In my role as a Community Herbalist for the past thirty or more years and as Director of the Blessed Maine Herb Farm School of Herbal Medicine, I have occasion to consult with numerous people who are in search of improved health, most dealing with a broad range of physical, emotional and mental dysfunctions and interested in alternative herbal and complimentary medicines. I use a variety of certified organic cultivated and wildgathered herbs, trees, and fungi, most grown in our gardens or gathered nearby, in the herbal medicines I make.
Seven years ago, influenced by my Polish daughter-in-law Kasia and her family, I began working with Baltic amber…experimenting with and eventually integrating it into my educational programs and health supportive protocols, with exceedingly positive results. I would like to share with you a number of documented case studies from my recent work with Baltic amber, a bit about the medicinal virtues of this unique substance as I understand them, some of the recent science and traditional cultural uses of Baltic amber and the basic methods I use for preparing traditional medicines with this substance.
Baltic amber has been verified scientifically as an adaptogen. This is an important starting off place because in order to meet the criteria defined by the word adaptogen, a substance must be non-toxic, produce a nonspecific response in the body, which boosts its ability to resist multiple stressors and exert a normalizing influence on physiology. By definition, adaptogens strengthen the immune, nervous and glandular systems, increase metabolic efficiency and reduce susceptibility to illness and disease.
Baltic amber (succinum) is classified as warming, stimulating, magnetic, slightly sweet and bitter, aromatic and neutral in nature.
Succinic acid – Baltic amber contains high concentrations of a unique substance known as succinic acid, and with from 3% to 8% succinic acid by weight, is one of the most important natural sources of succinic acid in the world. Succinic acid is a colorless crystalline solid with a melting point of 185 -187 C; soluble in water; slightly dissolved in ethanol, ether, acetone and glycerin.
Succinic acid from Baltic amber was analyzed by Robert Koch (1886), the pioneer of modern bacteriology who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905. Koch confirmed the positive health influences of this substance and discovered that there is no risk of the accumulation of surplus amounts of succinic acid in the human organism.
Succinic acid is commercially produced, widely used and approved for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration. It was originally employed by European scientists and military doctors to bolster the body’s immunity to radiation from industrial accidents. It is touted in Russia and other European countries for its youth preserving and cell rejuvenating properties and is commonly used in anti-aging formulations and to aid recovery of cancer patients after undergoing conventional medical treatment. It has been shown to strengthen immunity to ionizing radiation, infections, alcohol and other toxins.
Succinic acid is a powerful antioxidant shown to stimulate neural system recovery, eliminate free radicals and modulate the immune system. It is also used to discourage disruptions of the cardiac rhythm and to ease stress. Succinic acid helps restore strength and energy to the entire body, enhances brain function and so helps to improve awareness, concentration and reflexes.
Baltic amber was worn extensively by Neolithic women of the Mediterranean regions. They valued the beads as protective amulets and went to their graves adorned with it. This amber necklace was uncovered by archaeologists from a grave site in my valley in Southern Italia.
Extensively traded since remote antiquity, Baltic amber’s continuous use has been documented to at least 13,000 years ago. Natural Baltic amber was highly prized among the ancient Nordic and Scandinavian peoples, as well as by the Celts, the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean: the Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans, the Arabs and Egyptians and the Chinese, all of whom knew and used Baltic amber (succinite) many centuries before the Common Era. Baltic amber gems were not only valued by these ancient peoples for their unique beauty but also for their considerable medicinal and protective qualities.
Brief Overview of Recent Science
As a bio-stimulant, succinate appears to affect the Krebs Cycle – the sequence of reactions by which most living cells generate energy during the process of aerobic respiration. This sequence takes place in the mitochondria, consuming oxygen, producing carbon dioxide and water as waste products, and converting ADP to energy-rich ATP. The Krebs cycle is the central metabolic turntable sustaining the cell respiratory process, and key functions of several of its intermediates, especially succinate and fumarate, have recently been uncovered. The most striking observations have been made while investigating human diseases; especially a set of specific cancers, revealing the crucial role of Krebs cycle intermediates as factors affecting genes methylation and thus cell remodeling.
