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What Is Amber And Where Does It Come From?

Amber origins

The material amber has fascinated people for a very long time, most recently those intrigued by its potential as a teething necklace, as well as those who are interested in fossils and preservation.

A material that is millions of years old, both aspects of amber intersect, and to understand how it can help with your baby’s teething, it is important to know what it is and where it comes from, two questions that are inherently interconnected.

What Actually Is Amber?

Often mistaken for a form of gemstone, amber is actually made of resin, the gooey, sticky substance produced by trees to heal damage to itself. Over time it starts to solidify and settle into a strong yellowish-brown colour so distinct that it is often known simply as amber.

Once it has reached this solid state, it does not age, which is part of the reason why insects trapped within amber deposits create such long-lasting fossils and other vivid records of life millions of years ago, formed from species of trees that now no longer exist.

Like other fossils, there is a huge appeal in holding a piece of amber, particularly the Baltic amber often popular in teething necklaces given it is, depending on which studies are believed, between 35m and 47m years old. 

Baltic amber is believed to have emerged as the result of several glaciers forming at the start of the ice age, destroying the trees that formed and bore resin, leaving them to fossilise as amber and remain preserved for millions of years.

Why Is Ancient Amber Good For Teething?

The question of amber is fascinating, but what matters to mothers interested in its potential use with their babies is what makes it so special and gives it the potential to soothe teething symptoms.

The answer to this comes in the form of succinic acid, a naturally occurring compound in the body that is found in the human body, as well as in sugar cane, dietary supplements, rhubarb, sugar beet and broccoli.

However, whilst succinic acid is often eaten, that is not the way that a teething necklace works, and indeed it should not be chewed or gummed on like a teething comforter or a teething biscuit would be.

Instead, the amber reacts to the heat around the baby’s neck, releasing small amounts of oils with succinic acid that are absorbed through the skin, entering the bloodstream thanks to the network of arteries in the neck.

The most effective types of amber for this purpose are as unadulterated as possible, which means that they typically have a white, butter yellow or green colour instead of the darker yellowy brown shade that is more typically associated with amber but are often adulterated for aesthetic reasons.

As well as this, teething necklaces tend to be unpolished to allow the reactions that create the oils that soothe gums to activate quicker, helping the necklace to soothe teething faster.

Amber is one of the most fascinatingly beautiful materials in the world, and even after tens of millions of years, it is still yet to be fully understood.