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The Ancient History of Color Light Therapy

Chromotherapy is the practice of using colors, typically applied in the form of colored light, to achieve wellness. Each color is associated with different benefits and bodily responses, from emotional to physical health. This practice can be found in many modern spas and wellness treatments today, but do you know the rich chromotherapy history behind this holistic practice?

Blue Hieroglyphic Carvings in Ancient Egyptian Temple

Ancient cultures from around the world recognized the healing powers of light and color, leading the way to better wellness practices for us to enjoy today. Read on to learn more about the ancient history of color therapy.

The Ancient Chromotherapy History

Chromotherapy & Phototherapy in Ancient Egypt

The use of color healing has been recorded as far back as the ancient Egyptians. Nature was an important factor in their culture, influencing their use of color in many aspects of their lives, including healing practices. Colors were also associated with gods. With a strong focus on worshiping the sun, they believed that shining the rays of light through colored crystals could penetrate the body and act as a treatment for ailments. Different rooms were built for individual colors to concentrate their powers. Ancient Egypt is believed to be one of the first civilizations to discover how to use color therapy and phototherapy, or light therapy, for healing.

Examples of the use of color in ancient Egypt:

  • Black: Life, fertility, regeneration
  • Blue: Hair of gods, heavenly, water
  • Gold: Flesh of gods, perfection, eternal, indestructible
  • Green: Healing, life, resurrection, growth, protection, well-being, joy
  • Red: Chaos, destruction, life, protection
  • White: Purity, simplicity, cleanliness, sacredness

Chromotherapy in Ancient China

In Classical Chinese medicine, things such as health are connected to colors. The Five Colors of Chinese medicine incorporate the use of elements (earth, fire, water, etc.), organ function, and mood. Chinese culture has always been keen on the connection of body-mind-earth-spirit, and it shows in the holistic Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) techniques that have transcended generations. It is believed that the colors you attract are alignments or imbalances with the cosmos and surrounding energy. In terms of healing, making sure your life is balanced and aligned with Dao will result in a healthier lifestyle. Following a TCM body clock has been thought to improve Qi flowing through the body to help heal and maintain a harmonious existence. Qi can also be stimulated through acupuncture and acupressure.

The Five Colors of Chinese medicine:

  • Black/Blue: Kidney organ system, bladder, water, fear
  • Green: Liver organ system, gallbladder, wood, anger
  • Red: Heart organ system, small intestine, fire, joy
  • Yellow: Spleen organ system, stomach, earth, worry
  • White: Lung organ system, large intestine, metal, grief

Acupuncture Model Featuring the Five Colors of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chromotherapy & Heliotherapy in Ancient Greece

First documentation of both the theory and practice of heliotherapy, or the therapeutic use of sunlight, can be found in ancient Greece. Similar to the ancient Egyptian application of chromotherapy, temples were built for healing purposes where sunlight would shine through color components to create color light treatments. Each color represented various therapeutic and divine elements. And similar to Traditional Chinese Medicine, ancient Greek philosophers developed the Four Elements and Four Color theories. Aristotle noted color energies, and Hippocrates noted the connection between bodily ailments and colors.

The Four Colors and Four Elements of the ancient Greeks:

  • Black: Earth, darkness
  • Red: Air
  • White: Fire, lightness, lymphatic system
  • Yellow: Water, life force
  • Black + Yellow: Cold
  • Yellow + Red: Humid
  • Red + White: Warm
  • White + Black: Dry

Chromotherapy in Ancient India

Ancient Indian scriptures allude to the use of chromotherapy through the use of sunlight, as well. Much like other ancient civilizations mentioned, balancing elements increases the flow of positive energy and improves your overall well-being. One of the most notable traditional Indian practices is Ayurveda, or the science of life. This practice not only concentrates on the balance of color, but also focuses on elements such as tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent), connection with nature, and connection with your body mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Instead of using the colors externally to heal, Ayurveda believes in internal energy centers called chakras, where each chakra is associated with a color.

The seven Chakras found in Ayurvedic medicine:

  • Red: First chakra, root, physical stability
  • Orange: Second chakra, sacral, enjoyment
  • Yellow: Third chakra, solar plexus, power and confidence
  • Green: Fourth chakra, heart, emotional belonging
  • Blue: Fifth chakra, throat, authentic self-expression
  • Indigo: Sixth chakra, third eye, mental clarity
  • Purple/White: Seventh chakra, crown, spiritual union

Ayurvedic Crystal Healing for Chakra Realignment

The Start of Modern Color Light Therapy

The modern study of light and color can be attributed to Isaac Newton’s experiments published in 1672. This work explained the idea of refraction, which completely changed the way humans viewed the relationship between light and color. In 1810, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published a treatise on color to share his discoveries on how color affects our psychological perceptions and physiological conditions. Then in the late 1800s, scientists Dr. Seth Pancoast and Edwin D. Babbitt became interested in the subject of chromotherapy, eventually publishing research and findings from their experiments. While these scientific advances may not have been completely accurate, they showed an uptick in interest in discovering how to bring the ancient practice of chromotherapy into modern lives.

Fast forward to today, and you can find a number of products and services boasting the healing benefits of chromotherapy. As we take control of our wellness, we become more in tune with the practices that proved to be successful for our ancient predecessors. Whether it’s in a sauna with medical-grade chromotherapy lighting or a simple at-home treatment with colorful LED lights, consider incorporating color light therapy into your everyday life!


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