Chromotherapy, the practice of healing with color, emerged in the nineteenth century as the object of scientific speculation and research, out of which various practitioners created new forms of alternative healing. Modern color healing combined occult thought about color with scientific investigations of the physical properties of light and behavioral psychologists' studies of human reactions to various colors.
Augustus James Pleasanton is usually credited with beginning the contemporary enthusiasm for color healing by initiating what became known as the "blue glass craze." Pleasanton claimed that in experiments on grape vines in his laboratory, he had been able to increase the production of grapes by alternating clear sunlight with blue-filtered light. News of his findings led many to purchase blue panes of glass under which they took sunbaths, seemingly oblivious to the denunciations of many of Pleasanton's scientific colleagues. Pleasanton's work led to the first formal studies of chromotherapy in the 1870s, which led to the publication of Blue and Red Light; or, Light and Its Rays as Medicine (1877) by Dr. S. Pancoast.
By far the most important of the early chromotherapists, however, was Edwin Dwight Babbitt. As early as 1876 he had announced his explorations of the means of atoms interacting with "etheric" forces to produce the effects of heat, light, and electricity. He further claimed in his 1878 book, The Principles of Light and Color, that color directly affected humans. He suggested a method by which people could make practical use of his claims—water should be charged by putting it in a colored bottle and then placing the bottle in strong sunlight. Babbitt produced no hard data to back up his claims, and they were soon forgotten by most. Among the few who took them seriously was a young Indian scientist-inventor, Dinshah Pestanji Ghadiali (1873-1966).
As a young physician in India, Ghadiali tested the chromotherapy ideas on patients with seemingly great success. Shortly before World War I he migrated to the United States and became a citizen. He aligned himself with the emerging community of naturopathic physicians and worked on developing chromotherapy into a usable form of alternative therapy. In 1920 he announced his perfection of "Spectro-Chrome therapy," which he envisioned as an attuned color wave healing science. Meanwhile he worked on a degree in naturopathy and in 1924 he purchased land in Malaga, New Jersey, to open his institute.
Ghadiali worked quietly in Malaga through the 1920s, but in 1931, the government, which had been developing ways to combat what it considered medical quacks, moved against Ghadiali for fraud and tried to have his citizenship revoked (a real possibility under recently passed anti-Asian immigration laws). Ghadiali was at the time completing his magus opus, the three-volume Spectro-Chrome Metry Encyclopedia, which appeared in 1933. After almost a decade in resolving his legal problems, some of which swirled around attempts to market a color healing device, Ghadiali settled into a private practice, which he continued until his death in 1966. His son has continued his work at Malaga, but has emphasized vegetarianism rather than color therapy. Ghadiali's color healing was picked up by fellow Indian-American N. S. Hanoka of Miami, Florida.
While Ghadiali was trying to perfect a scientific perspective on color healing, Theosophist Ivah Bergh Whitten picked up on the occult speculations on color of Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater. Whitten experienced a personal crisis following the death of her husband in 1907. While recovering from a nervous breakdown she was contacted by someone she later spoke of as an Elder Brother, a member of the Great White Brotherhood. He offered her a choice, death or a life as a lightbearer to the world. She chose the latter, soon recovered from her illness, and became an active and avid Theosophist. Eventually she became a lecturer for the Theosophical Society on her chosen topic, the occult meaning of color. As a result of her travels, study groups formed to examine her ideas. In the late 1920s these groups organized AMICA (the Amica Master Institute of Color Awareness).
Whitten began to publish her findings in the 1930s, beginning with a booklet, What Color Means to You (1932), soon followed by The Initial Course in Colour Awareness. She developed the theosophical perspective on color by which the highest white light is broken into the seven colors (rays) of the light spectrum. Each ray symbolizes a set of human characteristics over which a particular ascended master presides. The seven colors also correspond to various other universal structures, such as the seven subtle spiritual centers of the body, the chakras. Ultimately, this set of correspondences became the basis of an occult color healing system. Whitten was quite aware of Ghadiali, and she praised his healing devices. She also developed a form of healing meditation during which a person imagines breathing in a specific color.
During the 1930s, British Theosophist Roland T. Hunt emerged as Whitten's leading student. While he studied Whit-ten's writings, he was also becoming aware of the new psychological findings about the effects of color on human behavior. These were combined in his 1940 text, The Seven Keys to Colour Healing. Hunt moved to California following World War II and became the head of AMICA. He wrote a number of books before passing the work to Paola Hugh and the Fleur de Lys Foundation in Tacoma, Washington.
