Acupuncture is well known worldwide as an effective treatment to facilitate healing. It is best known in the West in the treatment of pain and addictions. Historically, since its inception in China several thousand years ago, it has equally been utilized in internal medicine. The traditional theory of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is a complex and coherent one, unifying all body systems, and the physical with the mental/emotional. Scientific studies verifying the affects of acupuncture abound, although scientific explanation for the mechanism of action remains elusive. The traditional theory states that Qi (chee), or vital energy is the animating force behind life, the cosmic forces of Nature, and is the root of all things. It is said that if one stays in touch with Qi, ones life will be healthy in all its phases.
Traditional acupuncturists apply the simple and yet complex theories of Qi to treat a wide range of ailments including pain, chronic illness such as asthma, functional problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, hormonal imbalances (PMS, menopause, infertility), and autoimmune disease. The goal is to reestablish balance within the flow of Qi, so the body will heal itself. The National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine has funded a number of studies on acupuncture. The recent NIH consensus panel concluded that acupuncture is safe, effective for certain conditions, and should be integrated into standard medical practice.
Acupuncture is traditionally accomplished through insertion of very fine needles at the acupuncture points, located along the meridians -- pathways along which Qi travels, connecting the surface of the body energetically with the internal organs. The acupuncture points are more electrically conductive, i.e., exhibit less electrical resistance when tested by a galvanometer. Stimulation by any means thereby produces a polarity or electrical gradient, facilitating electromagnetic conduction, or movement of Qi.
History of Colored Light Therapy
Just as acupuncture is a very old system of medicine being rediscovered, so is light therapy, or phototherapy, a "new old" system, which promises to come further into the "limelight". Phototherapy was practiced in ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and India. The Egyptians utilized sunlight as well as color for healing. In the past 120 years, great strides have been made in research and development of colored light as well as full spectrum light therapy. In 1876 Augustus Pleasanton stimulated the glands, organs, and nervous system with blue light. In 1877 Seth Pancoast used red and blue light to balance the autonomic nervous system. In 1878 Dr. Edwin Babbitt published The Principles of Light and Color. He elucidated a system for applying colored light to the body, and used solar elixirs, which are colored bottles containing water charged by the sun. He was able to successfully treat many stubborn medical conditions, unresponsive to conventional treatments of the time.
Dinshah Ghadiali, PhD, MD (India), an American who immigrated from India, was highly influenced and inspired by Babbitt's work. In 1897, the course of his life and views on medicine were forever changed when he saved the life of a woman dying from intractable dysentery. Under conventional treatment she continued to have 100 diarrheal stools per day. As a last resort, Dinshah proceeded to shine indigo light on the patient's body. By the end of the first day, the number of evacuations was reduced to 10. By the third day she was out of bed.
By 1920, after 23 years of research and clinical observation, Dinshah, as he came to be known in America, had refined a sophisticated system of color phototherapy he called Spectro-Chrome. Influenced by a strong background in mathematics and physics, he reasoned that the physiologic effects of individual colors would correspond with the action of the mineral which exhibited that color on spectometry. He thereby determined in detail, specific "attributes" of the colors, i.e., the specific effects of the colors on the physiology. He further determined precise and predictable formulations of applying colored light directly to the body for the gamut of physical injury and illness. He was the first to develop a system of healing utilizing all the colors of the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, lemon, green, turquoise, blue, indigo, violet plus purple, magenta and scarlet.
Spectro-Chrome is based on three principles: 1) that the human body responds to light 2) colors relate to physiologic function and 3) color tonation (broadcasting specific colors to the body surface) aids bodily function. Dr. Kate Baldwin, a highly respected physician, AMA member, and chief surgeon of the Women's Hospital of Philadelphia, became a student, practitioner, and strong proponent of Dinshah's techniques both in her private practice, and within the hospital setting. Case histories abound of the successful treatment with Spectro-Chrome. Unfortunately, then as now political forces of high tech, elitist, expensive, profit motivated medicine embarked on a crusade to discredit and repress Dinshah's simple but effective low technology healing system. Dinshah was subjected to decades of indictments, court battles, fines and arrests which in 1947 culminated in being forced to burn his personal collection of all printed material (valued at $250,000) pertaining to colored light therapy. Only a single copy of personal notes was spared. Six years later, after completing probation, Dinshah persisted, restructuring his institute for educational purposes only, and making no claims as to the therapeutic value of projected colored light. Although Dinshah lived out his life under these permanent injunctions secured by the FDA, his system of color therapy, Spectro-Chrome, survived and is today, 30 years after his death in 1966, beginning to enjoy a renaissance. Dinshah, though little recognized to this day, is without a doubt one of this century's great luminaries.
Internationally, alternative approaches to healing did not meet with such resistance. Dr. Niels Finsen, a Danish physician, pioneered light therapy in the 1890's. He noticed that tubercular skin lesions were much more common during the long dark winters, but rare in summer. In 1892 he began treating this condition, lupus vulgaris, with light. Later he would use red light to prevent scar formation from smallpox, and eventually established a light institute for the treatment of tuberculosis. His work was so successful in the treatment of skin tuberculosis with ultraviolet light, that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903.
Physics Of Colored Phototherapy
Dr.'s Babbit, Pancoast, Pleasanton, Baldwin, Finsen and Dinshah provide us with ample empirical evidence of the value of colored light in medicine. The scientific explanation for this rests in quantum physics and color theory: the photoelectric effect first discovered by Hertz, and the theory of light elucidated by Einstein. By the photoelectric effect, when light strikes any material substance, electrons are discharged, creating a current. In other words, light interacts with matter as the energy of the light is transferred to electrons.
