it is availible in a variety of concentrations doesn’t mean you just grab some and give it to your child. As far as the natural argument, poison dart frogs are natural and I wouldn’t let my kid lick one. Until there is actual science backing this up, not on my baby. I can look past the obvious risks of strangulation, choking, breakage blah blah blah with proper supervision, but the complacency of people who assume it wouldn’t be sold if it didn’t work/was safe with literally no studies to back it up is astounding. Until there are actual trials that somehow measure if and how much of the analgesic is absorbed into the baby, I am making an informed decision, based on lack of knowledge in the medical community of any benefit and known risk to not use this on my baby.

  21. I am of the understanding that succinic acid is in huge abundance, and pharmaceutical companies could quite easily make a packet if they could prove it worked. If they packaged it into nice little fixed dose medications it would be so easy to sell, just as easily as panadol. Furthermore, succinic acid cannot penetrate the skin – you might want to check some of the patent databases regarding this. I like to get my succinic acid from wine, so bottoms up!

    Thanks for the article, and the ongoing comments. Has to be one of the longest blogs (time wise) I have ever seen!

    • You’re welcome, and thanks for the time commitment and contributions :)

  22. I think it would be very easy to trial the efficacy of amber beads, all you need is a decent knock-off and then you record the responses of the parent as to whether it works (the would not know if they have fake or real amber beads). Although some parents might know the difference, so you might have to get them to indicate whether they think their necklace is a real or fake, and account for this in the analysis. Finally, you could test the succinic acid content of the beads used. Hot damn i’ve just written a research proposal!

    • drae
    • April 8th, 2013

    A lot of interesting arguments here…was deciding wether or not to give the necklace a shot and came across this article. However, during the reading of comments here, I alternated between yay and nay over and over. I am more undecided than ever. I’ve come to the conclusion that the fors and againsts could go back and forth forever…if you want to try it, try it, if not, don’t!

      • Dave
      • April 8th, 2013

      drae :

      A lot of interesting arguments here…was deciding wether or not to give the necklace a shot and came across this article. However, during the reading of comments here, I alternated between yay and nay over and over. I am more undecided than ever. I’ve come to the conclusion that the fors and againsts could go back and forth forever…if you want to try it, try it, if not, don’t!

      I can’t remember whether there’s been a good link to an anecdote article (there probably has) but this is a good one – especially the simple experiments they performed.

      http://osmosis-online.com/2010/01/09/seeing-is-not-always-believing-why-anecdotal-evidence-is-not-proof/

      What are your feelings on anecdotal evidence? Do you still think it’s strong enough to outweigh or balance danger factors such as strangulation or choking, or other factors such as no plausible mechanism of operation?

    • Ms nz
    • April 12th, 2013

    I am a scientist and loved this article. We agree. My wife and I got desperate… and tried Baltic amber. It worked… I can’t explain why. Everything got better quick- really quick. Less drool, less rash, back to normal feeding, actually sleeps. This goes against my whole belied system, but it worked and I cant explain it.

    • You may wish to also read my follow up article. Reading up on Dave’s explanation would also help.

    • Dave
    • April 12th, 2013

    Ms nz :

    I am a scientist and loved this article. We agree. My wife and I got desperate… and tried Baltic amber. It worked… I can’t explain why. Everything got better quick- really quick. Less drool, less rash, back to normal feeding, actually sleeps. This goes against my whole belied system, but it worked and I cant explain it.

    The explanatioin is simple. Regression.

    • dreya
    • April 17th, 2013

    Im a new parent,and my baby is four months old. Pretty sure shes teethin. And was just looking online for some ideas.saw the amber necklaces. Did some reading. Then i saw this blog. And have been reading it for the past hr. Wow. Im actualy frustrated.

    • Yeah, sorry about that.
      Cold stuff is pretty good, if you don’t have a teething ring yet you might want to look at them.