Concurrent with but independent of Hunt was the activity of Rosicrucian Corine Heline, the founder of the New Age Bible and Philosophy Center in Santa Monica, California. In 1943 she wrote Healing and Regeneration through Color. Heline, in the astrological tradition of her teacher Max Heindel of the Rosicrucian Fellowship, saw colors related to astrological signs. She also believed that illnesses affecting specific parts of the body had correspondences to astrological signs. Traditionally, for example, diseases of the head were related to Aries. Color treatment should be given in conjunction with astrological analysis. Light, she suggested, also stimulated glands. Glands serve as connecting points between the physical body and the invisible mental and causal bodies (which many occult-ists believe each individual possesses). Stimulating the glands with light (either visible or imagined) can lead to the glands secreting healing substances.
During the 1970s, color therapy entered the New Age and holistic health movements through the work of health journal-ist Linda Clark. Her 1975 The Ancient Art of Color Therapy be-came the first of a series of books to reintroduce the topic to a more mainstream audience after it had been pushed to the edge of the occult community in the 1960s.
Evaluating Color Therapy
Contemporary color therapy is grounded in scientific re-search on light and psychological findings on the beneficial effects of color. Such research has, for example, been widely utilized in the design of public institutions, possibly the most famous instance being the banishing of black boards in schools in favor of green boards. It is also widely known that sunlight, in moderate doses, stimulates the production of vitamin D by the body, that colored rooms can assist the healing of some psychological disorders, and the rights colors in offices can stimulate employees.
Physicists have explained light as part of a spectrum of electromagnetic energy. Each part of the spectrum manifests as radiation that vibrates at a specific rate. Visible light appears somewhere toward the center of the spectrum. On one side of the spectrum are cosmic rays, gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet, and on the other side are infrared, electricity, radio, and television. Light is thus a form of radiant energy, and human beings can be seen as living systems that absorb and radiate energy. Many psychics and occultists claim that the body radiates energy just outside of the visible light spectrum, which surrounds the body as an aura. Some people claim the ability to see this radiation, or aura, and interpret its meaning.
While many advocate the beneficial effects of sunbaths, chromotherapists go far beyond to a sophisticated analysis of the application and use of very specific colors on specific parts of the body. Such color may be received by sitting in a spotlight shining a colored beam on the body. Alternatively, through meditation, a particular color can be imagined either to shine upon the body or be taken into the body through breaths. Color therapy has also been associated with crystals, which also come in a variety of colors, and some have hypothesized that crystals of varying colors radiate different healing energies. The most common explanation of the healing power of color relates to stimulating the glandular system is some way.
It should be noted that a variety of attempts to verify the healing effects of color as hypothesized by color therapists has proved unsuccessful. Thus, the sale of machines that can radiate specific beams of color for healing purposes is against the law and can lead to an arrest for fraud. To date, most of the effects with color healing can be attributed to other causes.
Amber, Reuben. Color Therapy. New York: ASI Publishers, 1980.
Clark, Linda. The Ancient Art of Color Therapy. Old Greenwich, Conn.: Devin-Adair, 1975.
Ghadiali, Dinshah P. Spectro-Chrome Metry Encyclopedia. 3 vols. Malaga, N.J.: Spectro-Chrome Institute, 1933.
Heline, Corine. Healing and Regeneration through Color. Santa Barbara, Calif.: J. F. Rowney Press, 1943.
Hunt, Roland. The Seven Keys to Colour Healing. Ashington, England: C. W. Daniel, 1954.
Whitten, Ivah Bergh. What Color Means to You. Ashington, England: C. W. Daniel, 1932.
"Chromotherapy." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chromotherapy
"Chromotherapy." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chromotherapy
Color therapy, also known as chromatherapy, is based on the premise that certain colors are infused with healing energies. The therapy uses the seven colors of the rainbow to promote balance and healing in the mind and body.
Color therapy is rooted in Ayurveda, an ancient form of medicine practiced in India for thousands of years. Ayurveda is based on the idea that every individual contains the five basic elements of the universe: earth, water, air, fire, and ether (space). These elements are present in specific proportions unique to an individual's personality and constitution. When these elements are thrown out of balance through unhealthy living habits or outside forces, illness results. Ayurvedic medicine uses the energies inherent in the colors of the spectrum to restore this balance.
Color therapy was also used in ancient Egypt and China. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), each organ is associated with a color. In qigong , healing sounds are also associated with a color, which in turn corresponds to a specific organ and emotion.
Each of the seven colors of the spectrum are associated with specific healing properties.
Violet promotes enlightenment, revelation, and spiritual awakening. Holistic healthcare providers use violet to soothe organs, relax muscles, and calm the nervous system.
Indigo is also sedative and calming. It is said to promote intuition. Indigo may be useful in controlling bleeding and abscesses.
Blue promotes communication and knowledge. It eliminates toxins, and is used to treat liver disorders and jaundice .
Because it is located in the middle of the color spectrum, green is associated with balance. Green is calming, and is used by Ayurvedic practitioners to promote healing of ulcers. It is said to have antiseptic, germicide, and antibacterial properties and is sometimes used by holistic color therapists to treat bacterial infections .