Anti-tumor effects – Succinic acid ester of α-tocopherol, has attracted attention as a unique antitumor agent, and nanoparticles consisting of TS (tocopherol/succinate) as a novel and effective DDS (drug delivery system) carrier with multifaceted antitumor effects for combination therapy are currently being investigated.
Inflammation – Inflammatory immune cells, when activated, display much the same metabolic profile as a glycolytic tumor cell. This involves a shift in metabolism known as the Warburg effect. Emerging evidence is now pointing to a role for the Warburg effect in the immune and inflammatory responses. The reprogramming of metabolic pathways in macrophages, dendritic cells, and T cells could have relevance in the pathogenesis of inflammatory and metabolic diseases and might provide novel therapeutic strategies. This has implications in the repair and regeneration of cells, inflammation, cancer and neurological disease.
According to other recent studies, succinic acid has shown positive outcomes in both chronic hepatitis and diabetes.
One Russian study involving the hepatoprotective properties of succinic acid included 1075 patients. The control group of 447 received traditional pharmacotherapy drugs while the treatment group of 628 took the succinic acid-based infusion hepatoprotector, remaxol. This group showed a statistically and clinically significant therapeutic effect in the correction of hepatic lesions of varying genesis.
Its “hormone-like” effect on the neuroendocrine system, studied extensively by Professor Eugene Maevsky, Deputy Director of the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics, which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is notable. Scientists working with Dr. Maevsky have documented studies over the past several decades that consistently support their use of succinic acid to prevent and treat many age related diseases.
Diabetes mellitus is the most common and rapidly growing cause of end-stage renal disease. Succinate is being shown to have a hormone-like signaling function, which appears to provide a feedback between local tissue metabolism, mitochondrial stress, and organ functions that may play an important role in intercepting the trigger for tissue injury.
Antimicrobial action – At least 18 strains of bacteria have now evolved into “superbugs,” becoming resistant to most of our drugs. And pharmaceutical companies, more interested in profitable blockbusters like Viagra and Zoloft, haven’t developed a new class of antibiotics in 25 years. We’re dying because of it. By 2050, an estimated 10 million people worldwide will die by superbug. Baltic amber tincture, long revered for its antimicrobial properties, and now understood to enhance immunity, may emerge as a major player here as well.
Traditional Chinese and Unani Medicine using Baltic amber
In the Chinese Materia Medica succinum is listed among the “settling” or “heavy” sedatives. It is traditionally used for subduing fright, tranquilizing the mind, and relieving convulsion. Succinum is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine in the treatment of heart palpitation, amnesia, dreaminess, insomnia, and epilepsy, which is typically diagnosed during childhood, so amber is commonly used in pediatric formulas. Hu Po (succinum) is used as a remedy to “calm Shen.” (Shen is understood as mind, spirit, consciousness, soul and believed to reside in the heart.)
Amber is also traditionally used as part of a formula for alleviating water retention, relieving difficult urination and to eliminate kidney and urinary stones.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, succinum is also used to promote healthy blood circulation and to remove blood stagnation. Succinum is used as a remedy to treat amenorrhea and abdominal mass caused by blood stasis and stagnation of vital energy. Amber is also recommended for lower abdominal pains affecting the genitalia, such as pain of the testes, prostate, uterus, or vulvar region. It reduces swellings and promotes healing.
Baltic amber is often included in Chinese formulas for treatment of heart disease, because of its blood vitalizing effects; for example, it is combined with ginseng and codonopsis in the treatment of angina. In clinical practice, it is used for patients with heart diseases when the blood is not circulating properly, and at the same time the patient has palpitations and restlessness, such as seen in coronary heart disease. The same formula with amber, ginseng, and codonopsis is prescribed in cases of chronic liver disease to normalise liver function.
A qi and blood tonic formula for lowering blood lipids, combines Baltic amber, astragalus, pearl, and American ginseng and is used as an anti-aging formulation and as a treatment to aid recovery for cancer patients after undergoing standard medical therapies.
Topical applications of Baltic amber include astringing ulcers and promoting tissue regeneration. Used externally, it is efficacious in the treatment of ulcers, boils, swellings, skin eruptions and infections.
