Volume Fourteen


JULY 2006


Light as a theraputic modality is a very broad topic to characterize. Light is a component of our environment, both natural and manmade. The basics of the electromagnetic interactions of matter as relates to living systems is a part of the scientific field of Biophysics. Thus, the first concepts to be discussed will deal with the known interactions of light with biological molecules and molecular complexes. Then the discussion will move to the different approaches of the various cultural expressions of healing to the use of the modality of light as therapy. Lastly, modern concepts as to the use of light as therapy will be detailed: laser therapy, color therapy.


Background Information

The force that the electromagnetic field exerts on electrically charged particles, called the electromagnetic force, is one of the four fundamental forces of nature. The other fundamental forces are the strong nuclear force (which holds atomic nuclei together), the weak nuclear force (which causes certain forms of radioactive decay), and the gravitational force. All other forces are ultimately derived from these four fundamental forces.

The carrier particle of the electromagnetic force is the photon. An electromagnetic interaction is an exchange between charged elementary particles that is intermediate in strength between the strong and weak interactions and is mediated by photons.

The behavior of the interaction between charged elementary particles is characteized by the photon and particles emitted from the interaction. The wavelength of the emitted photon is always greater than that of the incident photon and the energy is also always less.

Photons of different energies span the entire electromagnetic spectrum of cosmic rays, x-rays, ultra-violet light, infra-red light, visible light and radio waves. Cosmic rays have the shortest wavelength and the most energy while radio waves have the longest wavelengths and the least amount of energy. See the Figure above. Photons have zero mass, as far as we know, and always travel at the "speed of light" which is about 300,000,000 meters per second, or 186,000 miles per second, in a vacuum. Photons propagate linearly from the point of origin yet in a columnar manner that may best be described as in a pattern like an expanded toy known as a slinky. Thus, the propagating wave looks like a circle viewed head on and a sine wave viewed perpendicularly from the side.

What the human primate organism is able to "see" as visible light is only a very small part of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Light may be radiated, transmitted, reflected, absorbed and re-radiated at a longer wavelength. Similar processes occur throughout the entire electromagnetic spectrum but the events happening vary with the nature of the elements, molecules and complexes of molecules that are involved in the interactions.

The collective body of research in biophysics that deals with the radiated, absorbed and re-radiated light energies of biological systems is highly significant to the understanding of the basis of what comprises a healthy organism. To put it simply, we are in resonance with the electromagnetic components of our environment or we become ill and eventually die. The work of Fritz-Albert Popp concerning biophotons is a major contribution toward the understanding of the nature of the interaction of the electromagnetic components of the environment with living organisms.

  1. biophotons is the word chosen to name the natural, spontaneous emission of photons from all living systems
  2. a few to seveal hundred photons are emitted in the range of at least 260 nm to 800 nm
  3. after exposure to light illumination, biological tissues reemit ultra weak photons for an extended time period termed "delayed luminescence"
  4. there exists a high degree coherence of biophotons within living matter.

In relation to the concepts of healing, biophoton emission has been shown to reflect:

  1. the left-right symmetry of the human body
  2. biological rhythms such as 14 days, 1 month, 3 months and 9 months
  3. disease as a reflection of altered symmetry between the left and right side
  4. light channels within the body that regulate energy and information transfer between the different parts
  5. acupuncture treatment dramatically reduces the left-right asymmetry of biophoton emission rates
  6. blood is a continuous source of biophotons and has the ability to store the energy of electron excitation.

The importance of the above information to healing is of huge significance, and will be subsequently described.

Those events that remove the healthy organism from resonance with the components of the environment impinging upon it is the direct cause of illness and dis-ease. Energy disruption always proceeds behavioral and physiological disruption as the processes responsible for rheostasis (more scientifically correct than homeostasis) in the body are impaired. Homeostasis means that the values do not change. The values for the set-points of metabolism in the human body actually oscillate around a mean value as the set-point. Thus, the more correct term is rheostasis. If the disruption continues for an extended period of time, tissue and organ disruption occurs with the production of pathological products and eventual formation of lesion.

Thus, the use of light for therapy is to directly influence the control processes of biological organisms as relates to the electromagnetic spectrum in order to restore harmony and resonance. What then are the events through time that relate to the dis-ease process? What therapies have been utilized by man for this purpose and how does the use of "light" assist the body in regaining rheostasis?

