Image by Kanenori from Pixabay

Chromotherapy, the scientific name for color therapy, involves the use of wavelengths of visible light as a healing modality. It’s similar to red light therapy, differing primarily in the sense that chromotherapy doesn’t necessarily involve its own light source, and simply involves reflecting or polarizing visible light to a particular wavelength, corresponding to a particular color.

Can Simple Color Truly Heal?

One might not think that specific wavelengths of visible light would be particularly therapeutic, simply due to their ubiquity—”familiarity breeds contempt,” as they say. And yet, we do recognize and accept now that sunlight (including the full visible spectrum, plus ultraviolet and infrared) has many health benefits.

Also, if you consider the full electromagnetic spectrum, of which visible light is only a small slice, we do know that many of the other frequencies (inversely related to the wavelength) have potentially profound physiologic effects, for good or for ill.

Infrared is just below the visible spectrum, and there’s been a great deal of research about its health benefits.

Most of the EMF we’re concerned about lives in the extremely low frequency range—but then, those are also the ranges of the Schumann resonance of the earth, and our brainwaves, too, for example.

Then at the opposite extreme, ionizing radiation is known to be potentially DNA damaging and carcinogenic—yet it’s also quite useful for imaging technologies, such as x-rays.

Given all of that, wouldn’t it make sense that there would be therapeutic benefits to concentrated or polarized wavelengths in the visible spectrum, too?

The History of Chromotherapy

The idea of using colors as a therapy is definitely not new; it’s been around since the time of ancient Greece, China, and Egypt.

It wasn’t until 1666 that Sir Isaac Newton discovered the visible electromagnetic spectrum, though, and thus, the color wheel. (We now know that the color wheel has some very interesting properties too—corresponding to both the musical scales, and the Fibonacci sequence, in its wavelength progression!)

Even back in the 1870s, effects of colors on living organisms was being studied in a systematic fashion.

In the mid-twentieth century, effects of colors on the nervous system specifically were being investigated.

How Chromotherapy Works (Maybe)

To my knowledge, it’s really been mostly Dr Gerald Pollack that has brought the study of the gelatinous phase “exclusion zone” water to the forefront. This structured form of water contains order, which can therefore carry information—and it is this form of water that resides inside our bodies.

One possibility for how chromotherapy works is by imparting information upon the structure of cellular water, via the frequencies of colored light themselves.

In fact, there is a practice called hydrochromotherapy that makes this explicit: exposing samples of water to monochromatic light, in an effort to use the water as a conduit for the frequency of the color.

Once inside the body (directly or via the conduit of water), the colored light stimulates the cell in a process called photobiomodulation. Certain molecules in the body, called chromophores, specifically absorb light at a particular wavelength. The energy from those photons of light trigger the electrons in the chromophore to jump, emitting a corresponding color in the process. Chromophores are especially found in the mitochondria, so it may be that chromotherapy specifically acts as a non-invasive way to stimulate mitochondrial function. This is certainly true of red light therapy.

But, there are mitochondria in every cell of the body, except red blood cells. Is it possible that certain tissues respond more to certain color wavelengths than to others?

Evidence that Chromotherapy Has Health Effects

Despite how long it’s been around, there are more studies than I expected to corroborate efficacy of chromotherapy.

This study shows that monochromatic light of various wavelengths can have bacteriostatic, bactericidal, or even stimulating effects upon certain bacteria.

Light spanning the nearly entire visible spectrum, on into the infrared spectrum, were studied in this review paper, demonstrating that all wavelengths reduced inflammation, increased collagen synthesis and new blood vessel formation.

This study also states that chromotherapy in general, of differing wavelengths, has been shown to affect serotonin and melatonin pathways. The light does this by stimulating the hypothalamus via the retina—effectively triggering the hypothalamic-pituitary axis.

Effects of Specific Wavelengths of Visible Light

Red light therapy is certainly the best known source of photobiomodulation. This study shows that the wavelength of 644 nm (the color red) is beneficial for thrombocytopenia (low platelets).

This study likewise suggests that the same wavelength, 644 nm (red), appears to ‘charge’ the superoxide dismutase enzyme, one of the body’s primary antioxidant enzymes. (Incidentally, yellow was the least effective color for this purpose.)

Another strike against yellow: this study of the behavior of American prisoners found that in contrast to soothing pink light, yellow seemed to evoke more violence and criminal behavior.

Yellow has its place, however; in this study, yellow (590 nm) and green (538 nm) were specifically shown to have antibacterial efficacy against E. coli.

Green light also seems to be more beneficial for those who suffer from migraines than is white, blue, amber, or red, according to this study. The rat study suggests that this is because the green light stimulates the retinal cones less than other colors, which means in turn, the brain’s cortex lights up less in response. Since migraines typically present with light sensitivity, this is presumably the reason for the benefit. (If sitting in a dark room isn’t an option, then, perhaps green lenses might be beneficial to those in the throes of a migraine.) The same study speculates that the lesser stimulation of retinal cones and thus, the cortex, may be the reason why green is considered to be a ‘soothing’ color.

Looking at screens at night is problematic largely because the blue light tends to trigger cortisol release while suppressing melatonin release. But for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder, melatonin suppression during the daytime may be the reason for blue light’s beneficial effects.

Purple light (464 nm) meanwhile seems to be most beneficial for breaking down glucose, while dark violet (400 nm) helps to break down cholesterol.

The Upshot

Electromagnetic energy has always been all around, as well as within us—after all, our brains, hearts, nerves, muscles, and bodies in their entirety run on electricity. All of the energy found on earth ultimately derives its source from the sun’s light (made usable via photosynthesis in plants, and via mitochondria in animals). While there’s certainly still a vast amount of research still to be done, why should we be surprised that certain slices of that visible spectrum of light turn out to have specific healing properties? After all, there are an almost infinite number of medicinal compounds in plants with specific healing properties.

To me, this is just more evidence that God wants us to be well. There are just so many different ways to get there.