According to Jessica Baker, LAc, RH in her AHG Symposium 2015 notes – Succinum enters the Urinary Bladder, Heart and Liver functions. She claims it is a CNS suppressant that may cause drowsiness and sedation. Her recommended dosage for use is 1-3 grams. She recommends it be taken as an elixir or worn as an amulet and says it may potentiate the effect of barbiturates.
Unani Medicine – Commonly referred to as Greco-Arab medicine or Unani Tibb, it is a traditional system of medicine practiced in the Indian subcontinent. In the Unani system of medicine, certain plants, animals as well as mineral origin substances are used clinically for the treatment of disease without any side effect. These are considered time tested, centuries old, safe for use and cost effective. Baltic amber is one such medicine and Kahruba is the name used for a traditional Unani Baltic amber remedy used to heal gastric and peptic ulcer.
Woman 60 years old, 125 lbs., 5’5”, active, married, healthy. Complained of tendonitis in wrist and lower arm, pain was intense, limited movement, had been going on for several weeks without relief. Among other things she began wearing a Baltic amber bracelet. She reported that within minutes of putting on the bracelet, the pain in her arm began to lessen. By the next day the pain was completely gone. She wore the bracelet continuously and the pain did not return, despite using the arm freely, which she had not previously been able to do. After several months of continuous wear she had to go to a wedding and decided to remove the bracelet for something more suited to her wedding attire. The next day the pain in her arm returned. She realized she had not put the bracelet back on after the wedding event. She immediately put the bracelet back on and the pain began again to subside. She wears a couple of bracelets on her wrist continuously now and the pain has not returned.
Woman, 45, 140 lbs., 5’6”, healthy, hip pain lasting for several months causing extreme discomfort and inhibiting her ability to walk freely. She wrapped a large Baltic amber necklace around her waist and within ten minutes reported the pain was considerably relieved and she was able to walk freely. After a day of continuous use she reported feeling no pain in the hip at all.
Woman, mid 20’s, about 5’4”, 120 lbs., with severe eczema covering much of her body. Her ankle was severely swollen and the rash was angry, red, inflamed and oozing. She was given an Allergy Ease formulation (containing reishi mushroom, American ginseng and licorice), a rose and Baltic amber cream and wrapped a Baltic amber anklet around her ankle. When I saw her a couple of weeks later her ankle was considerably less swollen, almost normal, and the skin rash was no longer red and oozing but on its way to being completely resolved. She is continuing with the Allergy Ease formula, the Baltic amber/rose cream and the anklet.
Woman, mid 50’s, 5’2”, morbidly obese, complained of difficulties maintaining her energy after eating lunch at mid-day. She said her energy was so low all she could do was lie down after her meal. She tried Baltic amber tincture to see if it would boost her energy levels and we worked on moderating her diet. She reported that within a week of using the tincture, one drop the first day, two the second, three on the third day, up to seven drops on the seventh day, she began noticing much more energy in the afternoon. After a couple of weeks, maintaining her dose at 1 drop per day, she said that she could return to work in the afternoon and sustain her energy until closing time at 4:30.
Woman, mid 50’s, 5’3”, 120 lbs., complained of constantly picking up ticks while working in the garden and natural environs. Her dog she said was also a “tick magnet.” She started taking one drop of Baltic amber tincture in a cup of water once a day. She also gave her dog the same treatment dose. She reported that neither of them has had a single tick on them since beginning the drop of Baltic amber tincture daily.
Reported by a sister herbalist: Woman, in her 30’s, 5’7”, 130 lbs., with Lyme disease and co-infections. Used a number of Lyme protocols and nothing seemed to be helping. Began taking Baltic amber tincture, using the traditional Polish method (see below) when she got to 5 drops she began feeling very ill, and the herbalist who was caring for her reported that she was herxing. (Herkheimer reaction is believed to occur when injured or dead bacteria release their endotoxins into the blood stream and tissues faster than the body can comfortably handle it.) The number of bacteria dying off in her body due to the antimicrobial properties of the Baltic amber was overwhelming her and she could not continue. She took a break from the tincture for a week, until she felt stabilised and then resumed taking just one drop daily, in water. She is also wearing a Baltic amber necklace. She reported feeling much better after three weeks of this treatment, her energy level was improved, she feels more vitality and does not experience the extreme muscle aches she was dealing with previously.