    • Dave
    • April 19th, 2013

    Kathy :

    Actually, there is proven evidence, that the whole pharma industrie is designed to just make money off of their patients. My father was being trained to become an agent for them, when he realized what was all going on behind the scenes there. Drugs, lots of them are a great invention (don’t get me wrong), but they are designed to make the most possible profit off of us. My father also studied medicine and therefore knew the backgrounds to how drugs work etc. There is an incredible amount of corruption going on in the medical industry, all over the world. Why is this not commonly know and why don’t you find open studies on that just by typing it into google ? … This is an industry loaded with billions of money, an industry involved in politics, ethnics, science and pretty much every aspect of our world and lifes. Doctors (and this is background knowledge) are being influenced, often without knowing or sometimes rather ignoring it than to listen to their suspicions. My Dad had developed one of the most aggressive kinds of tumors in his brain in the last part of his life. He was told by common medicine that there was absolutely no chance of being cured. He did not leave it at that, because he was a very smart man and had a lot of SCIENTIFIC knowledge. After a lot of research (you don’t just find this on google) he found an alternative treatment that made sense on every level of science and therefore chose that treatment out of many others. But … those people had to cover up that they were actually treating tumors there, because there was other people that had advertised the exact same treatment and got sued till they had no money, honor, etc left by money moguls from the common medical industry – why? Because if they would officially accept treatments like this and others, they would have to put a one-time investment and maybe maintance fees for the facilities in and can’t make as much capital of it-because people might get healed. Heck it’s a whole lot easier to sell tons and tons of drugs that either don’t actually heal and/or only treat the symptons to the thousands of people that get sick all the time. They sell a drug, that has side effects, that need to be treated with another drug that has side effects itself, that need to be treated with another drug again and so forth…. Do you know anyone else that has a severe sickness? Do you know how they have to take dozens of medications at once even tho they might not actually treat them? Do you know how those medications are incredibly expensive? Do you know that alternative treatments like the one my Dad went under are very expensive because they are not covered by any insurances, because the money moguls in the medical industry pay a lot of money between the lines, to prevent those treatments from coming out?
    Your research seems to be mostly based on google and wikipedia research, that might still take lots of hours. You told this person ahead to actually prove their point, well here is the proof, where the was your proof when you said there is nothing proven to be manipulated therefore you trust them??? Doesn’t that sound like the pitfall you have described in your article. You trust the medical industry blindly just because you haven’t seen any proof against them yourself. Have you truly researched it, with phone calls, media and law envolved, have you been behind the scenes? You don’t know yourself.
    I liked your article about the teething necklaces, it is good to be cautious yes, but what really got me was how you yourself trust blindly – into a very corrupt industry with no evidence for or against and advocate it here. The other thing, like I said it is important to do a thorough research (thats how I ended up on this page), and I agree with your safety concern, but you asked your readers to give their opinion – they did as you asked, but comment after comment you fly off the handle every time they have a different opinion than you (yes it is still only an opinion) and when they agree with you you thank them over and over and over for their wonderful insight! This looks extremely biased, one-sided and closed off to me!
    When I went on this page I didnt have my mind made up over teething necklaces the one or the other way, now I am reminded through all of this why would I just trust the medical industry, in that case it can’t do any more harm to belive in amber teething necklaces. Contrary to you I believe other parents experience and advice, especially of the older generation is extremely important and to be highly respected, after all the older generation are the ones that raised or at least mentored us. In the old times, when they didnt have a medical industry yet, this is how they passed on the results of their medical trials and most times that was good. Look at what the “safe” medications of the newer times left with – Cortison kids and so forth.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if you would delete my post as spam or give me the thumbs-down because I am sure this reply does not exactly sit well with you. That is too sad. But at least I was able to inform you in return.
    And like I already said, THUMBS UP from my side for your cautiousness and a wonderful thought-provoking article. It is your responses to the by you requested opinions from everyone that made me write this response.
    Thanks again for provoking thoughts. I do appreciate that.

