Volume two : [ The specific colours and their beneficial uses || Red, Near infrared and Infrared light benefits || Orange and Yellow light benefits || Green light benefits || Blue light benefits || Is blue light bad || Violet light benefits || Ultra violet light benefits ]
Volume one: [ Light as a reflection of God, spirit and consciousness || We are deficient in light despite spending so much time in it || Starved of darkness || Colour light therapy ]
[Use of any of the idea’s in this article for medical purposes should always be done under the supervision of your doctor]
Please read volume one first as it will create the foundation for this second volume.
The specific colours and their beneficial uses
Lets now take a look at each common colour in terms of what evidence there is to support it’s use as a tool for therapy. We already know how it’s used for things like SAD (seasonal effected Disorder) lamps that work by stimulating serotonin production and release with just white light.
Before we look at each wavelength/colour of light.., let’s first take a look at this light penetration chart and notice that different colours and wavelengths of light have a different ability to penetrate body tissue.
This is both useful therapeutically and will make sense later when we see what each wavelength can do for us.
Red, Near infrared and Infrared light benefits
Infrared: 900 to 1,000,000nm approx
Near infrared (overlaps red): 650-980nm approx
Red: 635-700nm approx
Of all the wavelengths of light, the red end of the spectrum is potentially the most exciting as far as health benefits are concerned.
Most of us will be aware that infrared light can send and receive information invisibly like with TV remote controls but it’s use goes way beyond that.
As you can see from the graph above, red light has the greatest penetrating power with the ability to not just go through skin but much deeper. And blue light, which we will discuss later, has the least ability to penetrate.
This ability of red and even more so with near infrared (NIR) and infrared (IR) light to go deeper than skin level gives it a unique ability to create deeper than skin level effects to our body. And both thankfully and not surprisingly (because nature tends to not make mistakes) this red light can have some significant healing and health benefits.
Red light, the king of the light spectrum
Because of this unique penetration ability, there are typically more scientific studies being conducted on red NIR and IR light than any other wavelength of light.
It also makes red light useful in other ways.
For example red light is used in pulse oximeters to measure oxygen concentrations of blood. A small device is put on your finger that sends a small amount of red light into your finger and then what gets reflected back is measured to access blood oxygen levels. It is able to make this measurement because the oxygen concentration of blood effects how ‘red’ it is.
Research is even being conducted to develop the use of red and NIR light as a non invasive means to measure blood flow in the brain in a similar but actually more accurate way than that of an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging).
Red light and NIR goes through skin and bone.
Blood absorbs red light, flesh scatters it.
Using holographic tech red light can be made to scatter in predictable readable ways leading to non invasive exploration/stimulation of brain and body far easier than an fMRI.
Red light for pain and inflammation and healing
Infrared lamps of course are known to produce heat and as such make a good heat relief therapy device that can get into muscles deeper than just warming the skin.
In fact at the right wavelengths infrared lamps can heat you at a distance. Some outdoor IR lamps work this way. IE: The infrared light heats the object/person it hits rather than the air in between. The health benefits go way beyond that though.
Red , near infrared, and infrared light is surprisingly effective at treating a number of inflammatory conditions and skin diseases. This end of the light spectrum has the ability to act as a protector and even healer of cells on and under the skin.
This non invasive and safe therapeutic use of light is used as a stimulation of healing, relief of pain and inflammation, and restoration of function and is called in medical circles LLLT or Low Level Light/Laser Therapy. Due to the low power levels needed there are very few risks involved.
The photons of red or near infrared light are absorbed by mitochondrial chromophores (the names they come up with) in skin cells. As a result, electron transportation, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and nitric oxide release, blood flow, and reactive oxygen supply all increase. Even stem cells can be activated with this light allowing for the increased tissue repair and healing observed in clinical studies.
Red light benefits eyes
And this ability of the red end of the light spectrum to halt degeneration and even reverse it has made it’s way into optometry for help with macular degeneration (worsening eyesight) for people as they get older. In one study (linked below) only 3 minutes a day of 670nm NIR light was used for two weeks resulting in significant improvements in eyesight for those over 40 years old.
UPDATE: The latest study shows that the ideal time for red light therapy for the eyes is in the morning. See below for a summary of this latest finding. Just once a week for 3 minutes at a low intensity was enough to get lasting improvement.
Red light and head trauma
Near-infrared light is now widely used in veterinary medicine. It’s used to treat sprains, bone fractures, and to speed up the healing of wounds due to it’s effects as an anti-inflammatory, ATP booster, activator of DNA replication, and inducer of brain cell growth. Animal studies also show the successful use of transcranial near-infrared light to treat brain injury from stroke or trauma.
And of course animals aren’t subject to the placebo effect like humans making the results even more exciting. This research is now extending to humans.
These same animal studies of infrared light have shown demonstrable and replicable neuro-regeneration and repair also.
For example, in animal trials IR and NIR light used 24 hours after a stroke reduced neurological deficits by 32%.