Woman, 66, 5’3”, 110 lbs., generally in good health but returned from a trip to India with multiple infections and itchy rash covering much of her trunk, arms and legs, miserable. After several trips to different doctors which produced no help at all, and multiple courses of steroids, after which the rash returned with a vengeance, she began altering her diet, eliminating gluten, using an Allergy Ease formula and wearing Baltic amber around her neck, arms and ankles. She took one full course of Baltic amber tincture, using the traditional 19 day dosage protocol, and applied a cream made from Baltic amber and rose oil over the inflamed areas of her skin. Within a few weeks of beginning the Allergy Ease and Baltic amber treatments her rashes began to fade, the itching subsided and she began to regain her health. She continues to use the Allergy Ease formula intermittently, wears a Baltic amber necklace around her neck, bracelets on both arms and anklets on both ankles. The rash has not recurred and her good health has been sustained. The same woman suffered from recurring shoulder pain that had lasted on and off for twenty years and limited her arm mobility and her ability to lift even a mildly heavy object. After wearing the Baltic amber bracelets she noticed the pain had disappeared and she had full range of motion in that arm and shoulder again and was now able to lift her two year-old grandson, with no problem at all.
Woman mid 50’s, 5’7”, 140 lbs., generally good health…complained of continuous shoulder pain, applied the Baltic amber/St. Johns’wort cream and within minutes began to feel relief. She reported that the pain relief was instantaneous. The same woman later broke two toes, requiring her leg to remain elevated. She applied the Baltic amber cream to the leg to stimulate circulation with very good results.
Young woman, late 20’s, suffering with a bunion on her toe, causing her great discomfort. She put a Baltic amber necklace, wrapped twice around her ankle and reported near instant relief, which kept the bunion from causing any more discomfort, despite walking all around France that winter.
Middle aged, menopause woman, generally in good health, suffering from typical menopausal issues, used the tincture for hot flashes, and “balancing hormones.” She reported that “It worked very well, and it did seem to make me feel better. It gave me a little energy lift as well.”
Woman, mid-40’s, average height and weight, used the Baltic amber tincture for heart palpitations. She said “It totally worked to relax the feeling like the heart is jumping out of your body. It took 2-3 days until I noticed the effectiveness.”
A middle-aged woman emailed me the following message: “I purchased the Baltic amber tincture for the treatment of menopause – specifically for hot flashes, insomnia, and low energy. I did notice improvement in these areas. Even more remarkable was that I made it through the flu and cold season better than everyone else I knew.”
From a student: “I own and wear multiple pieces of Baltic amber daily. I wear two necklaces for an old compression injury to my neck that causes chronic pain and stiffness and three bracelets I wear around my left wrist for the pain and weakness caused by a severely broken radius that required surgery and the placement of a metal plate. I also have two anklets that I wear around my ankles to help with occasional Achilles tendon swelling. I have found them to be very effective for pain relief and weakness, and somewhat effective for stiffness. This effect is very pronounced when I forget to put them back on a few hours after they have been taken off.
Tincture – we use a 1:5 ratio and cover with 50/50 blend of 190 proof organic alcohol and spring water. Let macerate for at least 6 weeks. Although resins usually require a high alcohol content, succinic acid is water soluble, hence the 50/50 menstruum. Dosage: The traditional Polish recipe is 1 drop on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third, all the way up to 10 drops on the tenth day, then reverse and take 9 drops, 8, 7 and so on until the 19th day when you take one last drop dose. This is considered one full course of treatment. Rest for ten days before starting another course.
Some people, the weak, the very sick, those with multiple infections, may find it hard to go up beyond five to seven drops before feeling ill. Find the comfort level and stay there for three weeks. This may be as little as 1 or 2 drops daily.
Alternately, for treating viral, fungal or bacterial infections, 1 or 2 drops per day in water daily for 3 weeks can be an effective dose. Then take a ten-day rest. For Tick/Lyme prevention, we use one drop daily in water, during the entire tick season, taking a one-week break every three weeks.
