The history of light therapy

Since the first beam of light erupted at the dawn of time, light has been the primary element that has driven the expansion of life. Certain types of light can produce amazing health benefits including skin rejuvenation, increased hair growth, stronger bones, and overall faster healing properties.

Modern medicine has discovered that red light with wavelengths between 630 – 660 nanometers, and near-infrared light with wavelengths between 830 – 860 nanometers, produces unique health benefits. These discoveries have fueled emerging medical technologies like red & near-infrared light therapy. These therapies are also known as photobiomodulation, low-level light therapy, cold or soft laser therapy, and low-power laser therapy (LPLT) amongst others. All of these therapies harness specific wavelengths to increase cellular functions.

The power of red light therapy lies in its ability to penetrate into the skin and energize the cells in blood vessels, nerves, epidermis, lymph tissue, and hair follicles. 1

medical grade light therapy

The history of light therapy

Since the first beam of light erupted from the Big Bang, light has been the primary element that driven the expansion of life. Certain types of light can produce amazing health benefits including skin rejuvenation, increased hair growth, stronger bones, and overall faster healing properties.

Modern medicine has discovered that red light with wavelengths between 630 – 660 nanometers, and near-infrared light with wavelengths between 830 – 860 nanometers, produces unique health benefits. These discoveries have fueled emerging medical technologies like red & near-infrared light therapy. These therapies are also known as photobiomodulation, low-level light therapy, cold or soft laser therapy, and low-power laser therapy (LPLT) amongst others. All of these therapies harness specific wavelengths to increase cellular functions.

The power of red light therapy lies in its ability to penetrate into the skin and energize the cells in blood vessels, nerves, epidermis, lymph tissue, and hair follicles. 1

How light heals

Light may seem like a relatively inconsequential phenomenon—after all, any child can flip on a light switch. However, at its most basic level, light is pure energy. Made up of packets of energy called photons, light from sources like the sun power almost all biological processes on the planet. Without light, plants wouldn’t grow, animals couldn’t eat, and humanity would say “goodbye” very quickly.

More than powering the food chain, light is also instrumental in keeping us in peak condition. For example, Ultraviolet or UV light has long been recognized as essential for vitamin D production in our skin, which helps keep our bones strong.

Similarly, Red Light in the 630-660 nanometer range and near-infrared Light in the 830-860 nanometer range has been shown to penetrate the skin and soft tissue to supercharge important cellular processes like mitochondrial function and ATP production.

In other words, red light & near-infrared light therapy feeds your cells’ energy to help optimize foundational performance.

medical grade light therapy

How light heals

Light may seem like a relatively inconsequential phenomenon—after all, any child can flip on a light switch. However, at its most basic level, light is pure energy. Made up of packets of energy called photons, light from sources like the sun power almost all biological processes on the planet. Without light, plants wouldn’t grow, animals couldn’t eat, and humanity would say “goodbye” very quickly.

More than powering the food chain, light is also instrumental in keeping us in peak condition. For example, Ultraviolet or UV light has long been recognized as essential for vitamin D production in our skin, which helps keep our bones strong.

Similarly, Red Light in the 630-660 nanometer range and near-infrared Light in the 830-860 nanometer range has been shown to penetrate the skin and soft tissue to supercharge important cellular processes like mitochondrial function and ATP production.

In other words, red light & near-infrared light therapy feeds your cells’ energy to help optimize foundational performance.

Early applications of light therapy

Ancient civilizations realized that specific kinds of light helped promote & improve health. For example, the Egyptians built colored glass solariums to treat various afflictions. The Chinese believed that the right colors could improve health and fortune. Ancient Greece, the birthplace of science and medicine, was the first culture to use color and light to treat various health conditions.2

At the beginning of the scientific age, great thinkers like Isaac Newton and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe explored the relationship between light, color, and physiology. In the late 1800s, Dr. Seth Pancoast and Edwin D. Babbit conducted some of the first empirical studies of light therapy and health benefits.3

However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century when physician Niels Finsen used short-wavelength light to treat the skin ailment lupus vulgaris. It was at that point that modern light therapy was invented. In 1895, Finsen established the Finsen Institute for Phototherapy in Copenhagen. At his institute, Finsen exposed patients with lupus vulgaris to ultraviolet light for up to two hours a day in the hopes that the light would kill the bacteria that caused the condition. Among the more than 800 patients who sought treatment at the Finsen Institute for Phototherapy, more than half were cured.4

Dr. Finsen, who is hailed as the father of modern photobiomodulation, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine & Physiology for the treatment of diseases with concentrated light radiation, i.e. Light Therapy. Dr. Finsen’s discoveries ushered in the adoption of light therapy in Europe that lasted through much of the 20th century.

