What is Chromotherapy

Published on:

Chromotherapy, or color therapy, is the practice of using the colors on the visible light spectrum to improve a person’s physical and mental health. Chromotherapy is noninvasive, and has become more popular in recent years, as spas and natural health practitioners offer more ways for people to experience color therapy. Chromotherapy is not the same as red light therapy or other forms of clinical light therapy. In this article, we’ll explain what chromotherapy is, how it works, and what the benefits of chromotherapy are. We’ll also differentiate chromotherapy from red light therapy and explain which method is backed by more evidence.

What is Chromotherapy?

Chromotherapy is an alternative treatment that uses different colors of light to improve a person’s mood and health. Various scientific studies have shown a relationship between the human body and specific colors. [1] Chromotherapy is based on the belief that colors and colored lights can have a positive impact on a person’s physical and mental health. Today’s practitioners attempt to harness and deliver colors in ways that are beneficial to specific aspects of a person’s physical and mental health, often in conjunction with saunas, breathing exercises, or guided meditation. Chromotherapy is also known as color therapy. It is sometimes also called colorology or cromatherapy.

The history of chromotherapy: Doctors have been experimenting with colors and colored light to improve mood and health since the days of Ancient Egypt and Greece. [2] “Color healers” who sold color-filtered glasses were common in the 1800s. Color therapy is also sometimes associated with the concept of chakras from ayurvedic medicine. Some people believe that a person has seven distinct chakras, each with their own associated color that affects health and function. [3] Chromotherapy has become a more popular complementary health practice over the last ten years. Today, a number of spas and salons offer chromotherapy saunas, and market a number of health and wellness benefits. These businesses let a person choose between colors like blue light, green light, pink light, and red light.

However, peer-reviewed scientific research on chromotherapy is still in its earliest stages, without much hard evidence available. There is not yet clinical research showing a causal link between color therapy and specific health benefits. [4] Only in the last few years have doctors and researchers started pushing for a more organized study of color and its effects on human health. Many health professionals still consider chromotherapy a pseudoscience; however, in the coming years, more studies and trials will put chromotherapy to the test in clinical settings. [5,6]

How Does Chromotherapy Work?

Chromotherapy practitioners believe that exposure to specific colors of light can help improve a person’s body and mind. So how does chromotherapy work? Practices vary. Some proponents of color therapy believe there are health and mood benefits to surrounding yourself with pleasing colors in your home. This could be as simple as painting a room a color you enjoy or filling a space with a specific color of art or flower. You can learn more about different colors and wavelengths of light in this article.

Wellness practitioners who offer professional chromotherapy services will often hold color workshops, or combine color therapy with other wellness techniques like guided breathing, yoga, and meditation. Some businesses have combined chromotherapy with sauna use, selling saunas that heat the body while shining colored light. Other spas and salons offer one-on-one chromotherapy exercises or classes that can include wearing filtered glasses or sitting in colored light. The idea behind these practices is that colors can affect the vibrations of the brain and body, adjusting them to frequencies that are healthier and more calming. 

What we experience as colors are really reflected light that we take in through the retinas of our eyes. Then, our brain interprets these wavelengths of light and produces a reaction that we experience as a sensory feeling. Chromotherapy revolves around the belief that colors create electrical impulses in our brains that stimulate our hormones and biochemical processes. [7] Proponents believe certain colors calm the body and may reduce anxiety. For example, blue and purple lights are often cited as producing an anti-inflammatory response. Green light is said to reduce headaches and pain, while yellow light is said to strengthen the lymphatic system. 

The Benefits of Chromotherapy

Supports of chromotherapy say that it can have the following health benefits:

  • Mental health benefits such as improved mood and calmness 
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Pain and inflammation relief

Below, we’ll break down some of the most common colors used in chromotherapy.