The Disease Process

The body of information gleaned from research in modern biophysics has given us a peek into the interactions of biological molecules, specifically nucleic acid complexes, with the various wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum as the origin of the control processes in living systems. The DNA-chromosomal complex of gene allels expressed in any living organism is directly responsible for the growth, development, maintenance and behavioral expression through the time-line of that individual organism. Any event that disrupts the harmonious interaction of the DNA-chromosomal complex with the environment will initiate what are know as healing protocols within the body. These protocols deal with the disrupting influence, return rheostasis and rid the body of pathological products of disrupted metabolism in a relatively short period of time noted as an acute disease. An acute disease may turn chronic, lasting for greater time periods, if the pathogen is not completely removed from the organism and the body accommodates the disruption. If the pathogen is completely removed by the healing protocols, optimum health is returned. If chronic accommodation ensues, the body will function at a less than optimum health with symptoms manifesting dependent upon the genetic constitution of the individual and the nature of the retained pathogen.

Cultural Theraputic Expressions

  1. Ayurvedic Medicine

    1. Basic Principles Of Ayurveda
    2. An Introduction to Ayurveda
    3. Ayurveda

    Aryuvedic Medicine originated in ancient India and has been practiced for more than 8000 years. Much emphasis is placed upon digestion and specific references to color are in relation to foods. Go to the links above for background information.

  2. Traditional Chinese Medicine

    1. Traditional Chinese Medicine

    In Traditional Chinese Medicine, color is more associated with diagnosis and the application of the 5-Element theory for a treatment strategy. The use of color as therapy is tied to the five colors of the 5 elements in relation to the meridian systems. The use of color light for therapy is not discussed. Go to the links above for background information.

  3. Western Medicine

    The history of color theapy has its roots in ancient Egypt and India. Rooms were painted with certain colors in order to set a particulr mood. The use of light for a therapeutic modality seems to be exclusively a Western concept. Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, is often facilitated in the healing rooms of alternative health practitioners. A therapist trained in color therapy uses color to balance energy wherever our bodies are lacking, be it physical, emotional , spiritual, or mental. Colors are projected onto areas of the body that correspond to the chakras. Each chakra has a specific color associated with it. See the figure below for details.

    Some of the tools used in color therapy are gemstones, candles, wands, prisms, colored fabrics, bath treatments and colored eye wear.

    Applying the famous Luscher's Color Test can be quite revealing. Scientists, who have studied color and light extensively, recognize that colors bring about emotional reactions to individuals. The reactions and attitudes to colors differ from person to person. The attraction to certain colors seems to be a signal to the areas of our beingness where we are imbalanced. Understanding why certain colors affect us favorably while others bring about negative feelings helps us along our path to healing.

Laser Therapy

  1. Background

    The term LASER is an acronym for Light Amplitude Stimulation of Emitted Light. Laser light is coherent (organized in phase and direction) and monochromatic (having a single wavelength). The wavelength of the emitted light is dependent upon the type and characteristics of the lasing medium: gas, liquid or solid.

    Electrons of atoms absorb energy from the environment and become "excited". When an excited electron looses its excitation energy and settles back into its normal state, a single photon is emitted. In contrast, during stimulated emission, 2 electrons are emitted when a photon collides with an excited atom. A laser is an amplifier of light. The medium provides a reservoir of highly charged atoms and photons to sustain laser emission.

    The range of wavelengths of therapeutic lasers is from approximately 630 nano-meters (nm) to 1100 nm. Nano is the prefix for 10 to the minus 9. The wavelengths of the lasers available for use are:

    1. Helium-Neon, 632.8 nm
    2. Indium-Gallium-Aluminum-Phosphorus, 633-635 nm
    3. Ruby, 694 nm
    4. Alexandrite, 755 nm
    5. Gallium-Aluminum-Arsenide, 780-890 nm
    6. Galium- Arsenide, 904 nm
    7. Neodynium-Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet, 1064 nm
    8. Defocussed Carbon Dioxide, 10,600 nm, a special case

    For laser eye safety, go to this link: Eye Safety.

