What is Red Light Therapy? Health Benefits + Best Devices
The benefits of red light therapy are astounding–it’s proven to boost cell health, immunity, reduce inflammation, optimize cognitive function, and a whole lot more. This post explains all the applications, how it works, and what devices to buy so you can enjoy the health-promoting benefits at-home! Plus we have special discount codes just for you.
Most of us have NO idea that light is vital to our health; until recently, all I knew was that sunlight (UV light) is important for Vitamin D, but that’s where I thought the effects of light ended.
Let me tell ya… I was wrong! I’ve been learning a ton about light these days and find it super fascinating that something so simple can be one of the keys to balanced health.
As it turns out, human cells NEED different kinds of light, just like we need water, air, and food to function.
In particular, red and near-infrared (NIR) light have healing properties that most of us have never heard about. And this is not woo-woo make believe–it’s legit science.
What exactly is red and NIR light?
It’s part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by the sun and firelight. These wavelengths of light are “bioactive” in humans, which means they literally affect the function of our cells.
It’s been shown that red and NIR light therapy boost cellular health and function, immunity, wound healing, reduce inflammation, and improve cell regeneration–all leading to better organ health, skin health, balanced hormones, improved mood and a whole lot more!
Think it’s all just hype? Think again! Believe it or not, there are now over 3,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies showing incredible health and anti-aging benefits of red light and NIR light therapy, with no known negative side effects. (Can’t say that about pharmaceuticals, now can ya?!)
Before we dive deeper into all the benefits, how it works and what devices I recommend you get at home to experience these benefits yourself, I want to give a huge shoutout to Ari Whitten and his course, the Energy Blueprint, which my opened my eyes to the importance of this topic. (I recommend starting here with the Energy Quiz!)
Ari has become one of the most trusted experts on red light therapy, and wrote the book The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy that I highly recommend you read if you’re interested in this topic. It’s very practical and does an awesome job explaining all the benefits of red light and how to use it in your life.
And if you missed it, check out these recent posts where we talk more about light: What is Blue Light? How Blue Light Glasses Imrpove Sleep, Energy and Health and 9 Tips for How to Get Better Sleep, Naturally.
Alright, now let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of red light therapy!
Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy
Looking at the list below, it seems that red light therapy is like magic.
As Ari Whitten says, “If there were a drug that had scientific research showing all these benefits, it would be an absolute blockbuster drug for pharmaceutical companies–it would be hailed as a ‘miracle drug’ and prescribed to basically everyone. Here’s the best part: That ‘drug” exists. It’s just not in the form of a pill. It’s in the form of NIR and red light therapy!”
Here goes–red and NIR light therapy has been shown to:
- Reduce chronic inflammation (example study)
- Improves immune system (example study)
- Build resilience to stress at the cellular level (source)
- Combat some autoimmune conditions and improves thyroid function (example study: reduction in Hashimoto’s TPO antibodies by 39% and dosage of thyroid replacement medication)
- Improve hormonal health (for example, by restoring the liver, important for your thyroid and estrogen)
- Optimize your brain and cognitive function; increases neuroprotection (example study 1, study 2, study 3)
- Improves mood, depression, and anxiety (example study)
- Increase fertility (example study)
- Overcome fatigue and improve energy levels, and helps with sleep (example study)
- Fight the oxidative damage that drives aging (source)
- Decrease pain (example here for low back pain, chronic pain, joint pain, and fibromyalgia)
- Increase strength, endurance, and muscle mass; increases collagen production (example study)
- Speed up wound/injury healing (example study 1, study 2, study 3)
- Fight skin aging, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, skin conditions, and cellulite (example study 1, study 2)
- Lose fat (nearly twice as with diet and exercise alone) (example study)
- Helps hair regrowth (example study)
- Regenerates stem cells (example study)
I know it really does seem ‘too good to be true’, but, given there are over 3,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies on this technology, there’s definitely something to it! Now, more research is still needed to understand all the nuances and best applications, but, it’s time we start talking about red light therapy as a legit healing modality.
Also, it’s important to note here that these benefits are not usually seen with just a single session (or even a few sessions), but rather when repeated over time.
If you’re still skeptical, consider this: what do we do to care for new babies, particular animals? We put them under a red light heat lamp (incubator). What about when babies have jaundice? The doc puts them under a bili-light, a form of phototherapy. If you have psoriasis, your dermatologist may have recommended ultraviolet light phototherapy. Light therapy works!
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
Okay, so how does all this magic actually work?
In the most simple terms, red light therapy helps your cells do their jobs better.
Huge amounts of research in the last decade point to the mitochondria of our cells as being critical to health, disease prevention, energy levels, and longevity. The mitochondria are the batteries that fuel all the processes of our organs, so anything that can enhance the mitochondria translates into more cellular energy inside the cell, which allows the cell or organ (like our brain, heart, liver, skin, muscles, etc.) to work optimally.
And that’s exactly what NIR and red light wavelengths do: penetrate into cells and activate the mitochondria, directly leading to increased cellular energy production called ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is the energy source for all cells that literally fuels every function in your body. (source)
I felt this effect first hand when I had an LED Therapy Massage at Warrior Body Spa in Atlanta. The light doesn’t give off any heat, but you feel your body heating up from the outside in–it’s like you can feel it healing!
Red light also knocks out stuck nitric oxide in the mitochondria of the cell so oxygen can get back in there. While nitric oxide plays many vital roles in the body, it can hinder ATP production when we have too much of it, too much in the wrong place, or when our cells don’t have the antioxidant capacity to quell the buildup. (source)
Finally, red light serves as transient, low-level stress to your cells. This is actually a good thing, because this temporary stress creates healthier cell adaptations that produce more energy, have a stronger antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defense system, and are more resilient to overall stress. (source)
Think of this like exercise: you’re temporarily stressing your muscles, so that ultimately they get stronger. In the same way, red and NIR light “exercises” the cells to better health, boosting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions of your cells.