Red light and Parkinson’s
There’s even an Australian man who read about the use of red light to relieve symptoms in mice with Parkinson’s disease and decided to make himself a photo-biomodulation helmet made out of a bucket with red LED’s in it. Now that’s DIY (Do it yourself) for you! The results were so dramatic that it has sparked more scientific studies and people now contact him to make them one.
Orange and Yellow light benefits
Orange: 590-635nm approx
Yellow: 560-590nm approx
The use of Orange and Yellow light for physical effect is less common and typically has the same effect as red light but with less strength. This can have it’s advantages though as sometimes slower longer sessions can be more comfortable and easier for people to use at home. However the use of Red light is far more widely accepted as getting consistent results.
Green light benefits
Green: 520-560nm approx
Green light is a bit of a surprise as it does not get talked of often but has some potentially powerful uses.
Green light and pain
This study below is interesting.
An hour a day exposure to green LED’s at 525nm resulted in a significant reduction in both frequency and intensity of migraine headache. Another study referenced in the full PDF shows a lesser but still significant effect of wearing blue and red blocking glasses during the day on migraine intensity. These glasses of course still let green light through.
Further study is needed but the results here are significant enough in my opinion to warrant being used by sufferers of chronic (ongoing over many months or years) headache and migraine.
Although exposure for this next study was for 8 hours a day which is potentially not useful, it also shows that green light has an advantage over other colours for pain reduction. The effect lasted for 4 days after the exposure was stopped.
Green light helps with comprehension
It seems in some cases that green light (or in this case a green filter) can help certain children with reading as well.
Coloured filters have been used by some countries like France for a while now to help children with Autism and ADHD but some studies have been a bit random and unscientific.
The study below showed that a green filter used while children with Dyslexia were reading allowed a faster comprehension of words and therefore a faster overall reading speed.
In fact the reading time (as tracked by eye movement measurement) increased by about 17% which over the course of a page or two in a book is a significant difference.
This is still not as fast as non Dyslexic children who had no improvement by use of the same green filter.., but it does halve the difference in speed that was there without the filter.
More testing is required to isolate the reason for this improvement. The hypothesis is that by using such filters that less stress is put on the visual system. This results in less over-excitability of the brain which normally occurs as an observed condition of Dyslexia.
Blue light benefits
Blue (containing Indigo and overlaps violet): 450-520nm approx
SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) lamps rely primarily on the blue light portion in the white light for it’s help with depression. Many people do not get enough light during the winter, and struggle to stop depressive feelings or to be productive.
Blue light is also the main wavelength of light responsible for our circadian rhythm (body clock) regulation and alteration and most useful for overcoming jet lag.
We need blue light for health just as we need every other part of the white light spectrum.
SAD lamps are well accepted and documented now, but studies do show that it is primarily the blue part of the light spectrum that is most beneficial as in this study.
Blue light and heart health
And it seems that blue light is not just useful for feeling more positive. The effects also extend into a relaxing of the arteries and blood vessels as well. The following study shows exposure to blue light had a significant effect on lowering blood pressure. 30 minutes at 450nm blue light had an effect similar to blood pressure medication without the side effects.
Blue light and cognitive performance
Blue light has even been shown in research studies to improve cognitive ability, memory, alertness and attention. It’s blue light and even aspects of UV light that tell our body and mind that it is time to wake up and be alert and aware. This is one reason why natural light will always be better than artificial light for helping you feel more ‘alive’ and awake especially in the morning.
On a day with a clear blue sky, the Kelvin (light colour temperature) values can reach 20,000k or more. Two hours of exposure to 6,500k white light resulted in faster reaction times and better alertness and attention when compared to the same exposure to 2,500k or 3,000k white light.
The difference of course being that 6,500k white light has more blue in it.
Blue light can help skin conditions
Our skin absorbs light from a wide range of frequencies and the peak of this absorption seems to be 415nm which is blue light. In self administered studies using blue light for acne prevention and reduction, the results were found to be significant without side effects. Compare this to the chemical side effects and build up of resistance to them by the bacteria responsible for acne, and the results are often more promising for light than medical topical steroid creams.
Is blue light bad for us
Swiss physician Paracelsus, the Father of Toxicology said: “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.”
And right there is all you need to know.
The dose (amount) makes the poison.
If the above blue light therapy benefits are not enough for you to feel positive about blue light then lets explore the other argument that you should avoid it.
Blue light has gotten a bad reputation recently but it is not a deserved reputation.
The primary reason for this bad reputation is the amount of lighting sources changing to LED’s which typically have a blue peak in them. Added to that is the use of laptops, tablets and smartphones which again have a peak in the amount of blue light in the LCD displays.
Why is this potentially a problem?
The main reason is that Blue light is the main part of the light spectrum that is responsible for altering or maintaining our circadian rhythm or body clock. This circadian rhythm is what regulates our sleep/wake cycle in a 24 hour period and controls a number of body and brain functions.
Blue light is blamed unnecessarily
Blue light isn’t the issue.., timing of blue light is the issue.