    1. Laser light in the visible to near infrared spectrum (400 nm - 1400 nm) can cause damage to the retina resulting in scotoma (blind spot in the fovea). This wave band is also known as the "retinal hazard region"
    2. Laser light in the ultraviolet (290 nm - 400 nm) or far infrared (1400 nm - 10,600 nm) spectrum can cause damage to the cornea and/or to the lens. Exposure to the invisible carbon dioxide laser beam (10,600 nm) can be detected by a burning pain at the site of exposure on the cornea or sclera
    3. Exposure to a visible laser beam is detected by a bright color flash of the emitted wavelength and an after-image of its complementary color (a green 532 nm laser light would produce a green flash followed by a red after-image).
    4. When the retina is affected, there may be difficulty in detecting blue or green colors secondary to cone damage, and subsequent pigmentation of the retina may be detected.
    5. Exposure to the Q-switched Nd:YAG laser beam (1064 nm) is especially hazardous and may initially go undetected because the beam is invisible and the retina lacks pain sensory nerves. Photoacoustic retinal damage may be associated with an audible "pop" at the time of the exposure. Visual disorientation due to retinal damage may not be apparent to the injured party until considerable thermal damage has occurred.

    Skin is permeable to light between approximately 600 nm and 1100 nm. This is referred to as the "optical window" for tissue. The depth of penetration of the incident light into tissue is directly proportional to the wavelength. The longer wavelengths penetrate more deeply and the higher the percentage of light that will be transmitted.

    Now to discuss pulsed vs. non-pulsed lasers. In general, pulsed lasers have very short pulse times with higher power output. The reason for this is to achieve local heating effects in target chromophores. A chromophore is a molecule that will absorb light in a relatively narrow bandwidth, such as melanin and hemoglobin. This heating usually vaporizes the chromophore and is used with ablative laser therapy. Non-pulsed lasers have continuous output that is of less power. The same total tissue absorption may be achieved by altering the length of time in order to absorb the same power density.

  2. Ablative Laser Therapy

    This artcle does not address lasers used in surgery and opthalmology. Ablative laser therapy is reserved for certified physicians for the removal of hair, facial and leg veins, pigmented lesions, wrinkle reduction and vascular lesions. The most common laser frequencies utilized are 755 nm and 1064 nm. The 755 nm laser removes pigmented lesions. The 1064 nm laser is used for the removal of facial and leg veins. Both lasers are used for treatment of sun-damaged and aging skin. Some form of surface cooling is usually required during treatment due to the high power densities achieved.

  3. Non-Ablative Laser Therapy

    For a description of low level laser acupuncture, go to this link:
    Low Level Laser Acupuncture.

    The lasers that are most popular with practitioners is the infra-red Gallium-Aluminum-Arsenide (GaAlAs) laser as they are well tolerated and have good depth of penetration. These lasers have a wide range of therapeutic applications. The visible, red laser light in the range of 630 nm to 670 nm is better tolerated at higher doses although the depth of penetration is less that with the infra-red laser. These lasers are ideal for skin treatments and relatively superficial applications.

    The CO2 laser is outside the optimal window for tissue. The wavelength of these lasers is extremely long, 10,600 nm, compared to normally thought of therapeutic lasers. It is thought that most of the incident energy is absorbed by water just beneath the surface of the skin beneath the keratinized outer layers, about 20 microns. CO2 lasers are known to have profound beneficial systemic effects, possibly by exciting the blood and interstitial fluid near the surface of the skin. Remember that blood is a continuous source of biophotons and has the ability to store the energy of electron excitation.

    The optimum absorbed power density for laser acupuncture is from 4 Joules/cm x cm to 20 Joules/cm x cm. The recommended pulse rates for therapeutic treatment are as follows:

    1. Pain - 3 Hz to 20 Hz
    2. Stimulation - 700 Hz to 2500 Hz
    3. Inflammation, Edema - >2500 Hz
    4. Antimicrobial - >5000 Hz
    The sensitivity to any steady stimulus is known to diminish over time and is known as the principle of accommodation. Thus, varying the pulse rate during a treatment helps to ensure a more favorable response. An example for a simple pain protocol:
    1. start with a low frequency, less than 20 Hz, to reduce the pain
    2. adjust the frequency to greater than 2500 Hz to reduce inflammation
    3. end the treatment with a medium frequency between 700 Hz and 2500 Hz

Color Therapy

Red signifies the choleric temperament. Red is generally taken to be the color of life, of the glowing sun and of fire. Love and joy, rage and anger are the polar values of the color red. Red is said to make the blood boil, to increase the pulse rate, to raise the blood pressure and the rate of breathing. Red is also the color of desire. The sexual urge, the impulses and general vigor of individuals are attributed to the color red. Red generally supports the circulatory functions and is applied with success to combat anaemia, asthma, diseases of the larynx, certain skin diseases and chronic coughs.

