Color therapy

March 22, 2017


Color therapy

Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Acu-light, acu-light therapy, chromopressure, chromotherapy, color theory, colored filters, colored light therapy, colored overlays, colorpuncture, Dinshah Ghadiali, holographic memory resolution, light-color therapy, Luscher Color Test™, ocular light therapy, Peter Mandel's Esogetic Colorpuncture Therapy (ECT)™, photochromotherapy.

  • Not included in this review: Light therapy (phototherapy or conventional ultraviolet light phototherapy) is used to treat high bilirubin blood levels in infants and skin disorders such as acne or psoriasis. Light therapy is used to treat seasonal affective disorder.


  • Color therapy uses colors for their proposed healing abilities to treat emotional and physical disturbances. Changing the colors of clothes or home or office décor or visualizing different colors may be recommended. Color therapy is based on the idea that different colors evoke different responses in people. For example, some colors are considered to be stimulating, whereas others may be soothing. Some color therapists assert that they can read and alter the colors of people's auras. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, different colors are associated with different chakras, or energy centers.

  • Color, light, or phototherapy using single or mixed colors, sometimes from a laser, may be shined on the whole body or on particular chakras. The Luscher Color Test™ is said to indicate mood and personality. Silks colored with natural dyes, solarized water, color cards, or a light box or lamp with colored filters may be included as part of treatment. In addition, meditation and breathing exercises may be performed during color therapy.

  • Ocular light therapy, which projects light through colored filters and into the eyes, is sometimes used in people with psychological disorders. Colored light therapy, colorpuncture, and chromopressure are newer techniques.

  • Scientific evidence is lacking for color therapy. Although color therapy has been suggested for many conditions, and it has been used in some hospitals, its safety and effectiveness have not been thoroughly studied.


  • In the early 20th Century, Dinshah Ghadiali, MD, PhD, used a system of color therapy to irradiate acupuncture points with colored light. Some early research done in Russia indicates that light may be conducted within the body along the acupuncture meridians.

Scientific Evidence


These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.


High blood pressure

In humans, color therapy has been studied as a possible way to lower blood pressure. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.


Infant development / neonatal care

Studies have tested the use of integrative therapies, including color therapy, during the neonatal period. Additional study is warranted.


Kidney disorders (glomerular nephritis)

Early research found that light-color stimulation improved cardiovascular symptoms in patients with glomerular nephritis, an inflammation of the kidney. More research is needed in this area.


Musculoskeletal pain

There is early research suggesting that color therapy may help relieve hand, elbow, or lower back pain. Further study is needed before a clear conclusion can be drawn.


*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).


The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Academic performance, aggressive behavior, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bronchitis, chronic illness (coping with the monotony of chronic disease hospitals) cognitive enhancement, dyslexia (and other reading disabilities), enhanced athletic performance, epilepsy, fatigue, hyperpigmentation, increased strength, inflammatory dermatoses (a skin condition), insomnia, learning disabilities, lung cancer, metabolic disorders (enzyme stimulation), migraine, muscle relaxation, nerve pain (due to lack of blood flow), neuroprotective, prison reform, seasonal affective disorder, sedation, stress, tension, uterine fibroids, vision problems, well-being.


Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

  • Color therapy appears to be well tolerated in most individuals, although safety has not been thoroughly tested. Exposure to bright light may cause eye injury, such as retinopathy. Strobe lights may cause seizures in susceptible individuals.

  • There is not enough evidence to support the safety of color therapy during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Anderson J. The effect of colour on the severity of migraine symptoms. Brain/Mind Bull 1990;4(15):1.

  2. Barber CF. The use of music and colour theory as a behaviour modifier. Br J Nurs 1999;8(7):443-448. View Abstract

  3. Cocilovo A. Colored light therapy: overview of its history, theory, recent developments and clinical applications combined with acupuncture. Am J Acupunct 1999;27(1-2):71-83. View Abstract

  4. Deppe A. Ocular light therapy: a case study. Aust J Holist Nurs 2000;7(1):41. View Abstract

  5. Ebbesen F, Agati G, Pratesi R. Phototherapy with turquoise versus blue light. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2003 Sep;88(5):F430-1. PMID: 12937051View Abstract

  6. Ebbesen F, Madsen P, Stovring S, et al. Therapeutic effect of turquoise versus blue light with equal irradiance in preterm infants with jaundice. Acta Paediatr. 2007 Jun;96(6):837-41. View Abstract

  7. Evans BJ, Patel R, Wilkins AJ, et al. A review of the management of 323 consecutive patients seen in a specific learning difficulties clinic. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 1999 Nov;19(6):454-66. View Abstract

  8. Jones JE, Kassity N. Varieties of alternative experience: complementary care in the neonatal intensive care unit. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2001 Dec;44(4):750-68. View Abstract

  9. Maher CG. Effective physical treatment of chronic low back pain. Orthop Clin North Am 2004;Jan, 35(1):57-64. View Abstract

  10. Ohara M, Kawashima Y, Kitajima S, et al. Inhibition Of lung metastasis of B16 melanoma cells exposed to blue light in mice. Int J Molecular Medicine 2002;10(6):701-705. View Abstract

  11. West RW, Penisten DK. The effect of color on light-induced seizures: a case report. Optom Vis Sci. 1996 Feb;73(2):109-13. View Abstract

  12. Wileman SM, Eagles JM, Andrew JE, et al. Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder in primary care: randomized controlled trial. Br J Psychiatry. 2001 Apr;178:311-6. View Abstract

  13. Wohlfarth H, Schultz A. The effect of colour psychodynamic environment modification on sound levels in elementary schools. Int J Biosocial Res 2002;(5):12-19.

  14. Wolffsohn JS, Dinardo C, Vingrys AJ. Benefit of coloured lenses for age-related macular degeneration. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2002 Jul;22(4):300-11. View Abstract

  15. Zifkin BG, Inoue Y. Visual reflex seizures induced by complex stimuli. Epilepsia. 2004;45 Suppl 1:27-9. View Abstract

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017