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Color Therapy

By: Amanda Silva



* Purpose

* Rationale/How it Works

* Claims

* Evidence/Research on the Web

* Safety

* Who is Presenting the Information on the Web

* Scientific Research from Journals

* Conclusion

* Bibliography




Color therapy, also known as chromatherapy, has been around since ancient times.  In a therapeutic aspect, it is used to balance an individual where energy is lacking, whether it is an emotional, spiritual, physical, or mental problem.  In a more scientific aspect, color therapy is used to stimulate the bodyís healing process and treat many diseases.

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Rationale/How it Works

According to the therapeutic aspect of color therapy, colors are infused

with healing energies.  Every individual has five basic elements, and when one is thrown off, illness occurs.  Each color has a unique effect on the body  (   

Color Rose

           *  Red is associated with energy, empowerment, and stimulation.  It is used for circulation and stimulation of red blood cell production. 

* Orange is associated with pleasure, enthusiasm, and sexual stimulation.  It is used as an antibacterial agent and to ease digestive discomforts. 

* Yellow is associated with wisdom and clarity.  It is used as a decongestant, antibacterial agent, and for the digestive and lymphatic systems. 

* Green is associated with balance and calmness.  It is used for treatment of ulcers, as an antiseptic, a germicide, and as an antibacterial agent. 

* Blue is associated with communication and knowledge.  It is used to eliminate toxins, and treat liver disorders and jaundice. 

* Indigo is associated with sedative qualities, calmness, and intuition.  It is used to control bleeding and abscesses. 

* Violet is associated with enlightenment, revelation, and spiritual awakening.  It is used to soothe organs, relax muscles, and calm the nervous system

Warm colors are generally used for illnesses of weakness, and cool colors are commonly used for illnesses of excess.  Vibrations from the colors are believed to balance the individual.  Chakras are areas of the body associated with certain colors.  When an individual is experiencing a problem with a certain area of the body, different colors work to heal the associated chakra.  There are seven chakras associated with the body (

* The first chakra is associated with the color red and is located at the base of the spine. 

* The second chakra is associated with the color orange and is located at the pelvis and groin area. 

* The third chakra is associated with the color yellow and is located at the solar plexus. 

* The fourth chakra is associated with the color green and is located at the heart. 

* The fifth chakra is associated with the color blue and is located at the throat. 

* The sixth chakra is associated with the color indigo and is located at the brow. 

* The seventh chakra is associated with the color violet and is located at the crown of the head.

        There are different methods to administer color therapy to a patient.  One method is colored body wraps, where the individual is wrapped in a cloth of the necessary color to treat their ailment.  Another method is eating certain colors of food, or drinking water from a colored glass that has sat in the sunlight for a certain amount of time. 

brain        The scientific aspect of color therapy explains that color therapy works through the regulation of the pineal gland.  The pineal gland contains melatonin and serotonin.  Melatonin is associated with sleep, whereas serotonin is associated with wakefulness.  When an individual produces too much melatonin, they can suffer from depression.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter thatís action is linked with mental disturbances, such as schizophrenia and hallucinogenic states ( 

        Max Luschner, a professor of psychology at Basle University, states that the significance of color originated in early history when behavior was governed by day and night (the colors yellow and dark blue respectively).  He believes that differences in metabolic rate and glandular secretions are due to color, and autonomic responses in the body are involved with color ( 

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        There are many claims to color therapyís healing abilities (  Among them are therapy helps cure:

* heart disease                                             * cancer

* osteoporosis                                               * menstrual problems

* depression                                                 * jaundice in premature babies

* dyslexia                                                       * migraines

* snoring                                                        * rheumatoid arthritis

   * injured tissue                                               * addictions

   * eating disorders                                          * impotence

   * sleeplessness                                             * psychological benefits

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Evidence/Research on the Web       

The website, lists a lot of research to backup these claims.  This research is not valid, because the site does not list a bibliography, and just briefly discusses each experiment.  The research mainly focuses on the scientific aspect of color therapy. 

