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.
Coherent vs. Incoherent Light
Light therapy in combination with acupuncture is actually quite common, interfacing through the use of laser technology. Laser, an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, is simply light which is coherent. Coherent light beams have minimum divergence and maximum parallelism over distance. This is as opposed to incoherent light which is regular visible light beams which scatter. Hot lasers are used in surgery to cut, cauterize, and destroy tissues. Lower power lasers, referred to as “soft” or “cold” lasers, are used in place of acupuncture (“needleless acupuncture”) in clinics, research facilities and hospitals around the world to produce therapeutic effects through photobiostimulation. Soft lasers are classified by the FDA as Class III, nonsignificant risk medical devices for investigational purposes only.
There is a vast amount of research documenting the biological responses and efficacy of laser biostimulation, much of which is applicable to incoherent light. It has a homeostatic effect: promoting skin regeneration or reducing scar tissue, decreasing pain or promoting enhanced sensitivity in numb areas, reducing swelling and irritation or improving circulation and enhancing the immune system. However, soft laser treatment is not without risk. It can be overused in intensity and duration. It is harmful if it comes in contact with the eyes. There is also thought that if used for a prolonged period, it can damage acupuncture points, leading to reduced effectiveness, as taught at acupuncture seminars at the University of Washington.
In all the excitement over laser, sight has been lost of the prior work done with incoherent light. Dr. Karu (noted above) contends that coherent light is not necessary, that incoherent light is equally effective at producing clinical results. Furthermore, she found that coherent light is converted to incoherent light in the body. The exact effect depends on the wavelength, dose and intensity. In Israel, medical doctors utilize incoherent light transmitted by light emitting diodes (LED’s) in the practice of neurology, dentistry, dermatology, physiotherapy, and in cosmetic applications to promote collagen and elastin formation.
As often happens in life, I became intrigued with the use of colored light in conjunction with acupuncture by circumstance. A friend introduced me to a penlight device for applying colored light to acupuncture points, but the device was clumsy and the light was not intense enough. Shortly after, I became acquainted with the work of the noted French physician, Dr. Paul Nogier, who is most well known for developing auricular acupuncture and the Vascular Autonomic Signal. He had first experimented with the autonomic nerve wreath in the iris to help establish the light connection to the body’s sympathetic nervous system. Nogier and his colleague Dr. Rene Bourdiol, co-authored a book on the subject in 1975 (Treatise on Iridodiagnosis). Later, Bourdiol, in his book Auriculo-Somatology, described how Nogier used colored and pulsed light on the ear to affect the body’s energy systems. This information, along with the knowledge of Dinshah’s work peaked my interest in photostimulation of acupuncture points.
The device we have been using for applying colored light to acupuncture points is called the Photon Stimulator. It can be used on its own, or in conjunction with standard acupuncture treatment. Its design seems to address many of the problems of prior colored light devices, making it both effective and user friendly. The PS is a plug-in unit comprised of a xenon plasma gas tube which provides full spectrum light. The light is pulsed and transmitted through high grade optic fiber to the handpiece with a precise tip where the light is focused. The combined aspects of being a plug-in unit vs. battery powered, the high wattage xenon bulb, and the optic fiber which transmits 99.4% of the light to the tip, insure high intensity stimulation of the skin. As previously stated, higher intensity means a greater number of electrons discharged. In practice, this translates to shorter treatment times.
Some of the other problems we encountered in other machines were the bulky nature of the applicator, and lack of color specificity. Both of these issues seem to be adequately addressed. The design of the lightweight handpiece facilitates precise location and treatment of either points or areas on the body, or in the ear where precision is a must. The PS utilizes color gel filters manufactured by Roscolene, the world’s top photographic filter company. Roscolene gel filters minimize dye migration and pigment fading. They are the same precise frequencies researched for over 50 years by Dinshah. Each color gel filter comes in a 35 mm slide casing, making it convenient and quick to change colors by dropping them in and out of a slot.
Our experience, and those of both colleagues and patients utilizing the PS have shown that very short treatment times are effective. Only 15 – 30 seconds are necessary at each point. The light is pulsed, reinforcing the stimulation. The flicker rate is adjustable between 0 – 10 hertz. We usually set it around 5 hz. This seems to feel best and has some scientific basis. Nogier found that 5 hz is optimal in facilitating balance within the autonomic nervous system, creating a window of opportunity wherein organ systems can be accessed and affected.
Dr. Norm Shealy, MD, a holistic physician, researcher, and founder of the American Holistic Medical Association, speculates that light works through the connective tissue, affecting cellular memory and output of neurotransmitters. He uses 7.8 hz which is theoretically the background human frequency, based on the Schumann resonance, the frequency of the earth.