We use the tincture to enhance immunity, counter bacterial, fungal and viral infections, to bring down inflammation, relieve pain, calm stress, nourish the nervous, cardiovascular and glandular systems, balance hormones and restore vitality. We take the drops in water, but they can also be placed on the surface of the tongue, held there for several seconds and then swallowed.
Oil – Prepare 1:5 by volume…fill a jar 1/5 with pharmaceutical grade amber chips and cover with pure olive oil. Let sit for a minimum of six weeks. The use of mild heat will enhance the oil infusion…such as a pilot light in an oven, place on top of a water heater, or in a dehydrator, yogurt maker or autoclave set to 100 degrees. It will turn a warm golden color when ready.
Apply the oil directly or mix with rose oil and cocoa butter to make a cream. Apply to the face and skin as a cosmetic aid, for youthful/beautification purposes, to restore elasticity to the skin, and to heal infections, rash and wounds, burns and to prevent scarring. Use the oil mixed with St. John’s wort oil or prepare as a cream to be used topically for pain relief, which is especially good on sore muscles and joint pains. We use this combination as a sunscreen/sun protector also, because both substances are well known to protect against sun burn/radiation.
To prepare our creams we mix infused Baltic amber oil, rose oil and/or St. John’s wort oil with cocoa butter, beating until it reaches a thick, creamy consistency. Essential oils of rose, frankincense, myrrh or lavender are added before whipping to enhance healing, aroma and as a preservative.
Water based medicine – Powder chips and mix a quarter teaspoon to a cup of water, or herbal infusion, mix well…or infuse 1/4 teaspoon of chips in a 8 ounce cup of water, let sit in sunlight for 4 hours…apply as a wash over infected skin, rash, eczema, psoriasis, etc. Strain and use as a spray after washing the face as a rejuvenating beauty treatment.
Dry application of powder – Baltic amber powder can be applied directly to rejuvenate and improve the appearance of the skin, heal damaged skin, counter infection, and soothe rashes. There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction to the powder applied directly to the skin, so to be safe, test on a small spot before proceeding with a full treatment.
In Chinese medicine amber is ground to a powder and swallowed with water or, more commonly, with a decoction of other herbs that make up a formula with the succinum. It is also combined into pills made with powder or extract of the other ingredients. Typical dosing for succinum is 1.5-3.0 grams per day. Because the powder is very fine, to avoid getting it stuck in the throat or inhaled, it is common to stir the powder into the warm decoction and swallow.
Note: Do not use tailings from jewelry making. Only pharmaceutical grade Baltic amber should be used for medicine making.
Jewelry – Wearing Baltic Amber – The highest content of succinic acid is found in the amber cortex – the external layer of the stone. The skin is our largest organ of assimilation and it is known that anything placed on the surface of the skin is detected in the bloodstream and passing through the liver in a matter of minutes. We have found that wearing a Baltic amber necklace, bracelet or anklet is a very effective treatment for pain relief, with most people reporting instant or near instant relief. The amber must be in direct contact with the skin.
We understand that the heat of the body causes enough of the succinic acid to be absorbed from the resin, in micro-doses, something akin to a homeopathic treatment dose, enough to exert its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immune enhancing and vitality boosting influence. For this reason the jewelry can be worn as a general bio stimulant, as a non-specific, over-all health enhancing agent…we use only natural Baltic amber jewelry for its antiinflmmatory properties, to regulate the thyroid, to enhance lymphatic drainage, to modulate immunity, help counter infection, normalize heart rhythm and boost energy and vitality. Natural Baltic amber acts as a protective shield against radiation, so we wear it to protect against radiation poisoning which is ambient in the atmosphere, and also coming from computers and cell phone use.
We also use Baltic amber jewelry, in addition to or as an alternative to the tincture, for preventing ticks from climbing onto or attaching to the body during tick season, wearing them continuously from early spring through fall. Wearing the anklets appears to discourage ticks from attaching while walking through tall grass or in the woods. We take one drop of Baltic amber tincture daily, for three weeks, take a one-week break and then repeat the cycle again.
I can report that none of our gardeners have had a single tick on them. We also grow a lot of aromatic herbs in our gardens, which we feel discourages tick populations as well. The woodland around the perimeter of our gardens is lush with aromatic cedar, fir, spruce and pine. We have tansy growing freely, hyssop, lavender, roses, wormwood and sage in meandering beds as well.
