Edwin Dwight Babbitt, an early proponent of Chromotherapy
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Chromotherapy, sometimes called color therapy, colorology or cromatherapy, is an alternative medicine method, which is considered pseudoscience. Chromotherapists claim to be able to use light in the form of color to balance "energy" lacking from a person's body, whether it be on physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental levels.
Color therapy is distinct from other types of light therapy, such as neonatal jaundice treatment and blood irradiation therapy, which are scientifically accepted medical treatments for a number of conditions, as well as from photobiology, the scientific study of the effects of light on living organisms.
Chromotherapy is a pseudoscience; practitioners claim that exposure to certain hues of light can help people to feel better physically or mentally, which has not been backed up by experimental, peer-reviewed research.
Avicenna (980–1037), seeing color as of vital importance both in diagnosis and in treatment, discussed chromotherapy in The Canon of Medicine. He wrote that "color is an observable symptom of disease" and also developed a chart that related color to the temperature and physical condition of the body. His view was that red moved the blood, blue or white cooled it, and yellow reduced muscular pain and inflammation.
American Civil War General Augustus Pleasonton (1801–1894) conducted his own experiments and in 1876 published his book The Influence Of The Blue Ray Of The Sunlight And Of The Blue Color Of The Sky about how the color blue can improve the growth of crops and livestock and can help heal diseases in humans. This led to modern chromotherapy, influencing scientist Dr. Seth Pancoast (1823–1889) and Edwin Dwight Babbitt (1828–1905) to conduct experiments and to publish, respectively, Blue and Red Light; or, Light and Its Rays as Medicine (1877) and The Principles of Light and Color.
In 1933, Indian-born American-citizen scientist Dinshah P. Ghadiali (1873–1966) published The Spectro Chromemetry Encyclopaedia, a work on color therapy. Ghadiali claimed to have discovered why and how the different colored rays have various therapeutic effects on organisms. He believed that colors represent chemical potencies in higher octaves of vibration, and for each organism and system of the body there is a particular color that stimulates and another that inhibits the work of that organ or system. Ghadiali also thought that, by knowing the action of the different colors upon the different organs and systems of the body, one can apply the correct color that will tend to balance the action of any organ or system that has become abnormal in its function or condition. Dinshah P. Ghadiali's son, Darius Dinshah, continues to provide information about color therapy via his Dinshah Health Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing non-pharmaceutical home color therapy, and his book Let There Be Light.
Science writer Martin Gardner had described Ghadiali as "perhaps the greatest quack of them all". In 1925, Ghadiali was accused of rape and arrested in Seattle and sentenced under the Mann Act for five years at the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta. According to Gardner, photographs of Ghadiali at work in his laboratory are "indistinguishable from stills of a grade D movie about a mad scientist".
Practitioners of ayurvedic medicine believe the body has seven "chakras", which some claim are 'spiritual centers', and are thought to be located along the spine. New Age thought associates each of the chakras with a single color of the visible light spectrum, along with a function and organ or bodily system. According to this view, the chakras can become imbalanced and result in physical diseases, but application of the appropriate color can allegedly correct such imbalances.
According to a book published by the American Cancer Society, "available scientific evidence does not support claims that alternative uses of light or color therapy are effective in treating cancer or other illnesses".
Photobiology, the term for the scientific study of the effects of light on living tissue, has sometimes been used instead of the term chromotherapy in an effort to distance it from its roots in Victorian mysticism and to strip it of its associations with symbolism and magic. Light therapy is a specific treatment approach using high intensity light to treat specific sleep, skin and mood disorders.
A review of the existing research on chromotherapy found that there is not evidence to support a causal link between specific colours to health outcomes, there is not enough evidence to support a causal link between specific colours and emotional or mental states, and there is no research to suggest there exists one-to-one relationships between specific colours and emotions. Tofle, R.B. (2004), Color in Healthcare Environments - A Research Report (PDF), California: Coalition for Health Environments Research, p. 1–81, retrieved March 20, 2020
Chromotherapy has been accused of oversimplifying psychological responses to colours, making sweeping statements based on myths or beliefs that lack empirical support. Guidelines for chromotherapy lack consistency and appear to be subjective judgements that have inconclusive and nonspecific applicability in healthcare systems. While twelve colours have been reported as beneficial for health and wellbeing, a rigorous definition of each of these colours has yet to be provided, making it impossible to know if all colour therapists are using the same wavelengths for these colours. Tofle, R.B. (2004), Color in Healthcare Environments - A Research Report (PDF), California: Coalition for Health Environments Research, p. 1–81, retrieved March 20, 2020
Chromotherapy has also been criticized for its lack of falsifiability and verifiability. Critics have further suggested that some positive results from the therapy are actually placebo effects, where the mere introduction of a treatment led to health improvements unrelated to the colours.
More recently, concern regarding the theory has questioned the risks associated with the emergence of light-emitting diode (LED) based lamps that have been created for use in chromotherapy, these lamps are classified as low risk for exposure and do not require any warnings to accompany the products. However, certain chromotherapy procedures require the individual to place the lamps near their eyes, which is not the recommended use for these lights and may alter the exposure duration to a level that can cause risk of retinal damage. With no consensus or regulation regarding how these products are to be used and whether eyewear is required, this treatment puts participants at risk for serious eye damage. Point, S. (2007), The Danger of Chromotherapy, Buffalo: Skeptical Inquirer, p. 50–53, retrieved March 20, 2020
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