Check out previous parts for important information.
What is known about Modern Heliotherapy?
Heliotherapy, sun therapy, phototherapy [different names for the same therapy] have been used since the late 1800s, as part of certain treatment protocols for tuberculosis. This includes tuberculosis of the bones, joints, and skin. The doctors know that prolonged exposure to sunlight can kill the bacteria which cause this disease. Surely you have heard of the old axiom that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Before the advent of “wonder” drugs and after, infected children were sent to special homes and hospitals where treatments included spending as much time outdoors as possible in the sun.
These places were called tuberculosis sanitariums which had solariums.
Since these children often came from dark and dingy city slums, exposing their skin to the light of the day raised their levels of vitamin D, which enhanced their natural immune system for the fight against the bacteria.
As sunlight obviously is not alway available, nights, cloudy days, blue sky issues in city hospitals, etc., and the medical community saw so much observational benefit in heliotherapy, they worked on creating artificial alternatives, lamps and such,
which to some extent mimic the Sun’s health beneficial function. The Finsen lamp, invented by Dr. Finsen, is perhaps the best-known example.
This ultraviolet lamp allowed for treatment on demand, and its light could be focused on the most affected body areas. This treatment seemed to be most effective on tuberculosis of the skin. But it had wider positive benefits beyond the skin.
Since those times, other treatments working with controlled light have been developed. One of the best known of these is the use of light lamps for seasonal depression, the winter blues.
This form of depression is historically brought on by lack of sunlight in the winter. When full spectrum light is supplemented in treatment, the depression subsides. In our modern indoor society the lack of sunlight depression is increasing. It too is addressable by light therapy or sun therapy.
As a pastoral counselor, I have had occasion to consult with congregants that were depressed. One lady came to me having a spiritual problem. In a nutshell she was beating herself up about being depressed
and being on pharmaceuticals for it. She felt that, as a christian, she was spiritually sinning by being depressed. Christians should be joyous, right?
Long story short, I suggested that she go out and get some sun every day, at least 15 to 20 minutes. She resisted the idea because of the modern hysteria about the sun and skin cancer. I just told her not to get a sunburn. She agreed to try.
Shortly her depression ended, and she went off the drugs. Since she worked indoors and further had avoided the sun, she was having winter blues in the summer. Heliotherapy was the answer for her.
Light therapy is also used to treat circadian rhythm disorders and skin conditions like psoriasis, and more. It can accelerate wound healing. It has a proven benefit in some pain control. Skin treatments also are noted.
When I was young, I had a problem of bleeding acne on my back. The dermatologist suggested that I take off my shirt in the sun regularly. [He forgot to tell me not to get a sunburn.] That was helpful.