In the 1940ís, Russian scientist, S.V. Krakov performed experiments that showed red light to stimulate the sympathetic area of the autonomic nervous system, and blue light to stimulate the parasympathetic area of the autonomic nervous system.  His research was confirmed in 1958 by Robert Gerard, who proved the color red caused blood pressure to rise and produced feelings of arousal, whereas blue caused blood pressure to drop and produced feelings of tranquility.  Later on, Dr. Harry Wohlfarth found that blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate raised the most when the color yellow was presented, moderately when the color orange was presented, and minimally when the color red was presented.  He found that blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate decreased the most with the color black, moderately with blue, and minimally with green

Dr. John Ott, a photo biologist, grew plants under red glass, and found that the plants grew four times faster than in ordinary sunlight, but their growth was stunted.  Plants that were grown under blue glass grew slowly, but the plants grew to be taller and thicker.  Another experiment found that rodents raised under blue plastic grew normally and had dense coats, whereas rodents who were raised under pink and red plastic experienced an increase in both appetite and growth rate. 

In the 1950ís it was found that neonatal jaundice could be treated with blue light.  RJ Cremer wrote an article in 1958 about this research.  SF McDonald also did research with blue light, and he found that it was effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis, healing injured tissue, and preventing scar tissue from forming.  A 1982 study at San Diego State University School of Nursing treated 60 middle aged women with rheumatoid arthritis by having them place their hands in a box with blue light for 15 minutes a day.  Many of the women reported pain relief.  In 1990, at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the success of blue light in treating psychological problems, such as addictions, eating disorders, impotence, and depression was acknowledged.  Bright white light and full spectrum light have been found to be effective in treating psychological problems also, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), anorexia, bulimia, insomnia, jet lag, and alcohol and drug dependencies. 

Studies have also been done regarding the benefits of red light.  Red light has been proven to help alleviate migraines and treat cancer.  In 1990, a study took migraine sufferers, and flashed red light into their eyes while they were suffering from a migraine.  93% of the participants reported relief, and 72% said their migraine stopped with in one hour of the treatment.  Dr. Thomas Dougherty came up with a way to treat cancer with red light, photodynamic therapy (PDT).  PDT requires an intravenous injection of photosensitive chemicals that accumulate in cancer cells and selectively identify cells under UV light.  These chemicals exclusively destroy cancer cells when they are activated by red light.  Red lightís long wavelength enables it to penetrate the tissue more deeply.  This treatment was successful in treating 3000 patients.  Red light was also proven to increase individualís strength 13.5% and cause 8.5% more electrical activity in arm muscles.  It improved athleteís performance by giving them short, quick bursts of energy.  Blue light gave athletes a more steady energy output. 

Studies concerning the effect colors have on prisoners were also done extensively.  In a prison that consisted of four wings, each wing was painted a different color.  The red and yellow wings reported more violence than the blue and green wings.  One study found that the color pink suppressed hostile, aggressive behavior among prisoners and caused muscle strength to decrease within 2.7 seconds.  One possible explanation for this reaction is the association of pink with women in modern day society.  In the same study it was found that the color yellow increased aggressive behavior, probably because of the association of violent street crime with sodium yellow streetlights.

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Color therapy is relatively safe.  If someone is planning on trying color therapy they should visit a qualified practitioner.  Too much exposure to one color can cause problems in an individualís health.  The color red should be handled with the most caution, because it can lower resistance to pain, increase blood pressure, and cause changes in heart and brain function.  Pregnant women should be careful with color therapy also because color can affect the embryonic cell structure.  Color therapy should not be used as a substitute for conventional treatment of any physical disease (

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Who is Presenting the Information     

The resources for information pertaining to color therapy are not completely credible.  While some are run by official color organizations, other sites are run by people who are trying to sell their services or a product. 

* The website,, is run by the Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine.  The author of the article is Paula Ford-Martin, a freelance corporate writer, who has BA in communications, from Marquette University and a MA from Depaul University.  This sourceís credibility is questionable because although the author of the website is not trying to sell any products, she is not an expert in the area of color therapy. 

* Phylameana Iila Desy wrote the article on color therapy for the website,  She is a Usiui Reiki master, flower essence practitioner, and owner of Spiral Visions.  She is knowledgeable in the area of color therapy, but she may have an ulterior motive to sell her services or products. 

* Valerie Logan-Clarke is a professional color therapist who wrote the color therapy article for the website,  She is certified in color therapy, but her credibility is questionable because she tries to sell products on her website.

* The International Association of Color, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to research on vibration medicine, the scientific, artistic, and therapeutic aspects of color therapy, and provides training in color therapy.  Its website is,  This is a credible source because it is dedicated to color research and is non-profit.

