We all know sunlight is good for us, because it helps produce vitamin D in the most natural form. Many cultures knew the benefits of light therapy dating as far back as the time of the Ancient Greeks, who knew about its many health benefits and had their own practices that involved light therapy.
How did the science behind light therapy begin?
In 1893, a man named, Niels Finsen published a paper about the effects of light on skin. He studied effects of natural sunlight and artificial lights on insects and amphibians. He was convinced there was a health benefit to light.
Finsen later discovered that certain wavelengths of light can generate healing properties and was eventually able to demonstrate its effects on a skin condition called lupus vulgaris, which were very painful lesions that typically appeared on the neck and face. In 1895, Finsen was able to treat patients with ultraviolet light every day for at least 2 hours a day. To treat these patients, he used a lens and filter system to pass short wavelengths of light through the skin, which he thought killed the bacteria.
In 1895, Finsen founded the Finsen Institute for Phototherapy in Copenhagen, which was dedicated to studying the effects of light or phototherapy on health conditions. There were at least 800 lupus vulgaris patients treated at the Institute. Of those patients, there were at least half who were cured.
How NASA discovered the benefits of phototherapy
Just 40 years ago, NASA used red light to stimulate plant growth and cell repair. This technique was is to heal injuries astronauts had in space. This added bit of knowledge helped scientists advance their experiments, which now include the treatment of many skin conditions with the use of artificial colors of light. Later, this led to the discovery that wrinkles and other signs of aging can be diminished with the help of light therapy.