LED Light and Color

LED Light and Color

LED light therapy units will often describe the color in terms of the wavelength of the LEDs. The wavelength is measured in nanometers (nm). The human eye sees wavelengths as colors.

The following chart shows the range of wavelengths (colors) in the visible light spectrum. Visible light ranges from the violets at about 380 nanometers to the deepest reds at about 750 nanometers.

There is also light that is invisible. On the violet end of the spectrum, we have ultraviolet light—less than 380 nanometers. At the red end of the spectrum, we have infrared light—greater than 750 nanometers. In both cases these wavelengths are outside the range of human sight and therefore they are invisible to us.

LEDs, to date, are not being designed for their healing benefits. They are used in the industrial manufacturing industry and have been built for this sector. Researchers have used currently available LEDs for their medical studies. Research protocols must be precise so the reports describe the LEDs in terms of their nanometers. As an example, researchers cannot simply say their research used red LEDs—the LEDs must be described using their exact wavelength in nanometers. For example, 635 nm LEDs, in the red spectrum, are very common and have been used in medical research. When 670 nm LEDs became available, also in the red spectrum, research was done with this wavelength. Both indicated effectiveness for healing.

Unfortunately, some manufacturers use nanometers—a measurement used in research—as a marketing tool to explain why their particular unit is superior. In addition to 635 nm and 670 nm, LED light therapy research has shown that several wavelengths of red, as well as other colors, are effective for healing.
When a particular nanometer is used in research it does not mean it is the only nanometer to have healing benefits.

Keep in mind, we are not aware of any scientific studies that show any one wavelength or color is not effective. The long history of using color for healing tells us that there are therapeutic benefits to all wavelengths of light. In other words, all colors or nanometers have healing benefits. Eventually, scientific research will experiment with more and more wavelengths of color, to catch up with the knowledge amassed through traditional color therapy.

Research on LED Light for Healing

Research using LED light, mostly in the red and near infrared ranges, shows healing effects for severe burns, wounds, hard-to-heal diabetic skin ulcers, and eye injuries. Studies indicate LEDs also relieve pain and are being used to rejuvenate skin and reduce wrinkles.

Wound Healing

Dr. Harry Whelan, as head of the team for the NASA-sponsored LED studies at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in the US, used both Near-Infrared (NIR) and Red LEDs. Whelan and his team report “… this special lighting technology helps hard-to-heal wounds, such as diabetic skin ulcers, serious burns, and severe oral sores caused by chemotherapy and radiation.”

NASA reported the healing of “severe oral sores caused by chemotherapy and radiation” in a study with children: “A nurse practitioner places the box of LEDs on the outside of the patient’s cheek about one minute each day. The red light penetrates to the inside of the mouth, where it seems to promote wound healing and prevent further sores in the patient’s mouth.”

One of the oncologists supervising the study said, “Some children who probably would have had to be fed intravenously because of the severe sores in their mouths have been able to eat solid food.”

Several studies are proving LED light therapy to have powerful healing effects for healing wounds.
A laboratory study on wound healing carried out at the University of Ghent in Belgium, exposed cells to three colors—NIR, red and green—using either low level lasers or LEDs. While all three colors were effective to boost the cells ability to heal, they found green increased wound healing the most.

NASA also funded lab research that provides evidence for the amazing ability of LED light therapy to heal. When exposed to NIR LED light, skin and muscle cultures, grew 150 to 200 percent faster than the cultures that were not stimulated by the light. The growth of the cells explains why LEDs speed the healing of wounds and sores.

A study applying LEDs to Navy personnel who experienced muscle and joint injuries during training confirmed the good news. The doctors reported healing improved by 40 percent when LED light was applied.5

 Dr. Harry Whelan

Reversing Blindness and Promise for Eye Injuries

Research by Dr. Whelan’s team indicates the amazing potential for LED light therapy to alleviate suffering for both humans and animals with difficult-to-treat eye problems. After injecting methanol (known to cause blindness) in rats, only three brief treatments were sufficient to reverse the damage. The research also highlights the potential for LED treatment to stimulate the repair of nerves that are known to be notoriously hard to heal.

Here’s a description of the research and why the LEDs were effective:

… Whelan blinded rats by giving them high doses of methanol, or wood alcohol. This is converted by the body into formic acid, a toxic chemical that inhibits the activity of mitochondria. Within hours, the rats’ energy-hungry retinal cells and optic nerves began to die, and the animals went completely blind within one to two days.

But if the rats were treated with LED light with a wavelength of 670 nanometers for 105 seconds at 5, 25, and 50 hours after being dosed with methanol, they recovered 95 per cent of their sight. Remarkably, the retinas of these rats looked indistinguishable from those of normal rats. “There was some tissue regeneration, and neurons, axons and dendrites may also be reconnecting,” says Whelan.

These findings have profound implications in the use of LED light treatment, called photobiomodulation, for a non-invasive way to treat retinal diseases and injury and prevent blindness.

Dr. Harry Whelan summed it up:

The results of this study and others suggest that photobiomodulation with red to near-IR light augments recovery pathways promoting neuronal viability and restoring neuronal function after injury. Importantly, there was no evidence of damage to the normal retina after 670-nm LED treatment. Based on these findings, we suggest that photobiomodulation may represent an innovative and novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of retinal injury and the treatment of retinal diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy.

(Please note we do not support research on animals unless the animals are already suffering and they can be helped with the application of a therapy.)

The short treatment times reported in the NASA-funded medical research brings up the subject of the intensity of the light.