The Surprising History of Light Therapy
While light boxes are relatively new on the light therapy scene, light therapy itself has been around in some form or another since ancient times. Read on for the surprising history of light therapy.
Light Therapy Throughout Ancient History
Almost every ancient civilization understood that light plays an important role in healing. The Babylonians and Assyrians, for instance, encouraged sunbathing to aid in the healing process. Heliopolis, a city in ancient Greece, means “City of the Sun.” Its citizens built light rooms inside of healing temples, supplementing these rooms with window coverings of different colors, also believed to promote healing. The first sentence of the Hippocratic oath recognizes Apollo, the god of light, and Hippocrates himself was the first to document the therapeutic nature of sunlight.
Ancient Egyptians, always ahead of their time in all things healing and medicine, recognized the importance of sunlight. One of their most sacred gods was Ra, who embodied the physical sun. Like the citizens of Heliopolis, this ancient civilization built healing temples with special colors of cloth across the windows.
Light Therapy Throughout the 19th Century
As early as 1818, France’s Jean-Etienne Dominique Esquirol recognized that light therapy was beneficial to those suffering from mental health disorders, and used his findings to design hospitals that embraced open spaces and natural light. Around this same time, sunlight was being heralded as part of a cure for tuberculosis and certain skin conditions.
Towards the end of the 19th century, a privately run “sun sanitarium” in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and another founded in 1903 in Leysin, Switzerland, brought heliotherapy to the forefront of healing therapies available at the time.
1980’s Saw the Biggest Strides in Light Therapy
Dr. Norman Rosenthal of Washington was the first to recognize Seasonal Affective Disorder after noticing that he felt depressed from fall until spring. He published his findings in 1984, which led to the development of the first light boxes, or light therapy lamps.
Now that a diagnosis and treatment have been established, light therapy remains the most popular treatment for seasonal mood disorder. These boxes emit light intensities of between 2,500 and 10,000 lux, with 10,000 being the desired intensity for maximum benefit.
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