As you can see, red and NIR light are a powerful tool that doesn’t just temporarily alleviate symptoms (like an anti-inflammatory drug or painkiller does), but instead it stimulates your body making sustainable adaptations at the cellular level that leads to BOTH more resilience against stressors, and a greater capacity to produce energy. How amazing is that?!!
How to Use Red Light Therapy
It’s pretty easy: get a red light machine and sit in front of it. Ta-da!
But wait… you may be wondering why, if this type of therapy is so beneficial, why doesn’t everyone already know about it and own a machine? And don’t you need lasers to get the benefits?
Until recently, experts thought that you needed an expensive laser device to obtain the benefits. This technology has been in use in doctor’s offices for many years now and goes by the name of either “low-level laser therapy” (LLLT) or “cold laser”, and these devices often cost around $5,000-$30,000! Wowza!
Or maybe you’ve seen red and NIR therapy LED panels being used in anti-aging clinics, where people are being charged $75-$300 per single session to use these lights.
That’s exactly why this technology hasn’t gone mainstream and why most people still haven’t heard of it, because we’ve been under the impression that you can only get NIR and red light therapy from these incredibly expensive laser devices or fancy clinics.
The good news is that research shows you don’t need these cost-prohibitive laser devices, and you can get the same benefits from NIR and red light therapy LED panels at a fraction of the cost–for just a few hundred dollars! Yep, once you buy one of these devices, you can do unlimited treatments at home, for free!
Depending on which of the benefits you’re looking for will determine the specifics of where you place the device, for how long, and how often.
Generally it’s as simple as placing the device on a table, chair, or the ground, positioning yourself 6″ to 36″ away (depending on if you’re doing full-body or wanting deeper penetration on a specific area), and exposing the desired area of your body to the light for 5 or up to 20 minutes. And unless you’re just doing your face, you do need to be naked so the light can penetrate your skin.
Again, I recommend The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy book by Ari Whitten for detailed descriptions on how and when to use the light for specific health concerns. Some of the devices mentioned below also come with free apps that guide you on where to place the machine, at what distance, and for how long after you select your health goals.
The Best Red Light Therapy Devices
By now I’m sure you’re wondering where to get a red light therapy device! I’ve tried a few different ones and here are my top picks, informed once again by Ari Whitten (who has done independent research on a number of devices).
All these devices are medium-sized, meaning they can treat a larger area of your body at once (vs. wasting time having to apply a small light to multiple areas), and they have optimal power output compared to smaller devices for the best therapeutic benefits. There are also larger sizes, but they are more expensive and harder to store given their sizes, so my vote is to go for a medium-size like the ones listed below for the best of both worlds.
All the machines below also transmit zero (or virtually zero) EMFs! That’s hard to find in many out there on the market, and what’s the point of exposing yourself to excessive EMFs while trying to heal your body? Definitely look at this if you’re going to buy a device not on the list below.
This machine offers BOTH NIR and red light, which is ideal so you can get the healing benefits of both (red is best for your skin and more surface-level needs, while NIR is best for tissues, joints, and muscles). It has 120 medical-grade LED lights, which is great since the more the better for treatment (some competitors only have half this amount).
You can hang the RedRush 360 from any door (hanger included), or use it vertically, horizontally, while standing, sitting, or even laying for maximum versatility.
Red Therapy Co. also has a free app you can download that tells you how to calibrate your dose, so you don’t have to guess about if you’re getting too much light, too little, or from what distance is best for your needs.
The Red Rush 360 comes with eye safety glasses, free shipping, a two-year warranty, 60-day trial period, and is only $479. Use the code ROOT25 for $25 off any size machine (bringing the price to only $454… that’s just a few sessions at an anti-aging spa or doctor’s office!).
PlatinumLED Therapy Lights combines five powerful wavelengths of light, featuring a patent-pending spectral output. They say it’s the most powerful light on the market due to its deep penetration abilities.
A unique feature of this machine is that you can connect multiple panels together to make a modular, custom size device. Though this size is actually big enough on it’s own to cover your full body.
I like the digital controls and built-in timer, which the other devices I tried don’t have.
Like Red Therapy Co., PlantinumLED has a companion app to help provide dosage, distance, and timing for your therapy light needs.
Also, all BIOMAX lights are compatible with their tabletop stands and wheeled rack stands (sold separately).
The BIOMAX 600 comes with eye safety glasses, free shipping, a three-year warranty, 60-day trial period, and is $899 (with a payment plan option through Affirm). Use the code ROOT5 for 5% off your order (a savings of $45 for this machine!).
The TrueLight by Truedark Energy Square features a unique patent-pending design that offers four different types of LED therapy lights: two different wavelengths of red, one for NIR, as well as yellow (great for skin concerns and boosting lymphatic flow).
There’s also two different lighting modes, unlike the other machines I tried; steady for help in reducing pain, and pulsating to assist with cellular healing. It even comes with a remote to easily control lighting options, and an adjustable stand.
The most affordable of the lights I tried, TrueLight also comes with free shipping for just $389. Plus, use the code ROOT10 for 10% off anything from Truedark!
While this device wasn’t mentioned in Ari’s research, this company was founded by Dave Asprey from Bulletproof. He’s known for being the ultimate biohacker and doing extensive research, and I trust his products.
Finally, I didn’t get to try Joovv, but it’s another reputable brand so wanted to mention it here in case it’s a fit for you.
Now, over to you! Have you tried red light therapy? How has it helped? What machine do you have? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I've linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.