By Tess Harris, B.S.

What is Chromotherapy?

Chromotherapy, also known as color therapy, refers to the use of color, and colored light for therapeutic effects. Chromotherapy is not a novel concept; the practice of using sunlight, or particular colors for healing can be traced to ancient Greece, China, Egypt, and India. Applications of ancient color medicine included sunlight exposure, colored stones, paints, salves, and garments. (1) Visible light is a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can detect with our eyes. The visible spectrum ranges in wavelength from approximately 380 nanometers (nm) for violet at the shortest end, to red with the longest detectable wavelength at around 700 nm.” (2)

Chromotherapy in Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medicine makes the connection between colors and wellness. Ayurveda is based on the idea that the body, mind, and environment are interconnected, it can be traced to approximately 6,000BCE and is still in practice today. (3,4,5)

Chakras (meaning wheels or vortexes) refer to energetic centers that are defined in yogic traditions that are frequently associated with colors today. Reference to chakras can be traced to 200 BCE, but surprisingly, the color symbolism of chakras is a modern, widely Western concept introduced by Christopher Hills in his book Nuclear Evolution published in 1970. Yoga is now commonly practiced as an exercise system for physical and mental health, although historically, and still for some, the scope of yogic practice is much more than that. (6) The color therapy concept of balancing chakras, similar to balancing doshas, is intended to restore harmony through balance to the body.

Chromotherapy in History

References to color therapy are found throughout history. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Augustus James Pleasonton’s writings documented the enhanced growth effects of blue light on plants, animals, and humans. (1,7) His findings prompted others, including Edwin Babbitt to investigate color treatments for maladies ranging from headaches to paralysis. Babbitt prescribed treatments including directing light through colored glass to parts of the body and consuming elixirs treated with colored light. (1,8)

Dinshah Ghadiali’s writings in his book Spectro-Chrome Encyclopaedia (1927) postulated that different body parts are affected by different colors. A specific disease can be linked to a specific color imbalance, and a cure is to rebalance those colors. Different systems of the body are governed by different colors. (1,9)

Dr. John Ott ‘s hobby as a horticulturist led his way into photobiology through studying the effects of artificial lighting on plants and developing time-lapse photography to observe these effects. This led to Dr. Ott’s investigation of the effects of full-spectrum lighting on human physiological conditions including mental health. His findings include that balancing the color temperature of light can reduce hyperactivity and negative behavior in classrooms, prisons, and mental health facilities. (1,10)

Chromotherapy in Psychology

Color psychology is the study and application of colors to influence human perception and behavior. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) who is known as one of the pioneers of color psychology, is quoted saying “Colors are the mother tongue of the subconscious.” Jung’s ideas have paved the way for the modern field of color psychology.”(11,12) 

Color can influence perceptions such as the taste of food, the value and quality of a product, the image of a company, and our assessment of others. A cross-cultural study of word associations found that there are many differences based on culture, with some similarities such as red and black for anger, black for fear, and red for jealousy. (13)

Color psychology plays a significant role in the development of marketing strategies ranging from logo and website design, advertisements, retail environment, product color, and even the perceived effectiveness of pharmaceuticals. Consumers make associations of value, brand identity, and quality based on color. Color is a major consideration when designing a logo, packaging for a product, or lighting for retail space. (14,15,16) An important factor for marketing is that emotional responses to color and their implications for marketing do vary from culture to culture. (17,18)

Clinical Findings for Color

Examples of clinical findings on color perceptions in Western culture include red clothing increasing selective attraction, increasing perceived athletic performance, and perceived dominance. This makes red a popular choice for team uniforms. Blue logos have been found to increase consumer appraisals of quality and trustworthiness. (19)

Office worker performance has been tested in red versus blue monochromatic lighting with subjects experiencing more anxiety in the red lighting, while the blue lighting had a depressing effect. (20-21) Red light has also been found to increase heart rate, while blue light has been shown to decrease it. (22)

Light therapy has been implemented as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, since the 1980s. (23) This same bright light therapy has also been effective in the treatment of non-seasonal depression and chronic non-specific back pain. (24)  

Blue colored LED lighting has been installed on train platforms in Japan as an effective suicide deterrent. However, the blue lights have not been as effective a deterrent in other places, which further emphasizes the cultural variances that are present. (23,25-26) 

Blue light is currently used as an effective treatment for neonatal jaundice, as well as treatment of bacterial and fungal infections, and inflammatory skin conditions. (27-32)  

Exposure to blue light affects circadian rhythm. The non-image forming photoreceptors in our eyes are specifically sensitive to blue wavelengths. This exposure to artificial lighting in the evening is linked to changes in sleep, and the suppression of melatonin. This is of significant importance now, due to the increased use of emissive displays from cell phones and tablets which are particularly high in short-wavelength light emissions. (23,33-35) Use of self-luminous devices for 1 or 2 hours before natural bedtime reduced melatonin levels in adolescents by 23% and 38% respectively. (36) 