    Dear me, where to start. Well, I’ll just mention a few things randomly. You say it’s proven, but you give no proof. You misunderstand how to balance harm and benefit. I don’t think anyone would deny that big pharma is in it for the money, and that occasionally stuff will be falsified or covered up. That really doesn’t change the millions of lives saved by pharmaceutical drugs. Check out the huge queues in Swansea here in the UK for people to have the MMR vaccine because there’s an outbreak with over 700 people with measles and 77 children and babies hospitalised. Your arguments were exactly the same as the anti MMR stuff a few years ago that stopped all these kids having the jab.

    You say ‘made sense on all levels of science’. I don’t think so. I bet it didn’t make sense at two crucial levels – clinical trials and plausible mechanism.

    You imply that this whole debate is equivalent to trusting a corrupt industry. That’s a fallacy. The industry has little to say about teething necklaces, so there’s nothing to trust. Even if the industry was utterly corrupt, it wouldn’t change the real ability of testing, statistics and the scientific method to get to the truth.

    This debate is not about trusting drug companies. It’s simply about – know the risks, know the lack of scientific evidence, know the drawbacks of drawing conclusions from anecdotes, know the lack of plausible mechanism. Then make your mind up, as an infomed person.

  23. I’ve added this into the body of the article but for those who are following the comments:
    Apparently there is a chain email circulating blaming amber beads for a case of SIDS, a visitor mentioned this in the polling comments. This seemed implausible to me and a very brief check seems to back up my gut feeling. There is no reason to think that amber beads contribute to SIDS at all. For a more thorough break-down go here: http://www.hoax-slayer.com/amber-teething-necklace-sids.shtml .
    I am not one who feels we need to latch onto any reason to vilify our intellectual opponents and spreading misinformation (especially easily debunked misinformation) is a big no-no in my book.

  24. FYI:

    http://bio-amber.com/ignitionweb/data/media_centre_files/661/MSDS_SUCCINIC_ACID_USA_ENGLISH_VERSION.pdf

    (Hazzard – Skin Irritant)

    • thanks.
      As Dave mentions below this does seem to support the notion that the succinic acid does not leave the amber as it would then irritate the skin. I agree with his “almost” as we don’t have a threshold of action for this so it could be leaching out at doses that would not cause this reaction.

      Also, I do love your gravatar handle, evolution does rule.

    • Dave
    • May 20th, 2013

    Sheila Price :

    FYI:
    http://bio-amber.com/ignitionweb/data/media_centre_files/661/MSDS_SUCCINIC_ACID_USA_ENGLISH_VERSION.pdf
    (Hazzard – Skin Irritant)

    Ha ha, that *almost* proves that no acid gets out of the amber, which would falsify the claimed method of action. The unlikeliness of the acid getting out of the amber (where it has presumably been locked for thousands of years, just waiting for a baby’s skin to release it) has been pointed out by many on this thread.

    • Laura Bergeron
    • May 21st, 2013

    Thanks for this article, I’m sending it off to my husband, he will get a chuckle. I was wondering what was with these necklaces. It seems so silly but all of my friends babies wear them. Someone swore it worked for their baby so it must be true. It’s kind of like when my gf’s told me that homeopathic drops will help my baby with colic( like scream 8-10 hours a day colic) ya right! There are just certain phases in a baby’s life that we have to struggle through, it’s just the way it is. Thanks again, my hubby will enjoy this!
    Laura

    • Happy to provide some amusement :)

  25. You need another option in your poll – “Got suckered into trying the amber necklace by baby group, but stopped using when I saw no benefit.” Also, I was concerned about safety. My baby likes the necklace as adornment (she’s now 16 mo), but I’ve stopped expecting miracle pain relief. My baby is cutting 8 teeth simultaniously, so I would really like a miracle teetihing pain cure.
    Luckily, there is a pretty good treatment for teething pain – tylenol and advil.

    • heh, yeah. The “other” category gets some interesting entries though.

      Thanks for that and good luck with the keeping of your sanity thing. :)

  26. to the person who asked via the poll “Does Baltic amber teething necklaces delay the teething process?”;
    1. The poll does not record identifying information or email addresses so I have no way of replying to you personally;
    2. Given my opinion that the beads have no significant physiological effect I would say no – but I wouldn’t take that to mean much. For what reason would you think so?

