Succinic acid and amber


What is succinic acid?

Succinic acid is a naturally occurring dicarboxylic acid composed of four carbon atoms. It exists in vegetable and animal tissue. Its name comes from the Latin word succinum, meaning amber, from which the acid is extracted [1].

Succinic acid is already naturally present in the human body and in various foods, such as beer or wine. In some countries, it has been authorized as a food additive. It is generally harmless, although no studies exist on its analgesic nature. In large quantities, this acid is considered a respiratory irritant and a skin irritant, with a risk of ocular damage [2].


How does succinic acid affect your system?

Baltic amber, from one of the most well-known amber deposits, contains between 3 and 8% succinic acid. Succinic acid is considered an antibacterial; it is said to fortify the immune system and to slow down ageing [3]. No scientific research seems to back up those allegations [4]. Moreover, amber from other deposits seemingly does not contain succinic acid [5], even though this is the main selling point of amber necklaces.

According to some, succinic acid is released by Baltic amber in contact with the skin due to the body's temperature, which is approximately 37 °C. However, knowing that succinic acid melts at 187 °C, it is obvious that the body's heat is not nearly enough to make it react [6]. Although other mechanisms of action could be considered, such as dissolution by sweat, nothing has proven it so far, even though amber necklaces have been sold on the open market for many years. 


Back to the amber home page

[1] BioAmber

[2] Les attrape-nigauds

[3] 123 Ambre

[4] Darcy Cowan, Sciblogs, 2013.

[5] L. J. GOUGH et J. S. MILLS,

[6] Science or not?, 2012.


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