It is important to mention before we trace the birth of light therapy that even before any scientific evidence surfaced people had a firm belief in the healing abilities of the sun. The 10th century Chinese medical literature and Buddhist writings from 200 CE show exposure to sunlight as one of the main methods to treat many diseases in addition to herbs and plants. Similarly, Indian medical literature dated back to the 1500 BCE shows evidence of people taking help from the sun's light to treat non pigmented parts of skin. This happened before people knew sun was source of vitamin D or that ultraviolet light from it could possibly cause cancer and before any scientific research was conducted on the possibility of light helping the human body to heal.
The first-time science identified the therapeutic effects of light
In the late twentieth century Neil Ryberg Finsen, a Danish scientist showed the world through his research work that certain wavelengths of light could stimulate the immune response of the body and help cure tuberculosis. He was also the one to create the first artificial light source. The use of light therapy spread like wildfire in the UK. Factories in America and UK starting producing artificial light sources called sun lamps. But even at this time there was not much scientific backing for light therapy being effective for specific diseases it was being used for. Some more research and people became aware of the fact that light therapy was not as advantageous for every disease they thought it was. And with this discovery its use became limited.
The birth of light therapy
After approximately 80 years the most valued aspect of light therapy, which, to this day, is in practice was discovered. Norman Rosenthal, a South African doctor was able to prove that seasonal affective disorder could be treated with artificial light. This discovery is widely known as the time when light therapy was born.
Finally in 2005 light therapy was recognized as first order treatment by American Psychiatry Association for seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression. It was here that light therapy gained firm ground in the world of medicine.
Advancements that followed
Pigment cell discovery in 2002 and light's effect on the biological clock caused an increase in the application of light therapy. Every year new researches are proving the positive effects of light therapy on different diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, brain injuries, easing withdrawal symptoms etc. Light therapy has been proved to cure or ease symptoms of psychological disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), non-seasonal depression, circadian rhythm sleep disorders and jet lag, sleep disorder in Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, acne vulgaris, psoriasis, vitiligo and skin cancer are also being treated using light therapy. Today light therapy can be easily carried out at home after consultation with your doctor and it has no side effects that could be severely damaging. Home light devices using LED are FDA approved and are safe and painless.