In 2005, I traveled to Malawi and watched in horror as mothers desperate to protect their babies (from all real and imagined dangers) used what little money they had to purchase trinkets or charm necklaces from the local witch doctor. The necklaces were to stay on until the cotton thread broke or the child grew out of them. The mothers shook with fear and trembling if a hospital admission meant that their little one lose their necklace prematurely. In their minds, the necklaces warded off the evil spirits and kept their little ones safe and healthy. I remember hearing someone say, "that's so Afri-can!"
Fast forward ten years and I smile every time I see a privileged South African baby or toddler parading around a mall with their shiny amber bead necklace around their neck. I want to exclaim, "that's so Afri-can!", except it's not, it is actually totally a great big hoax.
You see it's easy to believe that poor, uneducated African mothers would fall or such a scam and waste their money and time on such nonsense; but as human nature would have it, it is these same fears that send Western women running to the store to grab one of these.
Now, I do not speak in distate. I too fell for the amber bead necklace scam. After being hard hit with a reflux baba who went on to become a bad teether I quickly purchased one at a high-end pharmacy for R300! It promised better sleep and to decrease inflammation as it worked as a natural pain killer.
I knew that scientifically there was no way for the skin (whose job it is to protect the body from foreign chemicals) to absorb anything from these 'genuine baltic amber beads' (which I am very sure are really locally-produced plastic beads) but the African part of me was fretting that the evil teething spirits may jump on my necklace-less baby and besides things couldn't get any worse, right?
You see, despite several studies showing that neither charm necklaces nor amber bead necklaces help protect or heal your baby, you will continue to use them out of fear - the same reason that the Malawian moms did!
Because who knows what would have happened if your baby wasn't wearing them? Or what could happen if you take it off? Imagine the inflammation! The pain! The... relief that nothing changes?
Well, hold onto your amber beads, it looks like there's a new bead in town. Hazel Wood. Yup, now it's pure Hazel Wood bead necklaces that are here to ease... acid reflux. And whilst I know that the only beads that help acid reflux are these magnetic ones that must be inserted surgically,
Now won't that be even more Afri-can!