red light therapy history

Red light therapy has exploded in popularity in recent years. But did you know it’s based on centuries of documented light-based healing practices? Let’s trace the intriguing timeline of red light therapy’s origins and continual evolution.

Ancient Cultures Harness Healing Light

Humans have recognized the power of different colors of light for health and healing since ancient times:

  • Ancient Egyptians and Greeks built solariums to concentrate the Sun’s rays for health.
  • The Indian Vedas texts from 1500 BC describe using sunlight to “cure all kinds of diseases”.
  • Chinese medical practice has used the therapeutic benefits of red light for over 3,000 years.
  • Hippocrates around 400 BC described how different colored light affects the mind and body.

While these ancient healers didn’t understand photons or cells, they intuitively recognized light’s ability to energize, strengthen, and heal the body.

Light Research Begins

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the therapeutic effects of light began to be seriously researched:

  • In 1877, Arthur Downes and Thomas Blunt discovered ultraviolet light kills bacteria, founding modern phototherapy.
  • In 1903, Danish physician Niels Finsen won a Nobel Prize for demonstrating UV light therapy treating skin tuberculosis.
  • In 1933, scientist Otto Warburg discovered that visible red light boosts cellular respiration and oxygenation.
  • In 1955, Eastern European surgeon Endre Mester observed accelerated wound healing and hair regrowth in mice exposed to a low-powered ruby laser.

While different wavelengths were being studied, these pioneers showed light could powerfully influence human biology.

NASA Accelerates Research

The space race of the 1960s and ’70s prompted major advances in photobiology from NASA research:

  • NASA developed LED technology in the 1960s and found red LED light promotes plant growth and wound healing.
  • In 1967 during the Cold War, Hungarian scientist Endre Mester coined the term “laser biostimulation”, building on his 1950s research using lasers for photobiomodulation.
  • To counter bone and muscle loss in space, NASA researched using near-infrared LED light to stimulate cell growth and regeneration.
  • NASA’s research found red light effectively speeds recovery and human growth factors that protect astronauts’ health.

NASA’s need to solve the problems of space travel ultimately revealed the mechanisms and possibilities of red light therapy for human healing and performance.

FDA Approves Laser Hair Loss Devices

In 1967, researcher Mester began using low-level lasers for hair regrowth in patients with alopecia. This paved the way for FDA approval of the first low-level laser hair growth devices:

  • In 1967, Mester patented the first cold-beam laser to stimulate hair follicles.
  • In 1993, the “LaserComb” became the first FDA-approved at-home low-level laser hair growth device.
  • In 2006, the “Hairover” red light helmet became the first FDA-approved red light hair growth system.
  • In 2007, the “LaserCap” received FDA clearance for treating male and female hair loss.

While not fully understood, the therapeutic effects of red light on hair follicles were undeniable.

Red Light Therapy Going Mainstream

Wider recognition and adoption of red light therapy has grown exponentially in recent years:

  • In 2010, NASA issued a press release on light-emitting diodes for wound healing touting the technology they spearheaded in the 1990s.
  • Red light therapy beds gained popularity at high-end spas and gyms for health, anti-aging, and aesthetic benefits.
  • LED red light devices became more economical, allowing affordable at-home use.
  • Wellness influencers and biohackers spread awareness of red light benefits through social media.
  • Thousands of studies substantiate red light for wound healing, pain, immunity, skin, and much more.

With both proven benefits and new applications emerging, red light therapy is now mainstream.

The Future Outlook

Red light therapy has come a long way from ancient bathing in sunlight. Ongoing advances include:

  • More affordable, accessible red light devices allow home use.
  • Enhanced LED technology delivering optimized wavelengths.
  • Creative new form factors like red light implants and ingestible capsules.
  • Discoveries of new treatment protocols and clinical applications.
  • Greater research into combining red light with other therapies for amplified effects.
  • Increased investment and regulatory acceptance generate exponential growth.

The future is incredibly bright for harnessing red light’s incredible power to heal, energize, and optimize our lives.

Red Light Therapy Timeline Summary

For thousands of years, humans have recognized light’s ability to heal. But only recently have we clarified the science and mechanisms behind red light therapy.

Critical milestones in the evolution of this revolutionary therapy include:

  • Ancient cultures promoted bathing in sunlight
  • Studies confirm that UV light kills bacteria
  • NASA research unlocks LED light benefits for astronauts
  • FDA approves laser devices for hair regrowth
  • Affordable at-home red light therapy makes it mainstream

With a proven track record and mounting research validating its diverse benefits, red light therapy is poised to transform medicine and wellness in the 21st century. There are no limits to harnessing light for better health and living life to the fullest!

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