The connection between blue lighting and the hypothalamus is currently being explored to aid in the treatment of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). (37) Blue-enriched lights can improve mood, energy, and even promote sleep when exposure is at the right time of day. (22)

A green light at a low intensity has been shown to decrease the intensity of migraine symptoms by approximately 15%. For migraine sufferers, light often exacerbates the symptoms of discomfort. Green lighting has been shown to exacerbate migraine headache symptoms significantly less than exposure to white, blue, amber or red lights in patients with normal eyesight. (38) There is now emerging evidence that green light may also be effective for chronic pain management. (39) 

Green lighting, walls, and clothing are often used in hospitals and surgery. This is both tied to the calming and soothing effect of the green environment, and the enhanced ability to see contrast during surgery. ( 40, 41)

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red Light Therapy refers to light therapy in the visible (400-700nm) and near-infrared range (700-1100nm) of the electromagnetic spectrum. This refers to a type of Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT). PBMT can be applied using light-emitting diodes (LEDs), lasers, and broadband light. PBMT applications currently include many dermatological treatments ranging from acne, psoriasis, discoloration, skin rejuvenation, wound healing, and pain and inflammation. This is utilizing the light to excite chromophores (molecules in our cells that can absorb light) to induce biochemical responses. (42) 

Why is photobiomodulation different from a sauna producing red light chromotherapy?  Applications of Red Light Therapy including NIR are very specifically controlled and targeted. Near-infrared lamps in a sauna without controlled exposure and proper eye protection can be very risky. Read more about the dangers of near infrared saunas. As far as other colors are concerned, no known risks of exposure to visible spectrum lights have been shown. (43) The benefits seen with visible spectrum color light PBMT have not been evaluated for ambient lighting such as sauna, and their applications will not be discussed here.   

Conclusion

The effects of color and color light on humans can be viewed through many lenses. Colors can affect mood and performance, and physiological functioning. These findings suggest that further investigation of the physiological effects of light is warranted, particularly now that we spend so much time in artificial lighting. There are some shortfalls in the current body of research. Often one or two colors will be investigated at one time, rather than a multitude. In particular, red and blue are often compared when investigating physiological and psychological effects. Additionally, parameters such as exposure, irradiance, and duration of exposure can vary, as can the hue, value, intensity of a color display. These factors make it difficult to normalize findings from one report to the next. The breadth of knowledge of the effects of colors and colored light is continuously expanding, we can expect many more therapeutic applications with time.  

What do colors mean?

Red

  • Can increase heart rate (22)
  • Chakra: Muladhara- bottom of spine- influences calmness, security (6, 44,45)
  • Ayurveda: Can boost circulation, boost confidence, and increase energy. (3,4,5)
  • Can increase feelings of calm and empowerment

Orange

  • Can be stimulating and elevate mood (46)
  • Chakra: Svadhisthana- Middle of the abdomen (sacrum)- influences creativity and sexuality (6, 44,45)
  • Ayurveda: Can increase energy, boost creativity, promote mastery of emotions. (3,4,5)

Yellow

  • Can promote happiness, clarity, and optimism
  • Chakra: Manipura- Top of the abdomen (solar plexus)- influences self-esteem and autonomy
  • Ayurveda: Improves communication, promotes clarity, boosts energy(3,4,5)

Green

  • Physiological: May reduce migraine and chronic pain symptoms
  • Chakra: Anahata- Heart- influences love and empathy(6, 44,45)
  • Ayurveda: Calms nerves, increases patience, soothing(3,4,5)
  • Psychological: Often associated with a calming, soothing effect, improves concentration (46)

Blue

  • Can improve mood, energy, and promote and regulate sleep patterns (20-23, 35-36)
  • Chakra: Vishuddha- Throat- influences self-expression(6, 44,45)
  • Ayurveda: Promotes tranquility, calms emotions(3,4,5)
  • Psychological: Improve comprehension and focus (48)

Indigo

  • Chakra: Ajna- Center of brow- influences intuition(6, 44,45)
  • Ayurveda: Promotes confidence(3,4,5)
  • Can be motivating and uplifting (47)

Violet

  • Physiological: Used as antibacterial in hospitals (48)
  • Chakra: Sahasrara- Crown of head- influences feeling at peace(6, 44,45)
  • Ayurveda: Increases Spirituality(3,4,5)

Pink

  • It can be calming and comforting. It can increase nostalgia. (44)

White

  • Can alleviate chronic pain (24)
  • Ayurveda: Calming to body and mind (3,4,5)
  • Treatment of SADs, nonseasonal depression (23)

High Tech Health Far Infrared Sauna Chromotherapy

Our High Tech Health far infrared saunas have a 96 LED panel with all the primary and secondary colors, the color and intensity of the light can be adjusted by remote to your mood!

https://www.hightechhealth.com/far-infrared-sauna/

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