Blue light has also been blamed for illnesses like cancer and diabetes but the reality is that the exposure needed to have any sort of negative effect is so extreme that very few people will ever come close to that amount.
Digital eye strain and potentially headaches is more common but this can be minimised. limit night time use of devices and use a blue light filter app or glasses if you feel you are getting too much (see the ‘better sleep series’ articles for more on this).
In large amounts, blue light could have a detrimental effect on skin and eye health (such as macular degeneration) in the same way that UV light can, but again the amount needed for such an effect is large.
Using warm white light bulbs is another way of limiting blue light exposure. These bulbs have a reduced blue peak in them compared to cool white which are standard. You will find both options in your shop.., look for ones either called warm white or showing a Kelvin value of 3,500k or less (cool white tends to be 4,000k or more).
Light machines and blue light
Users of stroboscopic light machines need not consider blue light an issue due not only to the limited amount of time using them.., but also due to using such devices with your eyes closed.
If you refer to the light penetration chart and research attachment earlier in this article you will see that blue light has a small penetration depth of about 1mm. This is about the same as the thickness of your eyelids.
So very little of that blue light will get through closed eyes.
Some light machines like the roXiva RX1 also have the option of using just warm white LED’s for a session further reducing this blue light.
The following article (admittedly written by a lighting specialist who may have side interests) is a good summary around blue lights potential dangers in relation to lighting. It shows the unlikeness of anyone meeting the criteria for dangerous exposure.
Violet light benefits
Violet (overlaps blue/Indigo): 400-450nm approx
Violet light does not get the attention that ultra-violet UV light does. But it does have some interesting research around it’s use therapeutically including some similar to blue light in it’s treatment of skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. Violet light is sometimes used in place of blue or UV light with similar effects.
Research with children who are developing Myopia (short-sightedness) shows that this wavelength of light may be a useful and safe way to supplement the lack of sunlight and it’s effect on keeping our eyes healthy.
Our prevalence to block UV Ultra-violet light brings with it the blocking of violet light also due to how close it is in wavelength. Violet light exposure could be a preventative strategy against myopia progression.
Ultra violet light benefits
Ultra-violet: Less than 400nm approx
But UV light is all bad isn’t it?
UV or Ultra Violet light gets a lot of attention mainly as a type of light to be avoided at all costs. But again as with all the light spectrum, we NEED some UV light to remain healthy.
Remember.., it’s the dose that creates the poison.
Too much will certainly cause sunburn or contribute to skin cancer, but as a society we are actually so lacking in sun exposure that the majority of the population is lacking in Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is needed for bone health, immunity function, and the proper use of other vitamins like Calcium and Magnesium.
Sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, there are dietary sources of vitamin D, but sun exposure is by far the best and highest source of vitamin D.
UV light benefits don’t stop there though.
UV, the light therapy that time forgot
Some even call UV light therapy, the therapy that time forgot.
Before antibiotics, UVB light in particular was used to treat a number of infections and diseases effectively by irradiating the blood with the light. And with the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics this technique may be worth further investigation.
For severe cases of eczema or psoriasis UV light therapy can be effective also and is usually done within a hospital environment.
Again natural sunlight can do wonders for skin conditions if done with intelligence and timing.
UV light kills harmful bacteria
One of the most exciting uses of UV light is in the area of sterilisation. UV light has been used to kill bacteria for a long time.
Recently it has even been discovered that a form of UV light called far UV-C light can kill harmful bacteria (including coronaviruses) without being harmful to us.
Hospitals use UV light to sterilise equipment and air already and this technology is expanding to be used in other area’s like public transport (sometimes even using UV equipped flying drones).
UV light as a safety inspection tool
Because of the nature of UV light it can actually be used to inspect surfaces for cracks and leaks as well. Things not visible under normal visible lighting conditions show up under a UV ‘black’ light due to it’s ability to highlight contrasts in shading and colour.
For example, if a florescent dye is sprayed on a surface and then washed off.., what is left behind in any tiny imperfections on that surface will show up when inspected with UV light.
This ability of UV to highlight contrast is especially noticeable in nightclubs where they sometimes use these lights to make anything white glow in the dark.
UV light alters the chemical makeup of cannabis plants
This next finding is an interesting one, haha. So with the slow but gradual acceptance of the medical uses of cannabis.., ways to increase or decrease certain properties of the chemical makeup of the plant have grown more popular.
It seems that by applying an extra amount of UV-B light to the growing environment of the plants.., they produce a higher THC content (the biochemical that makes you high).
Not saying anything more but I’ve just ordered a UV-B lamp. No I’m kidding.
Photobiology is another whole subject though and an interesting one.
Included here also due to it’s application to all plant growth is an overview of the research into plant photobiology and it’s implications on cannabis plant growth.
One of the other benefits of UV light on plant growth is it’s control of pests and diseases in plants. This makes sense based on the anti-microbial action of UV light.
So there you have it. Something we take for granted has so much potential.
There is so much more to know about light but this is a pretty good introduction to it’s purposeful use.
I will end this article in the same way I started it with the title…
In LIGHT, we trust.