In 1905, Einstein offered an explanation for this phenomenon with his Corpuscular Theory of Light, for which he was awarded his only Nobel Prize. He proposed that light is composed of corpuscular units called photons. A photon is the smallest unit of light and has a dual nature, being both particle and wave at the same time. A photon travels at the speed of light and its energy is related to the frequency of radiation. The energy of the photon is transmitted to the electron. The shorter the waves of light the greater the energy of the photon, which results in stronger acceleration when that energy is transferred to the electron. The intensity of the light determines how many photons strike a given surface, and likewise, how many electrons are discharged. The higher the intensity, the greater the quantity of photons and the greater the number of electrons activated. The wave theory of light, held prior to this, was unable to account for the photoelectric effect.
Color is frequency. Specifically, color is frequency within the visible spectrum of light, which composes a very small band of the total electromagnetic spectrum, from violet at 400 nanometers (higher energy photon) through red at 780 nanometers (lower energy photon). Beyond violet in increasingly shorter wavelengths, are ultraviolet light, x-rays, and gamma radiation which contain tremendous amounts of energy. Infrared and radio waves are longer wavelengths outside the red end, with very little energy.
Each color of the spectrum is composed of a band of frequencies. Therapeutic application of light to the body is accomplished by applying a single monochromatic wavelength within that band. It has been said that when the body is healthy, it may be able to filter out from white light or sunlight, whatever color frequency it needs. But if a person's health is compromised the necessary color must be supplied. As stated by the photoelectric effect, the frequency of radiation determines the energy of the electrons emitted. This supports the rationale behind Dinshah's empiric system of color attributes; individual frequencies have specific effects.
Bridging Color Therapy and Acupuncture
There is much work going on these days in the use of full spectrum and colored light for mind/body healing. There is no doubt that light is necessary for health, and even life itself. The term "malillumination syndrome" has been coined to explain the vegetative effects on health from being undernourished by light. We now understand that individual sensitivity to diminished full spectrum light underlies seasonal affective disorder. Dr. Dan Oren, at the National Institutes of Mental Health, has brought colored light into this equation, finding that green light is more effective than red in the treatment of S.A.D.. Colored light therapy through the eyes, and applied to the body, is being utilized in the fields of psychology, optometry, chiropractic, medicine, and acupuncture.
Colored light has a particular ability to balance the autonomic nervous system, which is crucial in most chronic and functional disorders as it regulates all of the automatic processes of the human body: breathing, the beating of the heart, the functioning of the digestive tract, the stress response. Light as an environmental stimulant, is second only to food in its impact on controlling bodily functions. Interestingly, light through the eyes reaches not only to the visual centers of the brain, but also the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the brain's brain. It organizes information from our external and internal environments, initiates the stress response, regulates immune function, reproduction, thirst, hunger, temperature, emotions, and sleep patterns. It houses the body's biological clock, controls most of the functions of the pituitary gland, and controls the autonomic nervous system. Light from the hypothalamus is then sent to the pineal gland, the body's light meter and only gland in the body not controlled by higher neurological centers. It transforms retinally perceived light waves into neuronal impulses and hormonal messages through melatonin production. Melatonin is both created and released by the pineal gland in response to light and darkness. The pineal gland and melatonin are our physiologic and hormonal connection to our environment and the universe. In Oriental medicine, we say that the human being is created when the Qi (energy) of Heaven and the Qi of Earth come together. I postulate that the Qi of Heaven continues to enter the formed human body through the pineal organ in the form of light.
So we are just starting to recognize, investigate, and understand the integral and profound role light plays in regulating and maintaining health in the body/mind. Its application to acupuncture is natural.
Russian researchers at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine, have shown that light applied to the human skin penetrates the body between 2 and 30 mm, depending on the color frequency (another explanation for the individual color attributes). They were able to track the light by magnifying it with a photomultiplier, and measuring it with a photometric unit. The researchers found that only certain areas of the body were able to transfer light beneath the surface, and that these areas corresponded to the acupuncture points. Not only that, the light was conducted within the body along the acupuncture meridians. Although light penetration may be superficial, deeper physiological processes may be stimulated. It seems that the meridians are a light transferal system in the body somewhat like optical fiber. Just as light through fiber optics is being used to store information in computers, and transfer it almost instantly around the globe, perhaps the meridian system as a conductor of light provides the coherent unified theory of a subtle energy information system within the body. This could be the missing link, uniting materialistic medicine with subtle energy healing modalities, and bridge the gap between physics and metaphysics. The transmission of photons, which you recall, travel at the speed of light within the meridian system, may be a more fundamental aspect of Qi than electromagnetic energy which deals with relatively inert ions or electrons.
Dr. Tiina Karu, Ph.D., with the Laser Technology Center in Russia, and affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley, has researched the effects of light on the cell since the 1980's. She has found that there are photo-receptors at the molecular - cellular level which, when triggered, activate a number of biological reactions: DNA / RNA synthesis, increase cAMP levels, protein and collagen synthesis, and cellular proliferation. The result is rapid regeneration, normalization and healing of damaged cellular tissue. In essence, light is a trigger for the rearrangement of cellular metabolism.
Surprising new research from Cornell University also supports this supposition that the body absorbs light through the skin, and that this light has physiological action. Chronobiologist Scott Campbell found that the biological clock could be reset by shining light on the back of the knee. Prior to this it was believed that the light had to be transmitted through the eyes. This has important implications for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder and sleep disorders linked to aberrations in circadian rhythm.
©Copyright 1999 by Anna Cocilovo, PA-C, Dipl. Ac. and Ron Rosen, OMD, FNAAOM, USA