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.
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
- 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.