Chromotherapy with Blue Light: One of the most popular colors used in chromotherapy is blue light. Proponents of blue light point to its potential positive effect on alertness, attention, reaction time, and mood. [1] However, blue light also comes with downsides, especially at night. An alertness boost is helpful during the day, but when our brains take in too much blue light at night, it can hurt our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is because bright blue light inhibits our brain’s natural melatonin production. [8]

Most of the screens in our lives, from our phones and computers to our televisions, are illuminated with bright blue light. When a person takes in too much blue light at night, they can knock their circadian rhythm out of balance and develop sleep problems. [9], in addition to potential risks to the eyes [10]. You can read more about the potential benefits and risks of blue light in this article

Chromotherapy with green light: Green light is another popular color used in chromotherapy. Supporters say it can improve the symptoms of migraine headaches and chronic pain. Clinical research is in progress, but some doctors are already using green light glasses to moderate patients’ pain from fibromyalgia and arthritis. [1]

Chromotherapy with red, orange, and yellow light: Red light is used in chromotherapy to reduce inflammation and support the circulatory system. Orange light is marketed for its ability to reduce fat and increase a person’s optimism. Yellow light is believed to increase feelings of happiness.

Again, it’s important to note that these potential health benefits have not been demonstrated in scientific research. This is one of the major differences between chromotherapy and red light therapy. 

Differences Between Chromotherapy and Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses LEDs to deliver wavelengths of red light to the body and cells. It has a very different mechanism of action than chromotherapy and it’s far more credible in scientific and medical communities. Like chromotherapy, red light uses a specific color and wavelength of light to produce beneficial effects for a person’s body. However, unlike chromotherapy, red light therapy is backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed clinical studies showing significant health benefits and few risks or side effects.

Chromotherapy uses a wide range of colors, while red light therapy uses only the wavelengths of red and near infrared (NIR) light that has been the most studied and proven in scientific research. Whereas chromotherapy is seen as an alternative health practice without much clinical evidence, red light therapy (also called photobiomodulation) is a well-established modality used by doctors, trainers, athletes, and mental health professionals. Most of the benefits of chromotherapy relate to mental health, like mood and anxiety. Red light therapy has shown far more benefits for physical health, from pain and inflammation relief, to improved fitness and recovery.

You don’t have to choose between chromotherapy and red light therapy. Some people choose to use them together. If you’re interested in trying red light therapy, you can purchase a quality device like a Joovv for your home and do quick, simple treatments in a few minutes per day. 

Conclusion: Chromotherapy 

Chromotherapy is the practice of using colors to improve health and wellness. It’s an alternative health practice that is not yet supported by a body of clinical research. This is a key difference between chromotherapy and red light therapy, which is more widely used by health professionals for a wider range of health benefits.

 

[1] Azeemi ST, Raza SM. A critical analysis of chromotherapy and its scientific evolution. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005;2(4):481-488. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh137


[2] Healthline, What is Color Therapy?

[3] Parker, D. 2001. Color Decoder. Barron's. ISBN 978-0-7641-1887-6


[4] Tofle, R.B. (2004). "Color in Healthcare Environments - A Research Report" California: Coalition for Health Environments Research. Retrieved March 20, 2020.


[5]  Raso, Jack. (1993). Mystical Diets: Paranormal, Spiritual, and Occult Nutrition Practices. Prometheus Books. pp. 256-257. ISBN 0-87975-761-2


[6] Swan, Jonathan. (2003). Quack Magic: The Dubious History of Health Fads and Cures. Ebury Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0091888091

[7] How Stuff Works. How does color therapy work?

[8] Jorge A Calvo-Sanz, Carlos E Tapia-Ayuga. Blue light emission spectra on popular mobile devices: The extent of user protection against melatonin suppression by built-in screen technology and light filtering software systems. Chronobiol Int. 2020 Jul;37(7):1016-1022

[9] Moore, R. “Suprachiasmatic nucleus in sleep-wake regulation” Sleep Med. 2007 Dec.

[10] Tosini G, Ferguson I, Tsubota K. Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology. Mol Vis. 2016; 22: 61–72