* Dr. Rochelle McCray is trained in color therapy, acupuncture, herbology, hypnotherapy, and is a REIKI practitioner.  She writes for the website,  Her credibility is questionable; she may have ulterior motives to sell her services.

* Helen Graham is a lecturer of psychology at Keele University in England.  She is also a specialist in color research and conducts workshops on the use of color healing.  Her article can be found at,

* Dr. Brian Greenfield is a licensed color therapist who writes for the website,

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Scientific Research from Journals

        Many studies have been done that support the scientific aspect of color therapy; whereas there are not many that support the therapeutic aspect.  One study assessed the effectiveness of using bright white light to treat sleep disturbances in patients suffering from Alzheimerís disease (Satlin, Volicer, Ross, Herz & Campbell, 1992).  Ten inpatients from a veteranís hospital were studied in an open clinical trial.  All patients were sufferers of severe sleep disorders.  Each patient underwent a week of baseline measurements.  Then, the patients were exposed to bright white light, two hours a day, in between 7 and 9 P.M. for one week.  During the post treatment week, the patients were rated on agitation, sleep-wake patterns, use of restraints, and use of prescribed-as-needed medications.  The last two days of each week, the patients wore activity monitors.  The results of this study showed that 8 in the 10 patients showed improvement in their sleeping patterns.  Satlin et al. (1992) concluded, in their study, that evening pulses of bright white light reduce sleep-wake cycle disturbances in patients with Alzheimerís disease.    

        There have been many studies on the effectiveness of colored light in treating people suffering from seasonal affective disorder.  In 1991, a study was conducted that determined whether green light or red light was better in treating seasonal affective disorder (Oren, Brainard, Johnston, Joseph-Vanderpool, Sorek & Rosenthal, 1991).  The subjects of the study were 20 outpatients with SAD, recruited through the media.  The experiment was a balanced-order crossover trial of one week of green light therapy, followed by one week of no light therapy, and one week of red light therapy.  The subjects were exposed to the light for two hours daily at their home, in the morning.  Although the subjectís expectations were the same for both the red light and the green light, the green light was more effective at treating SAD than the red light.  Oren et al. (1991) concluded that green light was more effective at treating SAD than red light, and green light was equally effective as white light at treating SAD.  In 2001, there was a study conducted to evaluate the use of white light therapy compared to dim red light therapy in primary care of SAD (Wileman, Andrew, Howie, Cameron, McCormack & Naji, 2001).  Fifty-seven SAD sufferers were randomly assigned to four weeks of either white light therapy or dim red light therapy.  Each participant filled out an expectation survey for each treatment.  The outcome of the effectiveness of the therapy was assessed with the Structured Interview Guide for the Hamilton Depression Scale, Seasonal Affective Disorder Version.  The results of the study showed that both groups displayed a decrease in symptom scores of more than 40%.  Wileman et al. (2001) concluded that primary care patients with SAD improve after light therapy, but bright white light is not associated with greater improvements.    

        White light is also effective in treating bulimia nervosa in certain patients.  In 1994, a study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of white light therapy for treatment of bulimia nervosa (Lam, Goldner, Solyom & Remick, 1994).  Bright white light was compared to therapy using red dim light.  The subjects were 17 women diagnosed with DSM-III-R bulimia.  The subjects underwent a two-week baseline assessment, followed by a counterbalanced crossover design, consisting of two weeks of early morning white light therapy, followed by two weeks of early morning dim red light therapy.  The subjects also kept a daily binge/purge diary, were given daily objective and subjective measures of mood, an eating attitude test, and expectation ratings before each therapy.  Lam et al. (1994) found that even though expectations for each treatment were relatively the same, white light therapy was more effective than red light therapy in treating bulimia nervosa.  Women who were diagnosed with ďseasonalĒ bulimia, showed even greater improvement with the white light therapy.  Lam et al. (1994) concluded that white light is an effective short-term treatment for mood and eating disturbances associated with bulimia nervosa and its therapeutic effect is greater in patients with a seasonal pattern.

