MeSH D016500
Edwin Dwight Babbitt an early proponent of Chromotherapy

Chromotherapy, sometimes called color therapy, colorology or cromatherapy, is an alternative medicine method, which is considered pseudoscience.[1] 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[2] and blood irradiation therapy which is a scientifically accepted medical treatment for a number of conditions,[3] and from photobiology, the scientific study of the effects of light on living organisms.


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.[4]

American Civil War General Augustus Pleasonton (18011894) 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-&nsash;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.[5]

In 1933, Indian-born American-citizen scientist Dinshah P. Ghadiali (18731966), published The Spectro Chromemetry Encyclopaedia, a work on color therapy.[6] 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 functioning 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.[7]

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."[8]

Throughout the 19th century "color healers" claimed colored glass filters could treat many diseases including constipation and meningitis.[9]

Colored chakras

A New Age conceptualisation of the chakras of Indian body culture and their positions in the human body

Practitioners of ayurvedic medicine believe the body has seven "chakras", which some claim are 'spiritual centers', and which are held 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.[10] The purported colors and their associations are described as:[11]

Color Chakra Chakra location Alleged function
Red First Base of the spine Grounding and Survival
Orange Second Lower abdomen, genitals Emotions, sexuality
Yellow Third Solar plexus Power, ego
Green Fourth Heart Love, sense of responsibility
Blue Fifth Throat Physical and spiritual communication
Indigo Sixth Just above the center of the brow, middle of forehead Forgiveness, compassion, understanding
Violet Seventh Crown of the head Connection with universal energies, transmission of ideas and information

Scientific reception

Chromotherapy is regarded by Jack Raso and Jonathan Swan as quackery.[12][13]

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".[3]

Photobiology, the term for the contemporary scientific study of the effects of light on humans, has replaced the term chromotherapy in an effort to separate it from its roots in Victorian mysticism and to strip it of its associations with symbolism and magic.[9] Light therapy is a specific treatment approach using high intensity light to treat specific sleep, skin and mood disorders.

See also


  1. Williams, William F. (2000). Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy. Facts on File Inc. p. 52. ISBN 1-57958-207-9
  2. Dobbs, R. H.; Cremer, R. J. (1975). "Phototherapy". Archives of Disease in Childhood. 50 (11): 833–6. doi:10.1136/adc.50.11.833. PMC 1545706Freely accessible. PMID 1108807.
  3. 1 2 Ades, Terri (2009). Complete Guide to Complementary & Alternative Cancer Therapies. American Cancer Society. p. 210. ISBN 9781604430530.
  4. Azeemi, S. T.; Raza, S. M. (2005). "A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution". Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2 (4): 481–488. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh137. PMC 1297510Freely accessible. PMID 16322805.
  5. Collins, Paul. (2001). Banvard's Folly: Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity, and Rotten Luck. Picador. p. 229. ISBN 0-330-48689-6
  6. Schwarcz, Joe. "Colorful Nonsense: Dinshah Ghadiali and His Spectro-Chrome Device". Quackwatch.
  7. Dinshah, Darius (2012). Let There be Light. Dinshah Health Society. ISBN 0933917309.
  8. Gardner, Martin. (2012 edition, originally published in 1957). Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Dover Publications. pp. 211-212. ISBN 0-486-20394-8
  9. 1 2 Gruson, L (1982-10-19). "Color has a powerful effect on behavior, researchers assert". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  10. Parker, D (2001). Color Decoder. Barron's. ISBN 0-7641-1887-0.
  11. van Wagner, K. "Color Psychology: How Colors Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviors". Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  12. Raso, Jack. (1993). Mystical Diets: Paranormal, Spiritual, and Occult Nutrition Practices. Prometheus Books. pp. 256-257. ISBN 0-87975-761-2
  13. Swan, Jonathan. (2003). Quack Magic: The Dubious History of Health Fads and Cures. Ebury Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0091888091

Further reading

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