Chromotherapy is a complementary medicine that uses the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum which consists of colours (wavelengths) as a method of treatment to cure diseases. Modern therapists that specialize in chromotherapy claim that different coloured lights are used to compensate the lack of energy on levels such as physical, emotional, spiritual or mental in a person’s body. Since white light is comprised of a continuum of different colours, working with white light brings about completeness.

The positions of the colours in the body.
The positions of the colours in the body.

History of Chromotherapy

Chromotherapy is a centuries-old concept that has been practiced since 2000 BC (Coclivo, 1999). According to ancient Egyptian mythology, the god Thoth discovered the concept of chromotherapy and the use of coloured objects such as minerals, crystals and stones were used by the ancient Egyptians as remedies (Graham, 1998). The physical nature of colour was dominant in ancient Greece and colour treatment existed in two different forms: indirect healing and direct exposure to sunlight. Materials such as stones, ointments and dyes were used as a medium in the indirect method. Although water was not used for the absorption of colour, it was later scientifically proven to work best as a medium for removing toxins from the body (Hassan, 2000).

At the time of 980 AD, Avicenna began to develop the works of colour healing and stated that colour was important in both diagnosis and treatment. He created a chart that included the association of each colour with each physical body condition. Avicenna was also the first to state that an incorrect colour being used for a body condition will have no effect on the specific disease. This understanding was widely used at the time although today, there is still no evidence for the relationship between vibrational energy values and colours (Azeemi & Raza, 2005).

During the Age of Enlightenment, anything associated with alchemy and magic were detached from science and thus, more attention was brought to the biological and physical matters of the body with the use of the scientific method. Since there were more advances in medicine and success rates were high in treating diseases compared to chromotherapy, interest in chromotherapy declined. People started to turn to medicine as it was seen to be more reliable and less people started to believe in the practice of chromotherapy but still, strong advocates of chromotherapy support the theory that it restores the balance in the body, spirit and mind.

Methods and theories behind Chromotherapy

The doctrine of chromotherapy states that the human body is composed of colours. Chromotherapy suggests that colour is responsible for stimulating the body and correcting the functions in different parts and systems of the body (Hassan, 2000). The theory behind chromotherapy lies in the fact that all matter which includes cells, organs, tissues and atoms is composed of energy. Since each different form of matter has different characteristics such as vibrational energy, they an also harmonize with a frequency of a colour. In the presence of a disease, it is assumed that the cause of the disease is due to deviations from the expected normal vibrations in the body. A fundamental principle in the practice of chromotherapy is that life is colour and darkness is death. It is believed that diseases happen when there is an imbalance in your body and colours can be used to compensate for the imbalance and eliminate the disease.

The electromagnetic energy spectrum consists of colours (wavelengths) that are observable in the visible region. Each different colour has its own wavelength and frequency. The generation of electrical impulses or vibrational energy affects the body by activating both the biochemical and hormonal processes by either stimulating or suppressing to reach a state of balance in the system and organ. Chromotherapy is used to selectively apply a unique colour and a light source to the diseased organ or system to heal the body.

Different colours and its associations
Different colours and its associations

Is Chromotherapy based on science?

Since chromotherapy is an ancient practice, there was a lack of advanced technology and this prevented the growth of scientific knowledge. This suggests that people had blind faith of the healing properties of colours. They used only primary colours as they were unaware about deriving different colours by mixing them. The scientific use of colours as medicine and how it affects them biologically was certainly not known (Azeemi & Raza, 2005).

Modern day practice of chromotherapy claims that colours provide vibrational energy to the field around the body which subsequently is transferred to physical parts of the body. Jacob produced a detailed study of colour healing with the exposure of patients to sunlight through colour filters (Peterson, 2001). His work suggested that hormones change as a result of being exposed to sunlight. He stated that light is responsible for awakening the body and the brain and that it triggers the workings of the hypothalamus which helps keep homeostasis. He also notes that the pineal gland is responsible for our feeling of belonging to the universe. He defines the pineal to be the ``light meter” that accepts information from the heavens so that one is able to feel their inner being belonging to the environment (Peterson, 2001). His subjective statements in his works such as mentioning an individual’s sense of oneness with the universe cannot be measured quantifiable or used in the scientific method.

Although there have been instances where people have claimed that colour healing works, scientists today still have not explored the relationship between the electromagnetic energy around the body and chromotherapy. These vibrational energies are not completely defined in the medical field. It is difficult to verify colour healing since it is almost impossible to rule out psychological factors which play a massive role in the practice. In statistics, it has been criticized for selection bias for the success it has as treatment. Since the scientific method used all the time in medicine and has failed to be used in chromotherapy, chromotherapy is not been scientifically provable. This is why chromotherapy is classified as ‘complementary medicine’ or ‘alternative medicine’ as it lacks any scientific evidence.

