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The History of PBM

Photobiomodulation has a rich history made by innovative inventors through the ages, from the ancient Romans to modern-day LED technologists.







Throughout history, humanity's consistent connection of the Sun and healing is no coincidence. 


The Ancients

From ancient times to the modern era, humans have symbolically associated “light” with “healing.” Ancient Chinese medicine emphasizes the importance of light for health and how this invisible flow of energy powers the body. In ancient Egyptian mythology, the goddess of healing, Sekhmet, is the daughter of the sun god, Ra. Similarly, in Greco-Roman culture, Apollo is both the god of healing and the god of light. In fact, the son of Apollo, Asclepius, is the Greek god of treatment. Even today, the “Rod of Asclepius” is a universally recognized symbol of medicine.

These connections do not merely exist in mythology and literature, however; they are born of the scientific observation that light can heal the body. If you were to visit a Roman hospital 2,000 years ago, you’d be met with an intriguing sight: sunlight, filtered through huge panels of red glass, streaming into hospitals to heal patients suffering from “diseases of withering.” The ancients called these specialized rooms Solariums.

Today we recognize Solariums as civilization’s first implementation of Photomedicine.

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Niels Ryberg Finsen

In 1896, Niels Finsen cured Smallpox using light. Smallpox. A highly contagious viral-respiratory disease with no cure, according to the World Health Organization.

He continued to demonstrate groundbreaking healing effects of phototherapy, proving that light therapy could be used to cure Smallpox, Lupus Vulgaris, and hundreds of other “diseases of civilization.” His work rattled the medical world, rightfully earning him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1903 for “opening a new avenue of medical science."

Tragically, Finsen died shortly after winning the Nobel Prize and his crucial discovery of light as a medicine fell into darkness. In the last few years of his life, Finsen was committed to making light therapy accessible to every human being, not just for curing diseases, but also as a requirement for daily health. He writes: “I believe implicitly that in the future use will be made of this new therapeutic agent [Light], and the proof experiment once made, it will be easy to carry it out practically under the form of Light Baths; and lastly, to determine whether they are to be blue, violet, or red, the variations in their strength and duration, and whether natural or artificial.” - Finsen, Phototherapy, 1896.

Now, 125 years later, we are picking up where the Father of Photomedicine left off: making light bathing accessible to every human being in the world.

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NASA & Phototherapy

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, began experimenting with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to grow plants in space. To the delight of the astronauts, they found that plants readily grew with the energy from these small “artificial suns,” even in space.

But what was even more remarkable was the effects LEDs had upon the astronauts themselves. They reported astonishing improvements to a number of health challenges that commonly plague humans in a zero-gravity environment: LED exposure improved bone mass, slowed muscular atrophy, and helped wounds to heal. A press release followed: “NASA scientists have found that cells exposed to near-infrared light from LEDs, which is energy just outside the visible range, grow 150 to 200 percent faster than cells not stimulated by such light.”

This rediscovery ushered in the modern era of photomedicine. At this stage of technological development, however, LEDs were extremely expensive and inefficient. As a result, photomedicine was reserved for hospitals, medical practices, and research institutions. 

It would take several more decades before LED light therapy would be available to the masses.

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Phototherapy with LEDs

In the last decades, LED technology has progressed so rapidly that phototherapy is now accessible to individuals, not just hospitals.

Just like the exponential growth of computer processing power, LEDs become ~200x better every decade (see Haitz Law). A device that would cost $20,000 in 2000, would cost just $100 for the same overall performance just 10 years later. This incredible advancement in light efficiency has sent shockwaves across the world.

We have seen light therapy become commonplace in hospitals and medical practitioners' offices all across the world. Beginning in 2010, red light devices, infrared saunas, and laser pain relief have become key parts of the modern doctor's toolbox.

Yet, even with the overwhelming positive effects of light therapy, its practice has been relegated primarily to medical professionals. and expensive individual treatments.

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Smart Light Therapy

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Today we are living in the most exciting period of the Photomedical Revolution.

Photobiomodulation is now controlled by software to perfectly tune the output to emulate clinically-tested outputs. We built Sunflower to connect you directly to the vast scientific insights to continuously improve PBM.

Light is a safe and effective treatment for hundreds of diseases, because light is a necessary requirement for human health, like food, water, and oxygen.

Now, 125 years after the world was blessed with Finsen’s brilliance, photobiomodulation is becoming mainstream.

Today, our team at JustLight is focused on making PBM accessible. We work hard every day to build the vision of Niels Finsen, a Light Bath in every home. Because until we do, there is vast preventable suffering in our world.

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Universal Access

By the year 2050, it is estimated that 80% of US households will have adopted some form of photobiomodulation and over 50% will be using some form of germicidal (blue) light.

At JustLight, we envision a world in which every person has universal access to photobiomodulation. Until that day comes, there is mass, preventable suffering in our society.

We are on a mission to accelerate this revolution in health care by bringing PBM to as many people as possible, as soon as possible.

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More About PBM

At JustLight, we are committed to furthering the public understanding of the necessity of light for health.

Pick a category to learn more about Light!

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