Living tissues possess direct current surface electro-potentials that regulate, at least in part, the healing process. Following tissue damage, a current of injury is generated that is thought to trigger biological repair. In addition, exogenous electrical stimuli have been shown to enhance the healing of wounds in both human subjects and animal models. In other words, wherever you place a magnetic current on the body, blood flow is enhanced and healing is stimulated.
Baltic amber’s considerable electrostatic properties are an essential part of its health boosting abilities. The magnetic property of Baltic amber has been known down through the centuries. Women in the Mediterranean areas wrapped amber beads around their spinning staffs because of its ability to attract natural fibers such as fleece and linen. The word electric has its root in electron, the Greek word for Baltic amber.
Baltic amber is respected as a natural ioniser; it possesses the ability to produce negative ions, known to help to ease pain, boost over-all immunity and stimulate the healing process.
According to results of research on negative ions conducted at the Nanzandoh Medical Clinic in Japan, negative ions help speed recovery from illness, slow the aging processes and offer protection from the harmful effects of environmental stressors such as electromagnetic fields and radiation.
Additionally, it was reported that negative ions support the health of the autonomic nervous system, promote deep sleep, healthy digestion, effect the production of insulin, neutralize free radicals and enhance adrenal function. Wearing a piece of natural Baltic amber appears to strengthen the energetic field of the body, perhaps through its electromagnetic properties and/or this ability to produce negative ions.
Many people report feeling an increased sense of emotional/psychological/spiritual strength and balance when wearing Baltic amber. The jewelry has traditionally been worn as a protective amulet or talisman. For people with disturbed Shen, those who are emotionally sensitive, stressed, suffer from insecurities, those who feel particularly vulnerable, exposed, in pain, depressed and/or frightened, and especially for babies, young children and pregnant women, wearing Baltic amber can be particularly grounding and offer a sense of being enveloped in a calm, protective shield.
One of the things about Baltic amber that I find the most compelling is the fact that not only does it carry the energy and memory of all those millions of years on earth, but it also often contains bubbles of air that were on the planet all those millions of years ago, as well as inclusions of small particles of living matter, such as leaves or bugs that bear witnesses to life on earth 40 to 200 million years ago. These physical traits energetically transmit the power of longevity, endurance, and the ability to survive, with strength and grace, any changes that come our way. This is the very essence of adaptogenic.
The terms Oleum succini (amber oil), Balsamum succini (amber balsam), and Extractum succini (amber extract or tincture) appear often in the formulas of the alchemists of the Middle Ages and these items were still listed as medicines in A Dictionary of Medical Science; Medical Lexicon of Official and Empirical Preparations, sixth edition dated 1846, written by Robley Dunglison, at the Boston Medical Library of Medicine.
Succinum was considered antispasmodic and diaphoretic in a dose from five to twenty grains. It was commonly referred to as Electrum, Ambra, Ambre jaune and Yellow Amber, reported to be composed of resinous matter, essential oil and an acid, sui generis; inodorous, except when rubbed or heated. The oil, oleum or Balsamum Succini, also known as Huile de Succin, was said to possess stimulating, antispasmodic, diuretic and rubefacient properties.
Baltic amber oil was an ingredient in British Oil, formulated by the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, which also contained oil of terbinth, juniper and aloe and was recommended as a remedy for sprains.
This post is the presentation I gave at the Kaliningrad Amber Museum as part of the International Amber in the History of Medicine Conference and Exhibit held in Kaliningrad, Russia in September/October 2015. The presentation was translated into Russian and this photo was taken of me with our translator, Marina, during my talk at the Museum. Many of the photos in this blog post were taken at the Amber Museum in Kaliningrad and depict items that are part of their permanent exhibition entitled Amber in the History of Medicine, curated by Dr. Irina Polyakova.
For more on the Myth, Magic, and Medicine of Baltic Amber, read Natural Baltic Amber – Magnetic, Adaptogenic, Universally Applicable
You’ll find our Baltic amber tincture, oil, cream and teething and adult necklaces here: Blessed Maine Herb Farm Baltic amber products
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