Why is Chromotherapy a pseudoscience?

Principle of parisomony

The principle of parisomy states that the simplest answer should be selected as it makes the fewest assumptions (Bortolotti, 2008). In science, the principle of parisomy is often used as a broad application for scientists to develop theoretical models and the history of science shows that this principle is involved in many successful theories. It also played an important role in the formulation of special relativity by Albert Einstein as he states that everything should be made as simple as possible. In general, this principle is often used in logic and problem-solving in many different fields including science and mathematics but it can also be misused as well. Lee (2002) acknowledges instances where a parsimonious approach does not lead to an accurate conclusion. This is true for chromotherapy where the simplest solution may not be the best solution. To accept chromotherapy simply because of an observed instance where colour is able to heal an injury or treat a disease is illogical as there are far more complexities involved and issues to be solved. The parisomonous approach is only used as desperation in searching for answers because of the lack of scientific evidence to further explain the theory.

Logical Positivism: Verifiability

The verifiability principle states that a theory or hypothesis is scientific only if it is verifiable (Bortolotti, 2008). Thus, the criteria of verifiability must also be met to be considered a science. Edwin Babbit’s theory of healing colour identifies red as a stimulant and prescribes it for paralysis and physical exhaustion. He also states that rays are able to influence the entire blood stream through circulation (Azeemi & Raza, 2005). Since chromotherapy focuses on the way colour is able to heal injuries and diseases and there has been recorded instances where individuals claim that this has worked but the question is, how is one to know that it is strictly the colour that is treating the disease and not several other factors such as emotions? The issues and complexities nvolved in verifying whether it is raining or not outside is far less than determining whether colour is able to repair muscle functions.This makes chromotherapy hardly verifiable due to the uncertainty in whether it is colour itself that makes an impact on diseases.

Popper's criteria

Popper stated that it is not difficult to obtain confirmation for every theory if we search for confirmations (Bortolotti, 2008). It has been suggested that statistically, there is selection bias for cases where colour therapy has worked. This indicates that instances where the theory of colour healing has been observed and confirmed are not of value due to the fact that it lacks a neutral point of view since it tends to lean to one side. Cognitive bias involves the human tendency to make decisions based on cognitive factors rather than evidence by definition and thus, plays a large role in the confirmation of colour healing.

According to Popper, testability is falsifiability and since it is almost impossible to genuinely test how colour can affect bodily functions (Bortolotti, 2008). One of the main reasons for this is due to the numerous other components that influence colour healing which makes it difficult to disprove the theory. Although many may argue that natural systems should be viewed as whole in the idea holism, it is more plausible to look at the theory of colour healing strictly on its claim of colour having healing abilities. How would one know if it is just colour alone that is affecting the bodily functions and not mental and psychological components? It is extremely difficult to control these types of variables and to strictly isolate colour and the biological systems of the body without other influences which makes chromotherapy hardly testable. Even if the theory is not testable, there are still certain individuals who believe in the practice of colour healing due to the addition of auxiliary assumptions such as the colour not being radiant enough or there was insufficient lighting. This is in accordance to other Popper’s criteria where he states that when testable theories are found to be false, they are still upheld by their admirers. This also makes it almost very difficult to eliminate the practice of chromotherapy.

Another thing to put into consideration is the communication and agreement between the therapists that practice colour healing. Chromotherapists of the past have put emphasis on certain things and left other unattended and others have placed emphasis on different methods of chromotherapy (Azeemi & Raza, 2005). The lack of consistency in the practice of colour healing makes it hard to compare and explain the success in their works. According to Popper, confirming evidence should not be accepted except when it is the result of a genuine test of a theory (Popper, 1963). How is one to know whether the therapy that one has used is a genuine if there is inconsistency in the way they practice? This may explain for the instances where chromotherapy has been successful in some practices and unsuccessful in others. One cannot reach a logically certain conclusion when there is a lack of consistency and communication between practitioners. Successful scientific theories use the scientific method and have reproducible, consistent and testable properties which chromotherapy lacks.

Thagard's criteria

Avicenna (AD 980) who advanced the practice of healing using chromotherapy stated that colours can be used to observe diseases. He developed a colour chart that relates to different conditions of the body which viewed red as an activator to move the blood and yellow as a muscular pain reducer (Azeemi & Raza, 2005). At the time, the discovery of wavelengths and frequencies as properties of colours was not known and science was not used to understand the art of chromotherapy. But according to Thagard (1978), the lack of physical foundation does not mean that a theory is not scientific. For an example, there is a correlation between cancer and negative mood statistically but there is still scientific evidence missing to explain how the two variables are associated. Thus, other criteria must be met to classify chromotherapy as a pseudoscience.

