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Home > Alternative Therapy > Light Therapy

Light Therapy - An Introduction

Light Therapy

Ancient medical books are filled with explanations of the importance of getting enough light. For example, the ancient Ayurvedic  physician Charaka who lived in the sixth century B.C., recommended sunlight to treat a variety of diseases. For thousands of years people the world over have revered the sun as a great healer; some ancient cultures even worshiped the sun.

In 1980, A.J. Lewy and coworkers published an article in Science that ushered in the modern era of phototherapy. Lewy suggested that secretion of the hormone melatonin could be suppressed by exposing subjects to bright artificial light but not to light of ordinary indoor intensity. As we shall see later, melatonin is nicknamed "the chemical expression of darkness" as it is secreted at night and is believed to tell the body that it is time to sleep. It has been shown that melatonin in animals is secreted at night by the pineal gland under the influence of a circadian rhythm. Light rays impinging on the retina are converted into nerve impulses, which influence the secretion of melatonin by connections between the retina and the hypothalamus. This demonstration that one physiologic effect of light in humans, transmitted presumably via the hypothalamus, has a threshold intensity far higher than that required for vision, suggested that there might be other effects of light on the brain that require high-intensity light.

There is no doubt that the sun plays a very important role in our daily lives. During winter, the well-to-do vacations in Caribbean. The summer months are synonymous with spending time in the beach, in spite of all the warning of the potential to get skin cancer. We feel better after spending time in the sun. Today, most of the doctors and medical researchers view the sun more as a healer than a hazard.

We know that lack of sunlight can result in nutritional deficiencies. Without sunlight vitamin D cannot be metabolized in the human body, which can result in rickets. Most enzymes, hormones and vitamins need light for proper functioning. Studies have shown that different lights affect different enzymatic reactions for healing purposes. For example, one of the first test a pediatrician do to a new-born baby is to check for jaundice. If found positive, they are placed under a blue light to cure the disease. So, most of us are given light therapy, without us being aware of it.

Professor Mester of Budapest University conducted experiments to determine the function of light in the cells of animals and humans. He found that the monochromatic light promotes the DNA to use the lipoprotein in the area enabling the the cell to function better as well as to produce collagen and elastin

In a study reported in the American Geriatrics Society, researchers wanted to find out "the effects of low-power light therapy on pain and disability in elderly patients with degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee." They have divided the patients into three groups. One group was treated with red light, one was treated with infrared light and the third group got no light therapy. Prior to the light therapy, the pain and disability was statistically similar among the three control groups. They found that pain reduction in the red and infrared groups after the treatment was more than 50%. Significant functional improvement was observed in the red and infrared-treated groups, but not in the placebo group. The experiment showed that low-power light therapy is effective in relieving pain and disability in degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee.

Research conducted in Soviet Union and biological research done in the United States suggest that all living things may conduct light. Light has a great impact on synchronizing our circadian rhythms.

In fact, researchers have determined several benefits from regular, moderate exposure to sunlight-or to sun-like artificial lights. Such exposure can help relieve winter blues and treat other forms of depression; minimize jet lag; shorten abnormally long menstrual cycles and treat psoriasis, eating disorders and some forms of insomnia. It can possibly even help relieve some symptoms of lupus-a serious disease involving the immune system.


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