Yellow is a sensory stimulant associated with wisdom and clarity. Yellow is thought to have decongestant and antibacterial properties, and is useful in stimulating both the digestive system and the lymphatic system.
Orange promotes pleasure, enthusiasm, and sexual stimulation. Ayurvedic practitioners believe it has antibacterial properties and may be useful in easing digestive system discomforts (e.g., flatulence, cramps).
Red promotes energy, empowerment, and stimulation. Physically, it is thought to improve circulation and stimulate red blood cell production.
The color spectrum is composed of different frequencies and wavelengths of light energy. Ayurvedic medicine uses the energy of colors to promote harmony and healing. The colors are said to be imbued with certain healing properties (i.e., red is energizing, blue is calming) and the vibrations generated by each color balance the individual.
Holistic healthcare providers who practice color therapy often relate the seven colors of the color spectrum to specific areas of the body known as the chakras. In yoga , the chakras are specific spiritual energy centers of the body. The therapeutic action of colors is related to the chakra they represent:
- first (root; or base of spine): red
- second (sacral; or pelvis/groin area): orange
- third (solar plexus) chakra: yellow
- fourth (heart) chakra: green
- fifth (throat) chakra: blue
- sixth (brow) chakra: indigo
- seventh (crown) chakra: violet
Therapeutic color can be administered in number of ways. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine wrap their patients in colored cloth chosen for its therapeutic hue. Patients suffering from depression may be wrapped in reds and oranges chosen for their uplifting and energizing properties. Patients may also be bathed in light from a color-filtered light source to enhance the healing effects of the treatment.
Another method of color therapy treatment recommended in Ayurvedic medicine is to treat water with color and then drink the water for its purported healing properties. This is achieved by placing translucent colored paper or colored plastic wrap over and around a glass of water and placing the glass in direct sunlight so the water can soak up the healing properties and vibrations of the color.
Color may also be used environmentally to achieve certain calming or healing effects. Paint, wall and window treatments, furniture, and decorative accessories may all be selected in specific color families. Clothing may be chosen in specific colors for its healing properties.
Color therapy can be used in conjunction with both hydrotherapy and aromatherapy to heighten the therapeutic effect. Spas and holistic healthcare providers may recommend color baths or soaks, which combine the benefits of a warm or hot water soak with healing essential oils and the bright hues used in color therapy.
Because color is composed of different light frequencies, certain types of music and sound therapy are sometimes used as a companion to the treatment by holistic healthcare providers. One such method, known as the 49th Vibrational Technique, uses a mathematical formula to translate the inaudible vibrations produced in the color spectrum to their audible counterparts. Red is associated with the musical note G, orange is A, yellow is A#, green is C, blue is D, indigo is D#, and violet is E. By combining both visual colors and their audible frequency counterparts, the therapeutic value of the color frequency is thought to be enhanced.
Before administering any treatment, practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine will perform a thorough examination of and interview with the patient to determine his prakriti, or constitution. In Ayurveda, an individual's prakriti is determined at conception and remains unchanged during his lifetime. Treatment colors will be chosen based on the prakriti and the individual's specific imbalance of doshas, or energies. There are three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—that correspond to a person's temperament and body type. Most are a combination of the three (tridosha) with one predominating.
In some cases, holistic providers may take a photographic image of the patient's aura, or individual energy field, using a special camera that reads electrical impulses from the patient's hands. The camera produces an image of the patient with bands of color(s) around the body. The colors are then analyzed to determine the patient's unique aura energy pattern, and to decide what type of color therapy would be complementary to that aura.
While color therapy may be an effective treatment for promoting relaxation and overall well-being, and as an adjunct, or complementary therapy in treating some disorders and illnesses, individuals with serious chronic or acute health problems should not rely solely on the therapy for treatment. Anyone with a chronic or acute health concern should seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner.
There are no known side effects to common practices of color therapy.
Research & general acceptance
Ayurvedic medicine has been a firmly entrenched practice of medicine in India for thousands of years. However, it is largely regarded as a complementary practice in the United States, although its popularity has grown in recent years as Ayurvedic spas and medical practices have grown in number. The benefits of color therapy have not been researched extensively and it is still considered a fringe therapy by the allopathic medical community.
Training & certification
Individuals practicing as color therapists and/or practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine do not require special certification or licensing.
Klotsche, Charles. Color Medicine: The secrets of color/vibrational healing. Sedona, AZ: Light Technology Publishing.
Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998.
Sandroff, Ronni. "Color Me Healthy." Vegetarian Times (June 1999): 46-48.
"Color Therapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/color-therapy
"Color Therapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/color-therapy
chro·mo·ther·a·py / ˌkrōməˈ[unvoicedth]erəpē/ • n. another term for color therapy.DERIVATIVES: chro·mo·ther·a·pist n.
"chromotherapy." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/chromotherapy
"chromotherapy." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/chromotherapy