Combat Depression and Anxiety with Red and Near-Infrared Light Therapy

Combat Depression and Anxiety with Red and Near-Infrared Light Therapy

We know that bright light therapy and lightboxes have shown great promise in treating seasonal affective disorder and depression. What about red light and near-infrared light therapy?

Although large randomized studies on using humans are still needed (two major studies are currently in progress), early research regarding the use of red and near-infrared light therapy for treating depression and anxiety disorders is very promising.

In a recent review of all existing studies on red and near-infrared light therapy and depression/anxiety disorders, researchers found that these light therapies offer a “promising treatment” for major depressive disorder, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and traumatic brain injury.

Several studies have indicated that people with depression have abnormal blood flow in the frontal cortex of the brain. Since red/NIR light improves blood flow and circulation to the brain, it is reasonable to believe that could be part of the mechanism at play.

A 2009 study took 10 patients with a history of major depression and anxiety (including PTSD and drug abuse) and gave them four weeks of treatments to the forehead with red/NIR light. Remarkably, by the end of the four-week study, 6 out of 10 patients experienced a remission of their depression, and 7 out of 10 patients experienced a remission of their anxiety.”

Though further research is needed, there have been 10 studies so far on the use of red and near-infrared light therapy to treat depression and anxiety-related disorders with 9 of 10 studies yielding very positive results.

Researcher Julio Rojas, MD, PhD has stated: “The data supports that LLLT to the head constitutes a promising neurotherapeutic tool to modulate behaviour in a non-invasive manner.”