Is it possible to heal with coloured lights?

I was asked to comment about the healing properties of coloured lights. Even though I have seen how coloured-light therapy was used, this is an area that I am not familiar with. I had seen coloured-light treatment when I was a student practitioner in a naturopathic clinic in Singapore. The clinic was equipped with a massage bed with an overhanging multi-colour light above. My mentor would advise his patients to rest on the massage bed for therapeutic sessions of varying length. Just for curiosity, I tried such coloured-lights therapeutic session once for about 30 minutes. Other than having a good rest on the bed, I could not tell whether it had any effect on me. This was my first and only experience with such therapy. I was not too convinced with its value then.

Shining coloured light – can it heal?

Historical use

To understand the use of lights and colours for healing, I have researched on this topic recently. Indeed, the use of colours to cure diseases is a centuries-old concept. There are claims that primary lights of red, blue, and green were utilised by the ancient Egyptian as healing media since as early as 2000 BC [1].

Ancient Eygptian Painting (1904), depicting an ancient vibrantly colored illustration of Nubian chiefs bringing gifts to their king.

The ancient Greek scholars devised extensive colour theory for application in medicine and arts [2]. The use of colour, along with shape, size, and other external signs to classify diseases for diagnosis and treatment is common among traditional medicines in China, India, and the Islamic world [1]. However, the attempt to apply scientific principles to explain the potential healing effects of lights of different colours only began in the later 19th century. Several American scientists, including Dr Seth Pancoast (1823–1889), Edwin Dwight Babbitt (1828–1905), and Dinshah P. Ghadiali (1873–1966) conducted experiments and published books on the topic. Their works started a system of healing called Chromotherapy [1].

The Principles of Light & Color (1898) written by Edwin Babbitt is stille available today.

Chromotherapy

The theory of Chromotherapy is based on Einstein’s renown equation of E=mc2, whereby energy and matter are interchangeable forms of the same universal substance. In physics, light is energy. The phenomenon of colour is a product of the interaction of energy and matter. Each distinct colour has a different wavelength, frequency and quantity of energy [1]. The human eye can only distinguish colours at a specific range of wavelengths between 380 t0 780 nm.

Energy spectrum visible to human eyes is as a rainbow.

Chromotherapy subscribes to the concept that the human body is a complete system operating in harmony with the electromagnetic/energy system of the universe [1]. Hence, coloured lights of different wavelengths can be used to route energy to different parts of the body for the restoration of the energy fields [1]. Such ideas are influenced by the concept of the chakra system in Ayurvedic medicine. Each chakra energizes and sustains specific organs in the body, and they can be actively healed by transferring energy in different frequencies or colours [3].

The colours of chakras.

Also, Russian scientists discovered that light applied to the human skin at specific areas can penetrate the body to a depth of between 2 and 30mm, depending on the colour frequency. These particular areas correspond to the meridian points in traditional Chinese medicine. Hence, such findings give rise to the practice of coloured light acupuncture, a new way of applying acupuncture technique without the use of needles [4]. At present, Chromotherapy is considered a form of energy medicine and is practised by many complementary and alternative medicine practitioners in various formats.

Cromountura - aplicación de luz azul en el punto 60 del canal del pulmón durante una sesión de cromopuntura
Coloured light acupuncture is a new way of applying acupuncture technique without the use of needles.

Phototherapy and Light Therapy

While the scientific and medical communities remain sceptical of Chromotherapy as a whole system of healing due to the lack of evidence, lights and colours have been applied in modern medical treatment in many ways. For example, the use of turquoise and blue lights to treat new-born babies with jaundice is now a standard medicine procedure [5,6]. Such an application is called phototherapy in medicine to differentiate it from Chromotherapy. Phototherapy using LEDs (light-emitting diodes) lights with frequencies of 415nm (blue), 633nm (red), and 830nm (infrared), is also widely used in the treatment of many skin conditions, including acne, wound healing, psoriasis, various forms of skin cancers, as well as cosmetic applications [7].

