Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Amber
Does baltic amber have healing properties ? People have believed in the magical power of amber from time immemorial.
At first,people valued amber chiefly for its magical power. Amber ornaments played an important role in the religious cults and beliefs of all major cultures in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East throughout the ages. In the prehistoric period, round and flat amber disks were associated with sun worship and the fertility cult , as were figurines depicting women. The axe-shaped amulets were believed to protect the wearer against misfortune; zoomorphic shapes assisted hunters; while male figurines were associated with ancestor worship.
The ancient Greeks and Romans also believed in the magical power of amber and carved it to represent images of gods and heroes. In Egyptian tombs, amber was believed to protect mummies against destruction and decay, as well as shield the deceased against harms in after life. Beliefs going back to ancient times survived in many folk traditions. Amber was not only supposed to protect, but also to cure. The first records concerning the use of amber as medicine date back to antiquity. Pliny the Elder described in "Natural History" how peasant women in northern Italy would wear amber necklaces not only as an ornament, but also to guard against tonsillitis, throat pain and give protection against madness and urinary disorders. The opinion about the protective and medicinal power of amber, which had developed in the primitive and ancient societies, survived for millennia.
Medieval medicine took over most of the beliefs about the positive effects of amber and added its own recommendations. Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1178), the prioress of the local Benedictine convent, a renowned German mystic and
poetess, recommended taking amber as a beer, wine or water tincture for stomach ache, and as a milk tincture for bladder conditions. Powdered amber mixed with wine was also supposed to protect from the Black Death. Arabian physicians, who
enjoyed great esteem in medieval medicine, recommended amber for many diseases, which included diarrhoea and haemorrhage (Avicenna, al-Razi), while Arabian scholar al-Biruni emphasised the magical and protective power of amber by
saying that “it repels the injury inflicted by the evil eye.”
Having taken hold of “the amber coast,” the Teutonic Knights drew enormous profits from the amber trade, but they especially treasured the white variety, to which exceptional medicinal properties were attributed. With his wishes “for this good stone to cast out the evil ones,” Prussian prince Albrecht Hohenzollern sent a white amber nugget to Martin Luther for his gall stones. In his scientific treatise on amber ("Succini Historia", 1551), Andreas Aurifaber's court physician included 46 prescriptions on how to use amber for the following ailments: toothache, stomach ache, rheumatism and heart arrhythmia. Also Nicolaus Copernicus, the great astronomer and physician would prescribe amber powder for heart ailments. Up to the mid-sixteenth century, amber was most commonly used in the form of lumps which were rubbed or worn against the body; soaked in water, wine or honey; ground into a powder to be ingested alone or mixed with herbs; or burned as incense.
In 1546, the German naturalist, Georgius Agricola subjected amber to dry distillation (heated without air) and turpenite, colophony amber oil and succinic acid in the form of white crystals. At first the acid was mistaken for salt and called sall succini or sal volatile, until Robert Boyle demonstrated its acidity in the late seventeenth century.
Baltic amber contains 3-8 % of succinic acid a scientifically examined medicinal substance used in contemporary medicine. The highest contents of the acid is found in the so-called amber cortex, i.e. the external layer of the stone. Therefore, nuggets and amber goods (necklaces, bracelets, pendants, teething necklaces) made from non-ground or finely ground raw material should be used for therapeutic and bactericidal purposes.
Supported by scientific research, the faith in the beneficial properties of amber proved to be justified. Amber acid was discovered to act as a biostimulant: it stimulates the nervous system, regulates the work of kidneys and intestines, it is an anti-inflammatory and antitoxic agent. This ingredient is the basis for ointments and creams to treat rheumatic and asthmatic ailments, skin ulcerations and irritations, bronchial, throat and thyroid conditions. The acid and oil obtained from amber are also used in the cosmetics industry as they destroy free radicals and bacteria, have disinfectant properties and alleviate the effects of burns and insect bites. For these reasons, manufacturers have been trying to outdo each other by offering ever new ideas on how to use amber: you can buy mattresses and cushions, mats for pets filled with amber, insoles with amber fines, back and neck supports for drivers, amber incense sticks and many other objects of this kind.
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