Light Therapy

Light therapy uses the energy of light in a variety of forms to heal. It was used in the temples of ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and India. In ayurvedic medicine, each of the seven chakras, or points of physical and spiritual energy in the body, is associated with a specific color in the spectrum of visible light. The color of the chakra refers to the light’s frequency as defined by the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation emitted at that location, as perceived by those who have second sight, or the ability to see auras, the luminous radiation that emanates from all living matter.

Light therapy is based on the understanding that matter consists of energy on a continuum from the ultra high electromagnetic frequencies of gamma rays (pure white light) down to the relatively slow electromagnetic frequencies of apparently solid matter. The lower the frequency, the slower the electron movement in the atoms and the denser the matter. Increasing or decreasing the intensity of the light changes the number of rebounding electrons; changing the color (frequency) of the light changes the velocity of the electrons. As the frequencies (or vibrations) of white light (containing all colors) drop, the colors become visible to the cones in the human eye in the very narrow range of violet to red.

On the theory that disease is the result of imbalance and alteration of the body’s energy field, light therapy seeks to restore balance and harmony by administering light in a specific energy frequency or vibration to the whole person or to the specific body part where balance is deemed lacking.

Reported uses

Ultraviolet (UV) light absorbed through the eyes and skin has long been recognized as critical in the production of vitamin D, which the body needs for calcium absorption. Light therapy consists of a broad range of treatment modalities and indications. For example, full-spectrum light is used in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and color is used to enhance mood and health. Light-triggered photo currents stimulate the visual cortex and the associative centers of the brain. From the visual cortex, light travels to the limbic system, which controls emotion, learning, memory, sexual behaviors, aggression, and smell perception. Light also stimulates the hypothalamus, which is linked to the pituitary gland, which regulates endocrine glands, such as the thyroid, adrenals, and gonads.

Specific bands of the visible light spectrum have been used to treat certain illnesses. Photobiology researchers in Russia and the United States have used red light to stimulate local regeneration of skin and blood cells, noting an increase in tissue oxygen levels, improved local blood flow, enhanced wound healing, increased nerve stimulation, improved muscle relaxation, and decreased pain, theoretically because of enhanced mitochondrial metabolism.

Red light has been used in photodynamic therapy (PDT) to selectively kill bronchopulmonary tumors through use of light-activated porphyrin dyes that bind to the cancer cells. In China, PDT is administered to basal-cell and squamouscell skin carcinomas through endoscopes. Blue light has been used to treat precancerous skin lesions.

Psoralens with ultraviolet A (PUVA) light have been used to treat psoriasis and vitiligo, with reports of inhibited cell division and 90% to 95% improvement following 30 treatments over 10 weeks. UV light has also been used to treat simple infections, to increase cardiac output and cerebral circulation, and to combat black lung disease by helping the body
eliminate inhaled dust particles. In the United States, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for some forms of PDT is pending.

In the I870s, Edwin Babbit used natural and artificallight, colored filters, and solarized water (water exposed to sunlight through colored filters and given to the patient to drink) to treat sprains, bruises, body trauma, sepsis, cardiac lesions, asthma, hay fever, corneal ulcers, eye inflammation, glaucoma, and cataracts, but his work was halted as quackery by the FDA.

In the early 1900s, physicist Dinshah Ghadial noted that every chemical element in an excited state emits a characteristic and distinctive set of colored bands, known as Fraunhofer lines. He devised a set of 12 colored filters to match those of the body and projected light through them onto a patient’s affected body area, using purple, scarlet, and magenta for the heart and reproductive systems and indigo for pain, injury, and bleeding. In 1927, Dr. Harry Spitler developed a light dispensing instrument that delivered colored light of designated frequencies ruby red and yellow-green to improve eyesight.

In 1988, California psychologist Helen Irlen used patient-specific tinted spectacles and a range of 140 tints to help non reading learning disabled children become fluent readers. In 1998, Dr. David Norton of London’s Hammersmith Hospital developed a mask containing flickerng red lights to treat migraine headache and premenstrual syndrome. Another device, the Photron, uses a gently flickering, colored strobe light focused into the patient’s eyes, with green or blue light used to treat posttraumatic stress disorder.

How the treatment is performed

Some methods of light therapy involve full-spectrum lights, colored lights, or, light-emitting apparatus. Some methods of color therapy merely ask the patient to visualize a color and mentally “send” it to the area designated to be healed. Healer Joseph Corvo and clairvoyant Lilian Ver,ner-Bonds developed a system, called Color Zone Therapy, based on 10 body-energy Zones of reflexology. It involves localized deep massage of reflexology points combined with visualization of color to an associated body part. The Physical manipulation directly stimulates the dysfunctional organ, and the psychically directed color is meant to complement the massage on an emotional and spiritual level. Some reflexologists have used light from a small hand held lightemitting diode to stimulate reflexology points.

Therapist Pauline Willis uses colored flowers, leaves, and other items to help a patient visualize the color saturating the body. For example, to improve sleep, she might have a patient wear blue pajamas, sleep on blue sheets, and use a blue
nightlight, eliminating stimulating colors like red, orange, and yellow. Her theory holds that the colors a person wears influence his mood and health. For example, people with cold hands and feet should wear red socks and underwear because red is a “warm” color.

Dr. Gabriel Cousens feels that the color of the food a person eats resonates with and feeds the subtle color energy of the chakras. He suggests starting the morning with the lower frequency red, orange, and yellow foods and moving up to higher frequency green, blue, and violet foods later in the day.


Therapies that use flashing lights may trigger seizures in patients with epilepsy.

Clinical considerations

Fifty years ago, the FDA banned the early forms of colored light therapy as quackery. However, some phototherapy devices, such as the Lumatron for therapeutic use of colors and frequencies of light, and the use of full-spectrum lights for the treatment of SAD have received FDA approval.

Research summary

The relationship between sunlight and mood has been known for longer than 2,000 years, but current study of the healing effects oflight began in the 19th century with Nobel Prize winner Niels Finsen, a Danish professor who noticed that tubercular skin lesions were rare in the summer. In the early 20th century, Swiss doctor Auguste Rollier discovered that the sun’s UV light lowered blood pressure for 5 to 6 days. Dr. John Ott’s discovery that fluorescent lights in schools increased hyperactivity led to the creation of the first full-spectrum lights. In 1981, Dr. Norman Rosenthal identified SAD and developed the requirements for treatment. Dr. Harry Wohlfarts found that full-spectrum lighting and warm wall colors in a school for handicapped children in Edmonton, Alberta, lowered blood pressure and improved behavior dramatically-in both sighted and blind students. Research into the efficacy of light color therapies continues.