A newborn infant receives phototherapy to treat jaundice.

In the field of mental health, light therapy is a recommended treatment option for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons [8]. Light of different colours, including white, blue, green and red have been administered to help alleviate depressive symptoms in both SAD and non-seasonal depression [9–11]. Light therapy is also indicated for other disorders including Jet lag, sleep disorders, dementia, and disruption in circadian rhythm [12].  

Light therapy is a recommended treatment option for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is no question that coloured light can be harness for therapeutic use. Although the proponents of Chromotherapy may suggest that it can help to heal many diseases through harmonising the energy vibrations of different organs. Many of the claims have not been tested through well-designed clinical trials. Nevertheless, the use of coloured light has been accepted for specific medical applications such as jaundice, skin diseases, and mental conditions. More research is needed to uncover the full healing potential of glowing light.

References

[1]        S.T. Yousuf Azeemi, S.M. Raza, A critical analysis of chromotherapy and its scientific evolution, Evidence-Based Complement. Altern. Med. 2 (2005) 481–488. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh137.

[2]        J.L. Benson, Greek Color Theory and the Four Elements, [email protected] (2000). https://scholarworks.umass.edu/art_jbgc/?utm_source=scholarworks.umass.edu%2Fart_jbgc%2F6&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages (accessed September 24, 2019).

[3]        C.L. Ross, Energy Medicine: Current Status and Future Perspectives, Glob. Adv. Heal. Med. 8 (2019) 216495611983122. doi:10.1177/2164956119831221.

[4]        A. Cocilovo, Colored light therapy: Overview of its history, theory, recent developments and clinical applications combined with acupuncture, Am. J. Acupunct. 27 (1999) 71–83.

[5]        J.Y. Lee, P. Moore, J. Kusek, M. Barry, CAMUS Study Group, Treatment assignment guesses by study participants in a double-blind dose escalation clinical trial of saw palmetto, J. Altern. Complement. Med. 20 (2014) 48–52. doi:10.1089/acm.2012.0284.

[6]        F. Ebbesen, P.K. Vandborg, P.H. Madsen, T. Trydal, L.H. Jakobsen, H.J. Vreman, Effect of phototherapy with turquoise vs. blue LED light of equal irradiance in jaundiced neonates, Pediatr. Res. 79 (2016) 308–312. doi:10.1038/pr.2015.209.

[7]        G. Ablon, Phototherapy with Light Emitting Diodes: Treating a Broad Range of Medical and Aesthetic Conditions in Dermatology, J. Clin. Aesthet. Dermatol. 11 (2018) 21–27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29552272.

[8]        B. Mårtensson, A. Pettersson, L. Berglund, L. Ekselius, Bright white light therapy in depression: A critical review of the evidence, J. Affect. Disord. 182 (2015) 1–7. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2015.04.013.

[9]        R.E. Strong, B.K. Marchant, F.W. Reimherr, E. Williams, P. Soni, R. Mestas, Narrow-band blue-light treatment of seasonal affective disorder in adults and the influence of additional nonseasonal symptoms, Depress. Anxiety. 26 (2009) 273–278. doi:10.1002/da.20538.

[10]      B. Bais, A.M. Kamperman, M.D. van der Zwaag, G.C. Dieleman, H.W. Harmsen van der Vliet-Torij, H.H. Bijma, R. Lieverse, W.J.G. Hoogendijk, M.P. Lambregtse-van den Berg, Bright light therapy in pregnant women with major depressive disorder: study protocol for a randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial, BMC Psychiatry. 16 (2016) 381. doi:10.1186/s12888-016-1092-2.

[11]      R.T. Loving, D.F. Kripke, N.C. Knickerbocker, M.A. Grandner, Bright green light treatment of depression for older adults [ISRCTN69400161], BMC Psychiatry. 5 (2005) 42. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-5-42.

[12]      Light therapy – Mayo Clinic, (n.d.). https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604 (accessed September 24, 2019).

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