    • Erin
    • September 10th, 2013

    This is an oasis of clear thinking in the swampy abyss of the baby-product industry… if I could reach through my computer and hug you, I would. Or buy you a pint. Whichever.

    • Please consider the warm fuzzies you just gave me as payment in full. :)

    • Wayne
    • September 10th, 2013

    Of all the reasons why I think Amber necklaces don’t work, the effectiveness of Succinic acid is right up there. One would think that if it were effective in the reduction of symptoms due to teething, the pharmaceutical companies would have investigated it. It’s a really available substance and I can already see the marketing mentioning the active ingredient being “natural” and the “same as that found in Baltic Amber”.

    • Amber believer
    • November 3rd, 2013

    I use amber and believe it helps and the crap I’ve just read won’t make me change my mind on it.

    • Stay strong. Don’t let reason dictate what you believe!

    • Devin
    • November 13th, 2013

    Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate the succinct but witty presentation of your personal research.
    -DSA

    • That’s what I was going for, so thanks.
      and you’re welcome.

    • Zantha Beretta
    • December 21st, 2013

    Well said! I am also a new mom. Went into a health store looking for a natural gumnumbing ointment as i dont like teegel. The guy at the till was very upset and offended when i told him in no uncertain terms that i will not buy the necklace as there is no way that i believe this hard rock is releasing anything. Apart from the fact that it is a huge choking hazard!

    Anyway, thank you for your research! Npw i can back up my common sense!

      • SueP
      • December 21st, 2013

      Very interesting! I recently bought an amber necklace (which I’ve used as an anklet) in a moment of madness/whim and am now thinking of returning it. Or maybe I’ll just make it into a necklace for me. It is quite pretty. Thanks for the information and sparking debate.

      • You are both welcome, thanks for adding to the conversation.

  27. I prefer the silicone based teething jewelry for moms. It is totally safe.

    • shahnaaz
    • January 26th, 2014

    I really appreciate the quality of your study; being a new mom again after 14 years I am clueless when it comes to babies. I was so excited to get my nunus a organic amber bead necklace; but after savouring through your study I am very weary and not so sure to actually invest in a amber bead necklace. Knowing the effect of salicylic acid on children I am not prepared to take that risk with my bundle of love. True to the fact what you have mentioned that who knows what amount of this natural substance is absorbed via the baby’s skin; when does it become dangerous? when should your alarm bells go off? when in reality; you could never for sure say when your child is in danger or not. No! the more I am reasoning with your researched facts I find it very difficult to put this necklace around any part of his body. My main concern is the reality of the internal natural Kreb cycle that works 24/7 to restore homeostasis; and at what point is my toddlers immature system in overload and is demanding too much from organs that aids in the natural elimination of toxins or excess chemicals. its too risky.

    • Angelica Martinez
    • January 31st, 2014

    Hello, I’m a new mom and my baby is currently teething. Although it’s not too bad I get constant comments from my in-laws even mother about the amount if drooling she is doing, how fussy she is, how painful it must be, that I should give her something. She isn’t to a point where I feel she is in a great amount of pain.
    I’ve tried doing some research, little but at least some. I decided against oragel because I read it contains an ingredient that is toxic. I was going to try something natural but saw it contained belladonna and I hear that’s toxic as well. I then came across these teething necklaces but am kind of skeptical. After reading your article I think I’ll opt for regular teething rings, some cold wash clothes, maybe done frozen breast milk, and sofie the giraffe. I honestly don’t want to take any risks with my child. Doing it with myself is one thing but my baby is another. I respect everyone’s opinion but I doubt I’ll be using any gels, teething tablets or the amber necklaces. Even Tylenol I’m skeptical about, for teething anyway.
    Thank you for a great article, I enjoyed everyone’s feedback too definitely helped me make a decision.

