The History of Color Light Therapy

What is Color Light Therapy?

Color light therapy (chromotherapy) is a treatment method that uses colors (the visible spectrum) of electromagnetic radiation to help cure diseases. This centuries-old concept has been used successfully to cure various ailments. The scientific evolution of color light therapy has been well-documented over the years, especially since the early 1900’s to date.

Sufficient data can be found about color light therapy that provides a system of treatment mainly focused on the healing characteristics and treatment methodologies of colors. Numerous studies have explored the relationship between colors and the human body.

Each color elicits different bodily responses while providing different benefits, from physical to emotional heath. Many modern wellness treatments and modern spas today use chromotherapy to help users achieve wellness, but do you know the history behind this practice?

Numerous ancient cultures recognized the numerous healing powers of color and light, paving the way to the modern wellness practices we enjoy today.

Ancient times Color Light Therapy

The use of color light therapy has been documented as far back as ancient Egypt. Nature was a very important aspect of the culture of ancient Egyptians, prompting their use of light and color in many aspects of life, including ancient healing practices. Ancient Egyptians also associated colors with gods. They strongly believed that shining light through a colored crystal could penetrate the human body and help treat various ailments. They built different rooms for individual colors in a bid to concentrate their powers. According to studies, ancient Egypt was one of the first ancient civilizations to use color therapy for healing. Some examples of the use of phototherapy, light therapy, or color therapy in ancient Egypt:

  • White: Simplicity, sacredness, purity, cleanliness
  • Blue: Heavenly, water, hair of gods
  • Greed: Life, protection, healing, joy, well-being, life
  • Gold: Eternal, perfection, indestructible, flesh of gods
  • Black: Regeneration, fertility, life
  • Red: Destruction, chaos, life, protection

Reference to light therapy and color therapy can also be found in ancient Indian and Chinese texts. The Babylonians, Egyptians and Assyrians all practiced sun bathing. For instance the city of Heliopolis (Greek for ‘City of the Sun’) was famous for its light rooms and healing temples where windows were covered with dyed clothes and different colors were believed to possess different healing properties.

Modern Color Light Therapy

led light therapy color benefits

Modern study of color and light is largely attributed to the contributions made by Isaac Newton. His experiments which were published in 1672 explained the concept of refraction which changed how we view the relationship between color and light.

Then in 1810, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe shared his discoveries on how light and color affects our physiological conditions and psychological perceptions. In the late 1800’s Dr. Edwin D. Babbitt and Seth Pancoast became interested in chromotherapy and eventually published findings from their studies. Although these studies may not have been entirely accurate, they paved the way to discovering how we can incorporate ancient color light therapy practices into modern lives.

  • 1870’s

Augustus Pleasanton discovered that blue light can be used to stimulate the nervous system and sensory glands. He used blue light to effectively treat various ailments that are commonly accompanied by pain.

  • 1890’s

Researchers discovered that ultra-violet light has a strong anti-bacterial action. During this period, Neils Ryberg Finsen used red-light therapy to help cure small pox. He was also recognized for his experiments where he used red-light therapy to help cure lupus. He was also awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering that ultra-violet light could be used to treat skin tuberculosis.

  • 1900’s

Researcher Dinshah Ghadiali creates the Spectro-Chrome system after 23 years of scientific evaluation. The system was based on the strong relationship between specific areas of the human body and different colors.

  • 1920’s

After using Dinshah’s methods for 37 years in medicine and surgery, Dr. Kate Baldwin affirmed that more accurate and quicker results could be achieved with colors that with other available methods combined.

Dr. Harry Riley Spitler, who is considered the father of color light therapy, developed the Syntonics Principles in which he used light to balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

  • 1930’s

London’s Charing Cross Hospital used sun-lamps to treat anaemia, heart disease, degenerative disorders, varicose veins and circulatory diseases.

  • 1940’s

Emmitt Knott created a haemoirradiation machine which irradiated blood with ultraviolet light to help treat encephalitis, herpes simplex, polio, puerperal sepsis and peritonitis with success rates of 50 to 80 percent.

Post World War II

With the arrival of the pharmaceutical industry, antibiotics and ‘clinical trials’, treatment methods such as naturopathy, light therapy and homeopathy became suspect because they couldn’t be supported by ‘scientific facts’. However, the medical field started changing in the 1970’s largely due to some revolutionary work by scientists such as Alfred Popp and John Ott, and others.

  • 1970’s and 80’s

John Ott proved that different light wavelengths have specific effects on cellular function in animals and plants. In the early 1970’s he was involved in developing the first ‘full spectrum’ fluorescent tube which significantly improved academic performance and behavior in children. German biophysicists demonstrated that cells emit light impulses and that light in the human body may determine illness and health. 

  • 1990’s

NASA applied the use of LED-based light therapy for healing injuries in astronauts. Prof. Kira Samoilova developed the idea of haemo-irradiation which was found to be effective for various ailments such as oncologic diseases, infections, inflammatory conditions, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and dermatologic diseases, as well as intoxications, traumas, burns, and ulcers. They also developed other treatment methods that are now commonly used for treating ulcers, viral pneumonia, as well as detoxification of substance addicts.

  • 2000’s

In 2002, the US FDA approved blue light therapy for treating acne.

The bottom-line

Today, you can find various services and products boasting the numerous healing benefits of color light therapy. As we gradually take control of our wellness, we are becoming more in tune with ancient practices that were successful for our predecessors.

Whether it is simple treatment with LED lights or saunas with chromotherapy lighting, there are numerous benefits we can reap from simply incorporating color light therapy into our everyday lives.

benefits of color light therapy

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