Modern Light Therapy

With the advances in modern medicine, light therapy quickly became a popular form of treatment for many conditions including chronic pain, tuberculosis and arthritis. By the 1960s, new lighting technology sparked interest in new light therapies. With the advent of LED lighting and its ability to produce potent-specific wavelengths of light, new treatments quickly were developed and researched for specific areas of the body, including soft tissue and skin conditions, including: 5

  • Psoriasis

  • Immune system stimulation

  • Bacterial infection

  • Acne

  • Actinic keratosis

  • Seasonal Affect Disorder

  • Gout

  • Bursitis

  • Inflammatory conditions of muscles & joints

In the 1980s, great advances in technology brought this therapy to the forefront of the field. Unlike UV light and blue light therapies that do not penetrate deep into the body, red and near-infrared light therapy can penetrate as deep as two inches. This is what separates red and infrared light therapy from other variations of light therapy – it’s the ability to affect a variety of layers of the body.

In the 1990s, NASA initially conducted a series of studies to understand how various forms of light promoted growth in plants. As the testing moved to human subjects, it quickly became a point of interest as more positive test results came to light.

NASA began utilizing light therapy to treat astronauts for common health conditions while in space including bone loss, muscle atrophy and slowed wound healing. NASA scientists discovered that infrared light therapy helped stimulate cellular growth by a rate of 150- 200%. The studies concluded that infrared light expedites certain energy production processes in cells that involve ATP and nitric oxide.6 Currently, this healing technology is used by NASA and other elite organizations like Navy Seals. One study performed by the Navy Seals found that LED red light therapy increased recovery rates by 41 percent.7 In addition, major research institutions like John Hopkins University, Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic are currently studying the healing effects of low-level light therapy on various health conditions.

medical grade light therapy

Modern Light Therapy

With the advances in modern medicine, light therapy quickly became a popular form of treatment for many conditions including chronic pain, tuberculosis, and arthritis. By the 1960s, new lighting technology sparked interest in new light therapies. With the advent of LED lighting and its ability to produce potent-specific wavelengths of light, new treatments quickly were developed and researched for specific areas of the body, including soft tissue and skin conditions, including: 5

  • Psoriasis

  • Immune system stimulation

  • Bacterial infection

  • Acne

  • Actinic keratosis

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Gout

  • Bursitis

  • Inflammatory conditions of muscles & joints

In the 1980s, great advances in technology brought this therapy to the forefront of the field. Unlike UV light and blue light therapies that do not penetrate deep into the body, red and near-infrared light therapy can penetrate as deep as two inches. This is what separates red and infrared light therapy from other variations of light therapy – it’s the ability to affect a variety of layers of the body.

In the 1990s, NASA initially conducted a series of studies to understand how various forms of light promoted growth in plants. As the testing moved to human subjects, it quickly became a point of interest as more positive test results came to light.

NASA began utilizing light therapy to treat astronauts for common health conditions while in space including bone loss, muscle atrophy, and slowed wound healing. NASA scientists discovered that infrared light therapy helped stimulate cellular growth by a rate of 150- 200%. The studies concluded that infrared light expedites certain energy production processes in cells that involve ATP and nitric oxide.6 Currently, this healing technology is used by NASA and other elite organizations like Navy Seals. One study performed by the Navy Seals found that LED red light therapy increased recovery rates by 41 percent.7 In addition, major research institutions like John Hopkins University, Stanford University, and the Mayo Clinic are currently studying the healing effects of low-level light therapy on various health conditions.

Current state of red light therapy

The science surrounding red and near-infrared light therapy is primarily associated with two groups of light wavelengths, 600-660 nanometers, and 800-860 nanometers. These bands of light help to strengthen cellular mitochondria. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells and where adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is created. An increasing amount of research supports the idea that red light therapy may produce the following health benefits:

  • Promotes tissue repair and wound healing

  • Offers short-term improvement of carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Boosts hair growth among those with androgenic alopecia

  • Reduces psoriasis lesions

  • Relieves pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients

  • Limits some cancer treatment side effects including oral mucositis

  • Builds collagen in the skin for wrinkle repair

  • Aids in the repair of sun damaged skin

  • Helps prevent cold sores caused by herpes simplex virus infections

  • Helps remove scar tissue

Luckily, Lux Therapy is now providing the general consumer with red light therapy devices for their home. These devices provide the same miraculous health benefits as expensive spas, at a reasonable price.

References

  1. Ari Whitten. “The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy.” 2018.
  2. F. Ellinger. Medical Radiation Biology. Springfield, 1957.
  3. Edwin D. Babbitt. Principles of Light and Color. 1878.
  4. “The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1903”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB. 2016-11-01.
  5. Won-Serk Kim and R Glen Calderhead. “Is light-emitting diode phototherapy (LED-LLLT) really effective?” Laser Ther. 2011; 20(3): 205–215.
  6. Pok Kee Min, MD PhD and Boncheol Leo Goo. “830 nm light-emitting diode low level light therapy (LED-LLLT) enhances wound healing: a preliminary study.” Laser Ther. 2013; 22(1): 43–49.
  7. Harry Whelan, et al. “Effect of NASA Light-Emitting Diode Irradiation on Wound Healing.” Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine & Surgery 19(6):305-14 · January 2002.
  8. Jacquelyn Cafasso. “Red Light Therapy Benefits.” Healthline. May 11, 2018.