    • Ruthy
    • February 24th, 2014

    Amber is easily given an electrostatic charge through charging by friction, this could happen through daily wear as the necklace rubs against clothing or hair. Is it not possible that as these tiny charge build-ups discharge, a small electric shock could be given which may stimulate release of endorphins? This is partly how tenns machines work, and there may be a similar electrostatic mechanism at play in accupuncture. I’m surprised that you dismiss this potential explanation – even laughing it off? It seems much more sensible to me than the succinic acid one – shouldn’t scientists keep an open mind? Of course, I dont have any data but does anyone else know of any?

    • The problem is that this explanation is ad hoc, and you must first demonstrate there is an effect before it is worth positing a mechanism. I advance the most plausible mechanism of action for the sake of argument in my post but the bottom line is that there is no good reason to think the beads work in the first place – making any guess as to mode of action premature at best.

      Even so how does your hypothesis stack up? Well I agree with Dave that it is unlikely that
      a) a charge large enough to cause any sort of shock will build up in these circumstances;
      b) that should any shock occur that it would be large enough to have any pain relieving effect and
      c) TENS machines are themselves not without controversy with regard to if they relieve pain.
      If a mechanism of action requires stringing together chains of implausible events/situations it does not instil confidence in said mechanism.

      No doubt any rejoinder will demand evidence for me that this is not the case. Luckily it is those making the positive claim (ie that the beads work and that this is how they do so) who bear the burden of proof.

      Just because a scenario is imaginable does not mean it is likely. Scientists should indeed keep an open mind, but not so open their brains fall out. A flippant quip but nonetheless true.

  28. It doesn’t seem likely to me. Endorphins counteract the effect of significant pain. Tens machines work by giving you a noticeable shock and I think someone would have noticed that from a necklace. Also, electrostatic charge level is fairly uncontrollable, meaning you could easily get a big shock (like a metal bannister – not pleasant) lastly, if the necklace is worn next to the skin, it’s unlikely the necklace could ever build up any charge differential with the skin to cause a discharge. I’m certainly not laughing it off though…..

    • Charli
    • April 8th, 2014

    I found the best thing for a teething baby is a frozen bagel. These have been used for goodness knows how long. Because of the way bagels are made they don’t crumble easily and they do help the pain. Sometimes the simplest thing can be the best solution. I liked the bagel better then the machine made teething rings.

    • Ginny
    • June 1st, 2014

    I would like to raise awareness of natural products, and what we consider safe or doing no harm. CRITICAL FACT BEING MISSED by those who feel that it can’t hut anything to put a necklace on the child.
    If the necklace helps, it is likely due to Succinic acid. Just because we don’t know of dangers of this product, does not mean there are none. FYI Aspirin is from a NATURAL product (willow bark), and was first produced in 1899. Until about 1980 it was considered safe. That’s 81 years. Then it was learned that aspirin given to children with flu symptoms was causing Reyes Syndrome, a disease that causes acute brain and liver damage, and causes DEATH If not treated promptly. Wow, how horrific–this natural substance known to be safe for 81 years could cause death in child-size doses. I have great empathy for those who lost children by giving their child a natural substance considered safe.

    Thus, I feel that we are all better off trying not to use any substance except comfort if at all possible. This is especially true if the child has a fever, because a fever is designed to help the body fight infection. For teething try ice on the gums to anesthetize– the old teething ring. If the child is old enough give him iced foods, like peas, grapes. I called these peasicles and grapesicles when raising my kids. They thought these were treats!

    Here’s a link for one poor woman who lost her child, Joshua, at 19 yr of age. She was aware of Reyes and Aspirin association, but “didn’t consider the over the counter medications we all take may contain aspirin”. Heartbreaking. http://www.reyessyndrome.org/teens.html

    • jmberry
    • June 30th, 2014

    Every parent will make the decision that they feel is best! I just wanted to give this simple input… My 6 mo old twins just started using them and the difference is tremendous. They are even playing with their toys and not just eating them! I went with anklets instead of necklaces to lessen the risk. Good luck to all!

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