Chromotherapy is a centuries-old method of treating disease. In its original form, it was based on the theory that each of the body’s organs and limbs has its own distinct color. Disease was said to be the result of one or more of these parts not vibrating in harmony with its color.
Medical practitioners in ancient Egypt, Greece, China and India used chromotherapy. They prescribed both direct exposure to sunlight and, indirect exposure through stones, dyes, ointments and plasters. In the Ayurvedic tradition, colors are held to correspond to the body’s seven major energy centers, known as “chakras.” Chakras are also believed to correspond to particular states of consciousness, personality types and endocrine secretions.
In 980 AD, the Persian philosopher and physician, Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina — better known in the west as “Avicenna” — developed a chart that related color to the temperature and physical condition of the body. In particular, he noted that red moved the blood, while blue and white cooled it. Yellow reduced muscular pain and inflammation.
Color therapy has not been widely used in the modern era. In the 1960s and ‘70s it experienced a brief revival, when the use of color briefly became a fad. People had their colors done, wore mood rings, and studied how to read auras. The latter was a practice popularized in the 1930s by Edgar Cayce, a self-styled prophet and psychic. Cayce claimed that a person’s “aura,” or “human energy field,” represented that individual’s health, thoughts, talents, and life potentials, as well as karmic lessons and even past lives. Psychics and other “sensitives” could see people’s auras and use their colors to read a person’s moods.
Aura reading received a boost in 1939, when Russian electrician Semyon Davidovich Kirlian observed that an electric spark can “take its own picture” as it passes through a photographic emulsion. The “coronal discharges” in Kirlian photography were said to be auras. However, inanimate objects such as coins and water droplets showed similar effects. After experiments in 1976 further revealed that “auras” could be affected by film type, perspiration, humidity and other factors, Kirlian photography and aura reading fell out of favor.
These days, chromotheraphy to treat disease is making something of a comeback. White light has been used to help treat cancer, seasonal affective disorder (“SAD”), eating disorders, insomnia, jetlag, and chemical dependency. Blue light therapy has proved effective for neonatal jaundice and rheumatoid arthritis, and is believed to reduce aggressive behavior and violence.
More research is needed to understand how color therapy works. But won’t it be nice if it turns out that a little red is the best way to cure the blues?