Thagard (1978) proposed a set of principles of demarcation which states that a theory is pseudoscientific if there has been little progress and change than alternative theories over a long period of time and has many problems that have been unresolved. Pleasanton (1876) stated that blue was the first remedy for burns and injuries and cured certain diseases by exposing animals to blue light. Although there is confirmation that colour healing work, it lacked scientific evidence which creates a missing link between his work and the science behind colour healing. Even though there are missing links seen in many scientific discoveries and theories, there are constantly studies being done to fill in the missing links. In evolution, there were people that were confused about the transition from dinosaurs to birds. Many thought that dinosaurs were the ancestral group leading to birds but there was no proof of this and this was known to be the missing link. The discovery of Archaeopteryx which has characteristics of bird-like feathers was determined to be the transition between dinosaurs and birds and this in turn filled in the missing link (Freeman & Herron, 2009). The existence of a massive gap between the claims for chromotherapy and the explanation for the mechanisms has not changed for a long period of time which results to many unexplained problems.The numerous unsolved problems and lack of progression marks chromotherapy as being unscientific according to Thagard.

It is also important to note that there are multiple other psychological factors that influence bodily functions which also have theories of their own and are advancing at a much faster rate than the theory of colour healing. Recent studies have shown that cognitive processes and mood influence physiological functions in the body (Poole, Matheson & Cox, 2001). Many psychologists are putting in effort to explain the processes that occur in the human brain and how it relates to behaviour. The comparison between the number of advancements in psychology and chromotherapy is incredibly massive. There have been minimal efforts to develop a more advanced theory toward proposed problems for chromotherapy and even scientists today have not yet bothered to explore the relationship between the electromagnetic energy and chromotherapy. Hassan (2000) investigated on a study on colour healing that included electromagnetic transfer of colour properties. Although this was the first time in history of colour healing that this type of work had been done, Hassan did not further investigate the mechanism involved. This is in accordance with other criteria of Thagard’s criteria for scientificity which states that the community of practitioners place minimum efforts to develop theories to the solutions of the problems.

Thagard also indicated that it is possible for a theory to be perceived as something that is not pseudoscience in the past and later be marked as pseudoscience. Chromotherapy could be indeed labeled as a plausible theory in the past as there was a lack of alternative theories and thus, the colour of healing was not vulnerable to such threats such as science and psychological explanations. In 2000 BC, although people had faith in healing with colours, at the time there was no controversies found as to whether or not chromotherapy should be classified as pseudoscience because of the lack of advancements in science and there wasn’t anything to disconfirm it. Similarly, the Flat Earth model which states that the Earth was flat was a huge misconception and was held by many ancient cultures until Columbus’ voyages refuted that belief.

Kuhn's view on science

In addition to all the objections that mark chromotherapy as a pseudoscience, Kuhn’s perspective of demarcation states that in the presence of puzzle-solving activity it should be classified as a science (Kuhn, 1974). For an example, if the prediction of an astronomer failed, measurements with adjustments to the theory can be made by way of a puzzle-solving activity whereas there are no such puzzles in astrology. This is also in accordance to chromotherapy because failures to colour healing cannot be further investigated to make adjustments to the theory. If the colour red was unable to stimulate blood flow as stated in the principle of colour healing, it would be difficult to try to solve or improve on the theory without any scientific calculations or proofs to begin with. There is a lack of foundation for the act of puzzle-solving to take place which makes chromotherapy a pseudoscience.

The dangers associated with using Chromotherapy

Previous studies have shown that colours influence a person’s mood and there are colours that have universal meanings. For an example, shades of red tend to produce feelings of comfort and are classified as warm colours whereas shades of blue brings upon calm feelings and can also stimulate the feeling of being sad . It is also important to take into an account that these colours only impact a person’s mood temporally as the feelings produced by the colour will slowly fade away after one has adjusted to the environment (Cherry, 2010). To seek chromotherapy solely as a method to treat diseases and injuries is dangerous as it lacks scientific proof and consistency in its successes which makes it unreliable and impractical. If colour healing is used as a complementary medicine which is what it is labeled today, it will not harm anyone as it only plays an additional role to medicine.


Chromotherapy has been a centuries-old concept and claims that colours of the electromagnetic spectrum are able to treat diseases. Although there have been instances where individuals have reported that colour healing does indeed work, as Popper indicated, confirming a theory is easy if one seeks for confirmation. It has been suggested that confirmation and cognitive bias is an explanation for colour healing. Even though chromotherapy could have been classified as a plausible theory in the past, today it is known to be a pseudoscience as there are very little progress in the theories for colour healing and there are far more alternative theories that can explain such phenomenon that deal with psychology. The lack of advancements and concern over colour healing compared to other theories explains why chromotherapy is a pseudoscience. Although there have been several claims made by chromotherapists, they fail to do further studies to solve the problems that have arisen. In conclusion, chromotherapy meets many complex criterions that classify it as a pseudoscience.


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Misuse of the parisomy principle