Red Light, Green Light


A few years ago I heard a simple phrase from a leading lighting researcher: “Light is a drug.”

Like most drugs, light causes chemical reactions in our brain and body.  Moods change, biorhythms change, migraines disappear.

Wait, migraines?

Dr. Mohab Ibrahim, director of the chronic pain clinic at a hospital in Tucson, Arizona, has an interesting theory on how light can lessen the occurrence of migraines and reduce chronic pain: expose the individual to several hours of green light per day.  He tested the theory on rats and it worked.  The study piqued my curiosity as something to keep an eye on in the future, and the future arrived this morning.

A good friend familiar with my own struggle with migraines emailed me the story below from NPR.  It turns out that Dr. Ibrahim has gone beyond rats and is now testing the theory on real people.  It’s pretty easy to get people to look at green light- the side effects are virtually nil.  What’s to lose?

Here it is in a nutshell: two hours of sitting in a dark room with only green light has shown remarkable results in test subjects.  Frequency and duration of migraines have been significantly reduced.

Light, as it turns out, really is a drug.

So why in the world does green light help reduce our pain?  We don’t know for sure, but Dr. Ibrahim started his study when a friend mentioned that a few hours in a garden seemed to cure his migraines.  Ibrahim wondered if light bouncing off plants might affect the brain and started his work.

Sitting in a garden reduces our pain?  Don’t we know that already?

Of course, in the winter, sitting in a green garden may not be particularly convenient for many.  A green desk lamp, however, can be used all year long.

Here’s the typical headline: “Green light can help reduce chronic pain and migraines.”

But going out into the garden might be just as good.


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