Evaluating the Healing Powers of Amber

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Updated on Sep 21, 2011

Grade Level: 6th to 8th; Type: Life Science, Psychology

Objective:

This experiment will evaluate the alleged pain-relieving properties of amber.

Research Questions:

Does wearing amber help relieve pain associated with an inflammatory condition like arthritis? Some people believe that amber has analgesic properties and can help treat medical issues ranging from teething pain to joint inflammation. This experiment will test this premise by evaluating whether amber can help provide pain relief for people suffering from arthritis.

Materials:

  • 10 amber bracelets
  • 10 fake amber (eg, plastic or glass) bracelets for “sham” treatment
  • 20 volunteers with arthritis
  • Notebook for analyzing results

Experimental Procedure

  1. Find approximately 20 test subjects that suffer from mild wrist pain due to arthritis. Consider visiting a nursing home to find participants.
  2. Prepare a simple survey asking participants to evaluate their pain. It could include questions like, “Rate the overall amount of pain you feel on a scale of 1 to 10”; “On a scale of 1 to 10, rate the range of motion in your wrist?”; and “On a scale of 1 to 10, how swollen do you observe your wrist to be?” Add up the answers on each survey.
  3. Ask 10 participants to continuously wear an amber bracelet on their sore wrist. Ask the other 10 participants to wear a fake amber bracelet (it should look as much like the amber bracelet as possible). Do not tell participants whether they are wearing the amber bracelet or “sham” bracelet.
  4. Ask test subjects to repeat the survey at several pre-selected time points (eg, 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, one week).
  5. Evaluate your results. Add up the numbers on each repeat survey and compare to the first survey. Do participants wearing the amber tend to report a greater level of improvement in their symptoms compared to people that receive the “sham” treatment? What (if any) symptoms are improved?

Terms/Concepts: Inflammation; How does amber help with pain relief?; What is the placebo effect?; What is a sham in a science experiment?

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