It doesn’t look like much -- Janet Althen places what looks like a small flashlight with an inverted colored bulb on certain points of the body, holding it there for about 30 seconds -- but for Althen’s patients, as well as a growing number of people around the world who are receiving the alternative treatment, light therapy has healing power.
“There’s like an awakening when Janet uses the light,” said Dana Echols, 44, who has been a patient of Althen’s for four years and been receiving light work, a new form of alternative medical treatment, for nearly two years.
Althen, owner of the Women’s Acupuncture Center in Elkridge, has been practicing acupuncture for 10 years, specializing in treating women’s health issues such as infertility, menopause, hormonal imbalances and menstrual cycle difficulties. Three years ago, Althen started using light work, also called colorpuncture, in her treatments.
“That was something that had fascinated me … the aspect of using light and color in the treatment room somehow,” she said.
The healing power of light -- especially natural sunlight, which helps the body produce vitamin D -- has long been recognized for its ability to battle everything from skin and sleep disorders to seasonal depression.
Colorpuncture combines those notions with acupuncture (beams of light used in addition to the needles) -- the traditional Chinese medicine intended to tap into the body’s energy and balance through different points on the body and channels called meridians.
In the United States, colorpuncture and light therapy are not widely used, nor widely taught.
Althen earned her master’s degree in acupuncture from Tai Sophia, a holistic wellness institute in North Laurel, but the school does not teach colorpuncture. That she learned from a trainer based in San Francisco who teaches light work throughout the United States.
Many of the colorpuncture trainers in the United States learned the technique in Germany at the Mandel Institute for Esogetic Medicine, founded by Peter Mandel, who is credited with developing colorpuncture in the early 1970s.
One of those people is Manohar Croke, who at the invitation of Mandel founded the U.S. Esogetic Colorpuncture Institute in Boulder, Colo. about two decades ago.
“My experience in teaching (colorpuncture) over the past 20 years is that more and more people have heard of this modality, are interested in this modality,” she said. “People come from different fields and learn this work and may combine it with other skills they have in different areas.”
Althen combines most of her light work treatments with acupuncture, and almost all of her patients start off with acupuncture treatments before receiving light work.
“The light work is very powerful, so it’s not something I would normally start a patient off with,” Althen said.
In practicing colorpuncture, Althen uses a Perlux light set on acupuncture points. The colors of light she uses and the points on the body on which she places them depend on the treatment. The number of treatments patients receive depends on the issue.
Life outside the light
Light therapy works for several reasons, according to Althen. Light is a nutrient, and exposure to light helps keep the body healthy, Althen explained, but in today’s world, many people are deprived of the natural light they need.
“We don’t live in the light anymore,” she said. “We don’t live in sunlight. We don’t have that in our lives. We live in houses and under sunscreen and in cars.”
What the eye perceives as different colors -- reds, blues, etc. -- are actually different frequencies. Those frequencies, or vibrations, Althen explained, are what the body is taking in with the light work.
“The energetic medicine gets down into the root and creates the change at the level at which it needs to heal,” she said. “It can get into deep places and move things in ways that are pretty incredible.”
According to Croke, “there’s more and more scientific data” to show that light frequencies have an effect on the body.