Overview of Light Therapy

Aggiornato il: 5 lug 2019



Since the beginning of my Light experiments, I have always kept very close to the therapeutic theme.

There is an interesting overview about the development of Light Therapy in Anadi Martel’s book "Light Therapies" – more then 30 years of research into the therapeutic properties of light.


He argues that from the 1860 to 1938 there was a time he calls “the golden age of light therapy" where Light was used to help people's wellbeing.

After the invention of antibiotic and penicillin in the market, the theme of light in a therapeutic approach has been obscured.


From 1938 Light Therapy was totally disrupted as lobby, big pharmaceutic corporations was rising an holistic approach like Lighting curative for body and mind was wiped away.

Thanks to pharmaceutical medicine lots of illnesses have been eliminated, quickly and painlessly and much research is in place at the moment to improve wellbeing of people.


Nevertheless, Martel, in his book writes a paragraph about the crisis of holistic disciplines:

"In the United States, the magnates of the new industrial pharmaceutical companies that were cropping up financed the publication of the Flexner Report in 1910. The aim of the report was to discredit all therapeutic approaches its publishers considered unscientific, including naturopathy and homeopathy and, by extension, light therapy."


Other examples of extreme disruption was reported in the book.

“Light as a curative source had been sheltered for approximately 50 years when in the 1980 a new age of Lighting as a therapeutic tool restarted. “


John Ott, a photo-researcher who studied the ways in which light can, in the proper spectral balance, enhance the health of plants, animals, and even humans.



John Ott, a renowned proponent of full-spectrum lighting, and researcher of Light therapy, in his book Light and Heath, postulates that most people living in modern society spend much more time indoors behind walls and glass in artificial light, than outdoors in daylight.

This, combined with the fact that the artificial sources of illumination created by our endeavours to improve and innovate indoor lighting have lead to many light sources that distorted the visible light spectrum of natural sunlight, to the extent that they have an almost absence of ultraviolet. ( p. 156 Light and Health).


Ott argues that that depriving humans of ultraviolet light could be detrimental to our health.

To combat this problem, John Ott founded OttLite lighting, an artificial full spectrum lighting which is formulated to provide the full range of light wavelengths with a precise balance of contrast and brightness, with elimination of the harsh glare, distortion and fatigue other light sources could cause. (https://www.ottlite.com/Get-Inspired/Ottlite-Blog/Article/146/Full-Spectrum-Lamp)

Another researcher, Michael Terman, an American psychologist examined the use of bright light to fight SAD, Seasonal Effective Disorder.


There have been some important discoveries during the time as a support of Light Therapy discipline as shown in the book of Martel:


"-In 1995, biologist Tiina Karu, head of the Laboratory of Laser Biology and Medicine of the Russian Academy of Sciences, published her discovery of the main component in enzyme. Her undeniable evidence for the existence


-"In 2002, Samer Hattar et al. announced in the journal Science their discovery of a new type of photosensitive cell in the retina, until then unknown, revealing the missing link that explains the influence of light on our hormonal system."


Since 1991, when Dr Russell Foster of Oxford University led the team that discovered photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in the eye, which are key to controlling our circadian rhythm, a cultural movement of redefinining the quality of lighting and the usage of it is assuming more importance in lighting design – human-centric lighting.


This awakening to the power of lighting can be compared to the time of the Renaissance when mankind was considered to be at the centre of the universe, limitless in his capacities for development. The theory of human-centric lighting argues that mankind’s needs must be considered at the centre pivot of the environment and not the other way around.


Jon Estell, UK head of design at Spectral Lighting in an interview says: “The human aspect of the term is the most important. Lighting (particularly artificial lighting) is, or should be, about humans and how we operate in a space”. (Human Centric Lighting at the Leadenhall Building – Spectral)

An important progress to humans on the specific quality of illuminating a space, (related with the human centric lighting) is the development of the LED coloured temperature change, with the capacity to dim and tune the light colour temperature in relations with our activities and cycles.

The European Lighting Industry have said that “in the coming decade, the development of new lighting systems will enable the properties of natural lighting to increase the quality of life in many daily situations. This will be the case in education, in leisure time, in healthcare, in elderly homes or in business.”


Lighting Europe – Strategic Roadmap 2025 of the European Lighting Industry

Available at: https://www.lightingeurope.org/images/160404-LightingEurope_Roadmap---final-version.pdf


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