Colour therapy, or chromo therapy, has been in use for a long time. In ancient Egypt, Greece and China “colour halls” or rooms were painted different colours in an attempt to treat ailments. Colour therapy played an important role in their medical practices. Egyptians looked at nature and copied the colours they observed. The green of the grass was used for floors. The blue of the sky was often used. They hung crystal gems in the windows of their “healing rooms.” Sunlight would flow into the rooms through the crystals.
Papyrus sheets have been found dating back to 1550 BC which have a list of colour “cures.” The “Neiching,” the Chinese book of internal medicine, dating back 2000 years, records colour diagnosis. This knowledge was nearly lost later in history when the Greeks studied colour only as a science and ignored its possible healing properties. Fortunately, this knowledge was not completely lost.
Avicenna (980-1037), an Arabian, wrote about colour therapy in “The Canon of Medicine.” He thought that disease symptoms were associated with colours. He also developed a chart which showed what he thought was the relationship between colour and the temperature and physical condition of the body.
In the 19th century, Johann Wolfgang Goethe was the first person to systematically study the physiological effects of colour. In 1810, he published “The Theory of Colour” describing his findings. He divided colours into two groups. One group (red, orange and yellow) consisted of the colours which cause happiness. The other group (green, blue, indigo and violet) cause sadness.
In 1877, Niels Finsen from Denmark discovered that solar ultra-violet light inhibits the growth of bacteria. He studied the use of light in the healing of wounds. He used red to inhibit the formation of small pox scars. In 1896 he founded in Copenhagen the “Light Institute” for the photo treatment of tuberculosis. Today, it is called the “Finsen Institute”.
In 1878, Dr. Edwin Babbitt published “Principals of Light and Colour” where he described various techniques of healing with colour.
In 1932, two psychologists from California scientifically showed that, in humans, blue light has a calming effect and red light has a stimulating effect.
In 1933, Dinshah Ghadiali, a scientist from India, published “The Spectro Chrometry Encyclopedia.” This book laid the foundation for most modern colour therapy. In India, colour therapy has grown in acceptance and popularity.
About the same time in the United States, Dr. Harry Spitler developed a form of colour therapy called “Syntonics.” Dr. Spitler found that he could generate profound physiological and psychological changes in patients by changing the light which entered their eyes.
Throughout the 20th century, interest in colour therapy steadily grew. Today, many people practice colour therapy. It is becoming more and more known and accepted. In an attempt to separate from a perceived association with mysticism, the term “photobiology” is used for the scientific study of the effects of light on humans.