        There was a study done in 1999, that confirmed tinted lenses help alleviate symptoms of epilepsy (Wilkins, Baker, Amin, Smith, Bradford, Zaiwalla, Besag, Binnie & Fish, 1999).  Twenty-four women and nine men ranging in age from 12 to 43 years old were studied for this experiment.  They all suffered from visually provoked seizures, had a photo paroxysmal response on at least one EEG reading previously, and been diagnosed with photosensitive epilepsy.  The subjects were recruited from Epilepsy Clinics at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases and Maudsley Hospital in London.  Each subject was fitted with special tinted glasses by the use of a colorimeter.  After tests and a trial period, Wilkins et al. (1999) found that 70% of the subjects experienced beneficial effects from wearing the tinted lenses.  The subjects tended to be prescribed rose and blue-purple lenses.  In a follow up, 2.4 years later, 57% of the subjects reported lasting benefits from the lenses.  Three subjects experienced a reduction in seizures as a result of the tinted lenses (Wilkins et al., 1999).

        More along the therapeutic aspect of color therapy, studies on the effect of color of an environment on an individualís behavior have been done.  In 1999, there was a case study that took into consideration the effect of color and music on calming an individual suffering from autism (Barber, 1999).  The study observed the effects of a room painted muted turquoise with meditative music playing, on an autistic adult male while he was in a state of agitation.  The case failed to find information that either supported or disproved the hypothesis that the muted turquoise color and meditative music would calm the autistic male (Barber, 1999).

        A study in 1998, looked at the effect the color of a room had on a college studentís ability to complete either a high or low demand task (Stone & English, 1998).  The subjects were 50 female and 62 male undergraduates at Creighton University in the mid-western United States.  The participants were randomly assigned to either a light blue or dark red workspace where they were supposed to completed seven sessions of either a high or low demand task.  The first three sessions were the same level demand for all participants because they were the baseline assessment of the subjectís ability.  Stone and English (1998) found that subjects doing the low demand tasks in the red room had more errors than the subjects doing the low or high demand tasks in the blue room and the subjects doing the high demand tasks in the red room.  The subjects doing the low demand tasks in the blue room perceived the task to be less demanding than the subjects doing the low demand task in the red room.  The subjects doing the high demand tasks in the blue room perceived the task to be more demanding than the subjects doing the high demand tasks in the red room (Stone & English, 1998).  Stone and English (1998) found that the subjects in the blue room perceived the temperature in the room to be cooler than the subjects in the red room.  They also found that the subjects in the blue room felt that they had more privacy than the subjects in the red room.  Stone and English (1998) concluded from these results that blue has a more calming, anti-anxiety effect on people, whereas red makes people more anxious when trying to perform tasks.

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        The information provided on the web is not necessarily valid, especially, the information relating to the therapeutic aspects of color therapy.  Color therapists that are trying to sell a product, or their services, are prevalent in a lot of the websites, and therefore may not be giving accurate information.  The scientific journals do support some of the scientific aspects of color therapy, such as helping symptoms of epilepsy, seasonal affective disorder, and bulimia nervosa.  The therapeutic aspect of color therapy may be beneficial because of its relaxation benefits, but one should not rely heavily on it for a cure by itself.  The scientific aspect of color therapy has scientific research to back it up and when it is used under a physicianís care it can be beneficial to an individual suffering from one of the mentioned disorders.

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        Barber, Christopher F.  (1999).  The use of music and colour theory as a behaviour modifier.  British Journal of Nursing, 8, 443-448.

        Lam, R. W., Goldner, E. M., Solyom, L., & Remick, R. A.  (1994).  A controlled study of light therapy for bulimia nervosa.  American Journal of Psychiatry, 151, 744-750.

        Oren, D. A., Brainard, G. C., Johnston, S. H., Joseph-Vanderpool, J. R., Sorek, E., & Rosenthal, N. E.  (1991).  Treatment of seasonal affective disorder with green light and red light.  American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 509-511.

        Satlin, A., Volicer, L., Ross, V., Herz, L., & Campbell, S.  (1992).  Bright light treatment of behavioral and sleep disturbances in patients with Alzheimerís disease.  American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 1028-1032.

        Stone, N. J., & English, A. J.  (1998).  Task type, posters, and workspace color on mood, satisfaction, and performance.  Journal of Environmental Psychology, 18, 175-185. 

Wileman, S. M., Andrew, J. E., Howie, F. L., Cameron, I. M., McCormack, K., & Naji, S. A.  (2001).  Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder in primary care.  The British Journal of Psychiatry, 178, 311-316. 

            Wilkins, Baker, Amin, Smith, Bradford, Zaiwalla, Besag, Binnie, & Fish.  (1999).  Treatment of photosensitive epilepsy using coloured glasses.  Seizure, 8, 444-449.

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