Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, is a type of alternative medicine in which chromotherapists seek to use light and color to heal diseases and balance internal systems.

Say what?

Though the concept may seem newfangled, color therapy dates back to ancient Egypt. The Egyptians worshipped the sun, realizing the central role that light plays for humanity. They used different colors for healing, too.

Color therapy continued to be advanced by Avicenna, an Islamic thinker who lived in the 11th century. He came up with a chart that related color to temperature and the physical condition of the body. A similar chart still in use today, is the chart detailing the chakras, or energy centers in our bodies along our spine. Each chakra is assigned a color, and color therapists use these colors to heal certain diseases relating to an energy center in the body.

The science of color therapy has advanced through the centuries. One scientist and advocate who stands out is Edwin Babbitt, who posited that the color red was a blood stimulant, that the color orange and yellow were nerve stimulants, and that the color blue has anti-inflammatory properties. In the mid-20th century, scientist Dinshah Ghadiali studied the use of color in medicine and wrote the book, “The Spectro-Chrome Encyclopedia,” considered the first comprehensive work on chromotherapy. He also invented the Spectro-Chrome, essentially a light box that allowed doctors to show any of a number of different colors to patients with varying problems. The Spectro-Chrome and Ghadiali were controversial, to say the least, and Ghadiali was ordered to shut down his operation in 1947 by the New York Supreme Court.

Today, color therapy is still somewhat controversial and is used mostly in alternative medicine practices. It is considered to be a type of vibrational medicine that uses the energy in naturally occurring substances — such as gemstones, crystals, plants and herbs, and of course light and color — to heal.

Though color therapy still has its doubters, many will agree that naturally occurring sunlight can do wonders for your health. As a matter of fact, if you are not getting enough sun, many health practitioners will recommend that you take a vitamin D supplement. If you live in a sunny place, you can get enough vitamin D naturally from the sun. Another way in which light heals? When a newborn baby has jaundice (meaning that the bilirubin level in his blood is too high), he is placed under a fluorescent light in the hospital’s nursery to aid in the bilirubin’s breakdown. This is called phototherapy.

Of course, it is also known that there is a higher incidence of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) the further away you go from the equator, i.e. in colder climates with less sunshine. Reduced sunshine can cause a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that can boost your mood.

So while color therapy may not be for everyone, a sunny day (enjoyed with SPF-30 sunscreen, of course) is bound to do everyone a little good.

Related on MNN:

What is color therapy?
Color therapy is a type of alternative medicine that uses light and color to heal diseases and balance internal systems.