How does colour affect our lives? Chapter five: colour therapy & alternative therapies

A popular misconception about colour is that it is only received through the eyes and processed by the brain. This is not entirely the case. Although this is true it can also be absorbed through the body and used in a number of ways. Scientifically, it is the principal cue to composition and affects us both physiologically and psychologically. It can be used to help aid and heal the sick, diseased and distressed. We have the Egyptians to thank for colour. They were the first to use it in this manner. They would build temples for Colour Healing of which they believed heavily in. The sick would enter into the temple to absorb the colour and be “revitalised and renewed”. This was the start of Colour Therapy.


The sun’s rays are the start of the healing process; they pass through the spectrum, giving colour that can be concentrated to produce healing methods for various injuries and illnesses. Certain colours carry with them certain qualities, for many purposes. For example, yellow can be used to aid digestion and is commonly used to decorate kitchens and eating areas. It is a principal colour for the stomach. These colours are also associated with the chakras.

Seven colours relate to the body in different areas, which are called energy centres of the body. These colours are Purple/Violet, which relates to the crown or brain and relates to our spiritual awareness. Indigo relates to the brow or the ‘third eye’, which is in the centre of the forehead. Examples of organs that are affected by this are the sinuses and the endocrine gland. Blue relates to the throat, whilst green relates to the heart. Yellow, the solar plexus, which is the stomach, as described above and Orange is the Sacral chakra or the abdomen. Red is the final chakra and relates to the base of the spine.

Colour is just light of different wavelengths. We are surrounded by electromagnetic waves of energy of which colour is a small part. All the electromagnetic rays are invisible to the human eye. The seven rainbow colours that we have already discussed in an earlier chapter (based upon the musical scale) are formulated from wavelengths and frequency. Violet or Purple has the shortest wavelength yet the highest frequency and is placed at the top. This runs down a pyramid until we reach Red at the bottom with the longest wavelength but the lowest frequency. Green is placed in the middle and is the balance between the cool colours and the warm colours.

Wassily Kandinsky. Improvisation Sinflut. Oil on canvas. 1913

As we have discussed earlier, the colours we perceive are with sensors in the retina known as rods and cones. If we lose this ability to perceive colour through the eye then the body has shown that it can adapt and perceive light through the skin. This does not happen instantly but in history it is shown that over time light hitting the skin can be carried through the nerve fibres and the various cells into the rods and cones of the skin. These sensors can then differentiate like the sensors in the eyes and tell the brain what colour is being projected onto the body. This is called Chromesthesia.

In northern climates, winter often brings ‘the blues’. A simple and proven remedy is the use of a powerful light. Seasonal Affective Disorder is readily cured by sitting in front of a bright light (10,000 lux) for about half an hour morning and evening. The effect is brought about by regulation of the pineal gland in the brain, which modulates the production of melatonin and serotonin – the molecules responsible for sleeping and waking. Until the 1960’s babies born prematurely suffered a life-threatening condition of jaundice, which may have necessitated a blood transfusion. Nowadays, all that is required is exposure to light. This works because the chemical breakdown of bilirubin by full spectrum or blue light affects the body in such a manner that jaundice is overcome.

Chapter 5.2 (Text from a lecturer from Reading University).

“I do sometimes talk about colour theory, yes… The CIE standard is a good place to start in the 20th Century (drawn up in France in the 1920’s I think – Comite International d’Eclairage). Otherwise people like Newton & Herschel. I have a good Acrobat PDF on it I could email you.” When speaking to this lecturer he was giving me information about the various things that he has learnt and taught about colour therapy whilst he has been lecturing. “Colour Therapy? Police cells have been painted pink because of its calming effect. I think it was Kandinsky that wrote something about the particular emotional resonance’s of different colours – which he put into good practice in his pictures.”

Wassily Kandinsky. Komposition 8. Oil on canvas. 1923

“Do you know anything about chromesthesia? People who hear music and perceive colours in response to particular qualities of sound – it’s a proven phenomenon and fascinating.”

Synesthesia (as in anaesthesia) is a concomitant sensation. It is a subjective sensation or image of a sense (as of colour) other than the one (as of sound) stimulated. Chromesthesia is a form of synesthesia in which non-visual stimulation results in the experience of color sensations.

“You might find the business of auras and chakras interesting. You know – a colour spectrum from red to purple/indigo is visualised as being distributed in a vertical column up the body – with Imperial Purple in the head? I met someone who claims to be able to “adjust” people’s auras by visualising imbalance in this distribution… (Slightly weird or what?)”

I have referred to the use of chakras earlier in this article. It is an interesting idea using colour to manipulate somebody’s feelings.

“Colour Therapy. Well perhaps you should look on the Spiritualist Natural Unions website for links to other organisations. I can tell you that certain colours can affect the way that you feel. If you are feeling in need of a bit of energy one day, wear a bit of red, does not matter where that red is, it could be a pair of socks, pair of boxers, the red colour will give you energy. If you are in need of healing, for me wear blue, and again that can be anywhere. Do you know anything about the sharcra the openings that are in the body for energy points, because each of these chakras has a colour associated with them?”

“There are five of them they roughly correspond with the following points of the body. Crown chakra, colour purple or white, and if for divine inspiration third eye, in the centre of your forehead, and this one can be coloured purple. Heart chakra, where the heart is and is coloured green, not red as would normally expect. Solar plexus these are normally coloured yellow and are roughly where your stomach is. Ever had the gut feeling that something is going to happen, or not going to happen, well this is the solar plexus acting. This is the major chakra in the body genital chakra, this is normally coloured red and is at the base of the spine and covers the reproductive area. Hope this gives you some idea of what the chakra are and where to find them, can find out more in Indian books on Spiritualism healing, crystals etc. from the library, also if you see a guy who is into reiki healing that uses the chakras for healing I believe so ask them they may be able to help you.”

I have tried to show, as many different aspects of colour healing as possible and that I felt were relevant. Obviously there are far to many variations on spiritual healing to go into, and they are not all relevant to how colour can affect our lives. Most of us will never have our auras adjusted or bump into a man that deals in Reiki healing. However I felt that all this information was useful and opens up suggestions that colour theories are being produced further than the original ideas founded by Newton and many theorists such as Itten and Albers.

Colour is a property of light – not an object itself. Objects have no colour of their own, but merely the ability to reflect a certain section of the visible spectrum. Objects reflect what we perceive and absorb what we don’t.

01 Introduction
02 Chapter one: theories of colour
03 Chapter two: colour in art
04 Chapter three: subtractive & additive colour systems
05 Chapter four: science in colour
06 Chapter five: colour therapy & alternative therapies
07 Conclusion


Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.

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