Orange is the color of cheerfulness and gaiety. Being a color mixed from red and yellow, it stands for kind-heartedness and warm-heartedness of an individual. Orange symbolises the rising sun, it makes us alert and cheerful. It causes stimulation, warmth and happiness. Orange fills us with joy and cheerfulness. It affects both our bodies and our minds. Astonishing results may be obtained in using the color orange to treat mental illness, depressions, discontent and pessimism. Naturopaths apply orange for the treatment of arteriosclerosis, sclerenecephaly, cardiosclerosis, loss of appetite, anaemia, and anorexia.

The color yellow represents the sanguine temperament. Yellow is the symbol of the sun at the zenith. Yellow is the brightest of all colors. In the psychology of colors, yellow stands for detached serenity. Yellow reflects light in all directions,thereby creating an impression of detachment and liberation; it cancels out any feeling of heaviness or oppression. Professor Luscher writes that the color yellow drives us forward towards new, modern frontiers, and that it is therefore future oriented. In naturopathy yellow is applied to combat glandular diseases and diseases of the lymphatic system, and to strengthen the nervous system. Yellow greatly assists metabolism, glandular activity and improves secretion of the stomach.

The color green represents the phlegmatic temperament. It has a harmonizing effect. Green does not make us quiet, but calms us in a neutral, positive sense. Green is the color of possession and of the will to possess. Luscher says: "Green is the color of possession and should increase the feelings of security and in particular of self-confidence." Green is also considered to be the color of concentration. It stands for exact examination, precise analysis, systematic logic and for recording and remembering. Among other things, the color green is applied for the naturopathic treatment of bronchitis, whooping cough, inflammations of the joints, and swellings. In addition, green has a positive influence on the treatments of cysts, eye diseases and diabetes, generally promoting the secretion processes. Green promotes relaxation of the organs and stimulates general detoxification of the body.

Blue is the color of peace and infinity. It represents the melancholic temperament. Blue profoundly calms and relaxes us. Our bodies and minds are conveyed to a state of peace, repose and softness. The relaxing and tranquilizing property of blue is applied for relieving headaches and migraines, the pains of stomach and muscle cramps. As a general rule, the color blue can be said to have a very positive effect on all kinds of pain conditions.

Violet is the combination of the choleric-impulsive and the melancholic-tender nature. Violet is the color of the emotions and is considered to be a meditative color. Violet can lead to profound liberation of the mind. Intuition and imagination are enhanced. Violet is the color regulator at the interface between the mind and the body. In color therapy in particular in color acupuncture, violet is applied for treating the lymphatic system and the spleen.

The six basic colors are divided into three hot and three cool, hot being the colors which arouse and give stimulation and cool being the colors which cool down and sedate. The colors Red, Orange & Yellow are warming. The colors Green, Blue & Violet are cooling. Color Therapy uses these complimentary properties of the colors to balance the body and help it to heal. By testing complimentary pairs in your body system, the more sensitive area is found and then given the cool color to sedate, the others are given the warm color to tonify.


The use of whole sunlight for therapy is very old indeed. Whole sunlight is necessary for the growth and development of the body and in the maintenance of health. Sunlight is also the source of aging for the skin, due to the U.V. component. Color therapy seems to be ideal for emotional and psychological healing. Laser therapy seems to be a more vigorous approach to assisting the body in re-establishing rheostasis. Both modes have clear and substantive support from the scientific community. As with all of the healing arts, the skill, confidence and experience of the therapist is paramount in achieving efficacy of treatment.




  1. J. A. Blahnik and D. W. Rindge, Laser Therapy, A Clinical Manual, 2003, Healing Light Seminars, Melbourne, FL
  2. R. Gerber, Vibrational Medicine, 3rd Edition, 2001, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont

The Journal of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine