Guest Blog: Far Infrared Light Offers 16 Science-Backed Health Benefits
(Note from Sue Ann: One of the reasons we love our BioMat healing tool is it’s ease of use to get quick healing benefits. But for those who want to understand the science behind why the BioMat works so well, here is a detailed article on the scientific research behind Far Infrared Light. Fifth Dimension Healing Energy is a BioMat educator and distributor, and we are happy to setup a session for you to experience the many health benefits that this healing modality offers! Enjoy the read!)
By Helen Nichols
Helen Nichols, editor-in-chief, is a blogger and self-described certified Nutritional Science health “junkie”. Helen’s site, www.well-beingsecrets.com, shares her knowledge about healthy food, fitness, and overall well-being. Her articles are based on scientific research that provides readers with unbiased information to make their own conclusions.
What is Far Infrared Heat?
All living things need sunshine for two reasons – far infrared heat and Vitamin D. Far Infrared Rays (FIR) are the so-called ‘warm’ energy present in all living things, which is emitted from sunlight. The intensity of FIR produced by the human body constantly fluctuates.
In cases of high intensity, your body feels healthy and better-equipped to cope with physical challenges. On the other hand, when the intensity of FIR begins to decline, your body is more susceptible to environmental hazards and physical diseases. So it tends to age more rapidly.
The best thing about FIR is that you can be exposed to pure Far Infrared heat for hours, and your body and skin will not be harmed at all In fact, the Japanese use this method to treat sunburns and promote skin health. Therefore, FIR is completely safe and healthy for most living things.
The name infrared derives from the Latin word infra, which means “below. Red is the color of the longest wavelengths of visible light. Infrared light has a longer wavelength than red light. In other words, it has a lower frequency than red, hence “below.”
Sir William Herschel was an amateur astronomer, who was famous for the discovery of Uranus in 1781. Then in the early 19th century, he discovered infrared. Herschel made a presupposition that the colors themselves might contain numerous levels of heat, so, he started an experiment to validate his theory. Herschel passed sunlight through a glass prism to create a spectrum, and measured the temperatures of the different colors. He used three thermometers with blackened bulbs, and placed one bulb in each color.
Meanwhile, the other two bulbs were placed outside the spectrum as controls. As he was measuring the temperatures of the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet light, he noticed that all the colors had temperatures higher than the controls. Also, the temperatures increased as they moved from the violet end of the spectrum to the red end.
Once he understood the pattern, Herschel measured the temperature just beyond the red end of the spectrum. He found that this portion had the highest temperature, so it radiated the most heat. What Herschel discovered was a form of light beyond red light. Thanks to Herschel’s experiments, the discovery of infrared light took place.
Infrared is a section or “band” of invisible light present on the electromagnetic spectrum. It is a form of radiant heat that can also be referred to as “infrared energy.” About 80% of the sun rays actually fall in this portion of the spectrum. Far infrared is the form of this energy that occupies the area where wave frequencies fall (between 5.5 and 15 microns).
Types of Far Infrared Devices
Over the course of many decades, scientific evidence has proven that heat can maintain and enhance the well-being of the human body. Scientists have researched various ways to learn how to develop more efficient forms of thermal heat therapy, which focus on specific areas and enable deep-heat penetration.
Traditional ways of heat therapy can be uncomfortable, hazardous, unhygienic, ineffective, and inefficient:
- Traditional saunas expose your body to extremely high temperatures. They cause heat stress that can have detrimental effects on well-being (particularly for people who suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, or who need to sustain blood pressure).
- Thermal compressions and wraps are uncomfortable. Temperatures do not remain constant, heat is easily lost, and maintaining a thermal compression or wrap can be inconvenient and problematic.
Thanks to major studies and research (conducted in the 1960s in Japan and Germany), the FIR thermal technology was introduced. This innovative thermal technology brought some revolutionary effects, including an effective, natural, hygienic, safe, efficient approach to thermal treatment.
Nowadays, there are a number of international health professionals who treat various physical challenges by applying heat therapy to both humans and animals. When it comes to health benefits, relief for sports injuries via thermal therapy is just one of the numerous examples. But right now, we will be discussing types of far infrared devices.
Far Infrared Mats
A great number of people are having problems with relieving pain and restoring energy. FIR mats have been shown to relieve back pain in minutes, kick fatigue and stress out the window, restore energy, boost the immune system, and detoxify. All you have to do is lie on one and relax. These mats provide very soothing, deep warmth. Since this warmth has no perceivable source, it feels almost surreal.
Not only will it reduce your back pain, completely relax your body, and restore your energy, it will also give you very restful sleep. If you are not very fond of medication, you should know that these mats are the perfect substitute for any kind of pain treatment—without any side effects.
One of the best brands on the market is the BioMat. I’ve personally tried their Biomat 7000mx model and I was very surprised by the experience.
Are these Mats Safe to Use?
Unlike ordinary heating mats that only heat the surface of your skin, FIR mats are completely safe. There’s no chance whatsoever of drying skin or causing burns. Though completely invisible to the naked eye, far infrared rays are capable of penetrating deep into your body, where they gently elevate the surface temperature and activate major bodily functions.
You should also know the difference between far infrared rays and ultraviolet rays. The former are 100% safe, whereas the latter can cause sunburns and skin cancer. The healing rays heat your muscles, nerves, blood vessels, joints, and bones. This heating results in at least 5 priceless benefits, such as pain relief, toxin elimination, effortless weight loss, improved immune system, restful sleep, and stress reduction. These benefits will be discussed later.
Far Infrared Lamps
FIR lamps are known to emit the most therapeutic, effective infrared rays by using a silica blend. These lamps have treated over 100 chronic conditions in millions of people. Due to their incredible success, they have been called “miracle lamps” in China. The key component is the curing plate, which is coated with a formation of minerals essential to your body.
When the plate is heated to a certain temperature, it emits a wide spectrum (6-25 micron) of electromagnetic waves with an absorption depth of up to five inches. This kind of energy aids in promoting metabolism and circulation, and boosts the immune system. The heated minerals then emit their vibration to the area you are treating. Injured areas are often deficient in minerals; thus, this energy provides them to these areas, which appears to accelerate the healing process.
The mineral plate contains a formula of trace elements in various binding forms. The actual formula has been kept a secret since its creation, and the minerals are bonded to an iron plate that’s between 0.3 and 0.6 mm thick. This plate is attached to a larger plate (0.5 to 1.5 mm thick), which provides protection for the mineral layer. Moreover, it offers stability by evenly distributing heat.
Are these Lamps Safe to Use?
The potential hazards of infrared heat bulbs, lamps, and radiators are mainly to your skin and eyes. Due to the emission of the intense radiant heat, prolonged exposure to your skin can lead to severe burns. Your eyes are also very susceptible to high-intensity short-wave infrared radiation. Long-term exposure to infrared radiation can permanently damage the eyes.
So it is recommended that folks wear goggles with special infrared-absorbing glass if they are experiencing long-term exposure to infrared radiation.Since these lamps generate intense heat and contain a large amount of pressure, they are subject to shattering. In addition, you should protect surroundings and people—by employing proper enclosures, lenses, shields, and screens.
Finger marks and scratches should also be avoided while handling the lamps, as they weaken the bulbs, which causes more frequent shattering.
Looking to get cozy with an infrared lamp? Here are some additional safety tips:
- The maximum amount of time to expose your body to heat lamps is 20 to 30 minutes.
- You should never place the lamp closer than 18” from the surface it is directed toward.
- You should not use infrared lamps near an infant, or a sleeping or unconscious person.
- People with sensitive skin or poor blood circulation should not use them.
- You should not place the bulb directly over an exposed person, unless a protective screen is placed between the user and the lamp.
- When in operation for extended periods, you should connect the lamp to a porcelain socket.
You should keep infrared lamps away from flammable materials.
Far Infrared Saunas
In ancient times, “hot air baths” and sweat lodges were used for relieving stress and increasing detoxification among Eastern Europeans, Native Americans, and the Chinese. Before the invention of focused light therapy, basic saunas were created by building a fire directly under an enclosed seating area. Burning rocks and other materials carried heat and smoke up to the lodge.
About 100 years ago, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg invented “light-near infrared lamp saunas.” Ever since then, major advancements in sauna therapies have been made. Today, these saunas are used by holistic practitioners across the globe. Infrared saunas are a type of sauna that use heat and light to help in relaxing and detoxifying your body.
Also known as far-infrared saunas or near-infrared saunas, they emit infrared light waves that create heat in your body, thereby causing you to sweat and release stored toxins. While further research is required to determine their potential benefits and long-term effects, infrared sauna treatments currently seem to be safe, powerful, and inexpensive. These small yet potent devices help many people to not only cope with physical pain, but overcome it. And they feel more relaxed.
Infrared saunas are currently proven to be most efficient at treating increased detoxification, pain reduction, muscle and joint support, anti-aging effects, and cardiovascular healing. They are also believed to have a parasympathetic healing effect. In other words, they allow the body to handle stress better.
Therefore, they could someday be used to treat all forms of diseases—from depression and insomnia to autoimmune disorders and hormonal imbalances.
What makes these types of saunas interesting is that they differ from “regular saunas” because their light directly penetrates your skin, but it does not warm the surrounding air. Your body temperature quickly increases, but the light has no effect on the air around you; that’s why you can use infrared saunas inside your own home.
Infrared saunas are produced at lower temperatures than conventional saunas, which means that people who cannot withstand very high temperatures might tolerate FIR saunas better.
A 2012 report was published by doctors at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. According to it, technological advancements over the past few years have resulted in infrared sauna devices that directly provide far infrared radiation to the human body in light waves, so no bands are needed. These devices are considered effective, safe, and widely applicable for healing many inflammatory disorders.
The therapeutic benefits of an infrared sauna basically revolves around the electromagnetic radiation spectrum: an infrared radiation band covers a wavelength range of 750 nanometers to 100 micrometers, a frequency range of 400 terahertz to 3 terahertz, and a photon-energy range of 12.4 milli-electron volts to 1.7 electron volts.
In other words, infrared saunas cause natural, positive radiation effects in the human body once the heat is detected by the thermoreceptors located in the skin (1).
FIR light waves are capable of altering cells, cell fluids, cell membranes, and DNA/proteins, especially water molecules. At the cellular level, altered mitochondrial activity and cell membranes occur, which positively impacts the metabolism.
Far infrared ray photons are absorbed by the bonds in the body’s molecules, which alter the way water functions within cells. FIR also has a “mesostructure” effect – proteins within bodily tissues alter in a way that is essential for overall biological activity.
If you’re eager to buy your own light-emitting sauna device, infrared light treatment starts to work within just 15 to 20 minutes, and it can be performed in your home. Infrared sauna treatments cause reactions in your body, including:
- Increased sweating
- Increased heart rate
- The feeling of relaxation triggered by the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (similar to the feeling one gets from moderate exercise)
Who can Benefit from Infrared Saunas?
It took decades for researchers to thoroughly study the ways saunas effect relaxation and pain management. In comparison to conventional saunas, infrared saunas are relatively new.
However, they have recently gained attention because of their ability to naturally handle multiple health problems—with few to no side effects.
Some studies have proven that infrared saunas are beneficial for people with:
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Congestive heart failure
- Chronic fatigue
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Anger management issues
- Poor digestion
- Chronic muscle and joint pain
One of the greatest benefits of infrared saunas is their capacity to offer comfortable and simple use, even for people who struggle with pain, sensitive skin, and sensitive stomachs.
Are these Saunas Safe to Use?
Many people opt to undergo treatments at a spa, even though some buy a device to use in their own homes. The device looks similar to a tanning bed. It has parts that resemble fluorescent lights, which are covered by cylindrical carbon shells.
They emit light waves that are not visible to the naked eye, and the experience takes place at a much lower temperature than a conventional sauna. You should expect a lot of sweating, even though it is not painful.
Most people actually find it rather relaxing. Some people reported that they felt a bit lightheaded after the session—as if they just got back from a day at the beach.
Getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of water is recommended. Some people with high levels of pain reported that they felt an improvement almost instantly afterward. No grave detrimental health effects have been reported with infrared saunas.
On the contrary, they seem to be safe for the vast majority of people, even those who cannot normally tolerate other types of heat treatments.
FIR wavelengths are too long to be visible to the naked eye, so they fortunately do not damage sensitive eye tissues (unlike other light therapies). FIR light is also considered “gentle radiant heat.” Although it can penetrate up to 1.5 inches (4 cm) beneath the skin, it does not inflict pain or a burning effect.
However, it is still a good idea to talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner before you start treatments with infrared saunas if you take medications, have sensitive skin, or have a history of heart problems. Infrared saunas are potent devices, capable of changing your heart and perspiration rates.
For that reason, it is safer for some people to consult a knowledgeable practitioner during treatments, so they can monitor their reactions and progress.
According to numerous scientific studies, far infrared radiation has become a widely used source for treating various medical conditions.
(1 ) – FIR Detoxifies Your Body
Compared to steam saunas or conventional heat, far infrared is thought to be seven times more effective at detoxifying heavy metals (such as mercury and aluminum), cholesterol, alcohol, nicotine, ammonia, sulfuric acid, and other environmental toxins (2).
The human body is a reservoir of all kinds of bio-toxins. They cannot be expelled instantly, so they are stored in your body. Therefore, they induce illness.
When toxic gasses (such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide) or potentially fatal heavy metal toxins (such as lead, mercury, and chlorine) reach large water molecules, they are encapsulated by clusters of water and trapped in your body. The accumulation of these toxins blocks blood circulation and impairs cellular energy.
However, when a FIR wave of 7 to 14 microns is applied to these large water molecules, the water starts to vibrate. Thus, it reduces the ion bonds of the atoms that hold the molecules of water together.As the water evaporates, the encapsulated toxins and gas can be released.
(2) – Far Infrared Therapy Promotes Blood Circulation
FIR increases blood circulation and oxygen supply to damaged tissues, which helps reduce chronic joint and muscle pain, promotes relaxation and comfort, relieves stress, and induces sleep. However, further research is required to back up these claims.
(3) – FIR Reduces Blood Pressure Levels
There is limited moderate evidence that FIR therapy normalizes blood pressure (2). However, medical researchers from Germany concluded that a one-hour session of FIR therapy can significantly reduce blood pressure levels—as a result of a persistent dilation of peripheral blood vessels.
They also noted that blood viscosity will improve. After one hour of far infrared radiation, there is a significant decrease in blood pressure, total peripheral resistance, and cardiac ejection resistance.
And there is a significant increase in heart rate, cardiac output, stroke volume, and ejection fraction. However, further research and citation are needed.
(4) – Far Infrared Therapy Prevents Sunburns
According to the Archives of Dermatological Research, infrared radiation (including FIR) suppresses sunburn cell formation induced by ultraviolet B (3).
(5) – Far Infrared Thermal Therapy and Electromagnetic Fields
Recently, there have been reports suggesting that the exposure to certain kinds of electromagnetic fields (such as those from high-tension power lines, computer terminals, or cell phones) can be hazardous to your health. Far Infrared heating systems were tested in Japan, and the results suggest that they are free of toxic electromagnetic fields.
(6) – FIR Treats Arteriovenous Fistula
Arteriovenous fistula is a condition that causes blood to directly flow from an artery into a vein. Therefore, the blood bypasses certain capillaries, which subsequently have a reduced blood supply. This condition usually affects the legs, but it can develop anywhere in the body.
According to a 2014 study conducted by the Department of Nursing in Taiwan, FIR has proven to be beneficial in the treatment of arteriovenous fistula in hemodialysis patients.
In addition, the results showed the improved function of blood flow to and from arteriovenous fistula, as well as the reduced risk of the malfunctioning of arteriovenous fistula (4).
(7) – FIR May Help Chronic Fatigue
In the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, a study published in 2005 suggests that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can be treated by using repeated thermal therapy.
Two patients were subjected to thermal therapy, which included a far-infrared ray dry sauna. The therapy lasted for a total of 35 sessions, once a day. The results suggest that repeated thermal therapy might be a promising method for the treatment of CFS (5).
(8) – FIR Reduces Pain and Stiffness
Far infrared boosts your immune system through subtle heating, which increases the number of white blood cells and killer t-cells. It has also proved to be a promising method of healing—reducing muscle spasms, muscle soreness, and relief for rheumatoid arthritis.
According to Clinical Rheumatology, infrared saunas shows short-term improvement of pain and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (6).
(9) – FIR Lowers Side Effects of Diabetes
In the Journal of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, a study published in 2010 found that far-infrared sauna use is linked to improved quality of life in people with type II diabetes, even when compared to other lifestyle interventions.
People with diabetes often suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, pain, depression, congestive heart failure, and other heart complications. But sauna treatments seem to improve the pain threshold and contribute to overall well-being.
So they naturally treat diabetes symptoms.
At the Fraser Lake Community Health Center in Canada, patients were given 20-minute treatments, three times per week—over a period of three months. The results suggest significant improvements in overall health, lower stress, less fatigue, and better social functioning (7).
(10) – FIR Improves Quality of Life and Overall Well-Being
For many years, thermal heating has been used to treat patients suffering from chronic pain. Studies have found that these methods are efficient in lowering chronic pain without the need for medications.
In a 2005 study, researchers from Nishi Kyusyu University in Japan found that infrared sauna heat therapy boosts mood and well-being — when coupled with other holistic treatments (such as exercise rehabilitation and cognitive behavioral therapy).
They split 46 patients into two groups, one of which included infrared sauna treatment. Two years after treatment, 77% of the patients in the sauna group felt well enough to return to work, compared to just 50% in the control group (8).
(11) – FIR Relieves Back Pain Symptoms
In 2015, Dr. Gaze and her team researched the benefits of far-infrared therapy on chronic back pain. The study included 50 patients with lower back pain, who would sit on a FIR mat every day.
The results suggest significant improvements in the physical and mental health of the patients (including reduced lower back pain). Moreover, no adverse effects were reported (9).
(12) – FIR Treats Some Forms of Cancer
Far infrared treatment inhibits the proliferation of certain cancer cells as a result of the change in body temperature. FIR treatment inhibits the growth of cancer cells (including breast, lung, and tongue cancer), according to Medical Oncology in London (10).
(13) – FIR Improves Motor Functions
According to a 2015 study conducted at the Department of Radiology in Taiwan, far infrared radiation therapy causes beneficial effects on nerve function.When it comes to enhancing nerve regeneration and improving motor function, the evidence suggests that far infrared treatment is noninvasive, effective, and beneficial.
In addition, the study found that far infrared can be used as a novel treatment for different peripheral nerve diseases and injuries (11).
(14) – FIR Treats Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever) is a type of inflammation in the nose that occurs when your immune system overreacts to allergens in the air. It is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the world.
Being a nasal inflammation, allergic rhinitis and its symptoms are likely due to increased vascular permeability. Conventional therapeutic options (such as medication, immunotherapy, or avoidance of the allergen) proved ineffective in the treatment.
For that reason, researchers had to turn to alternative methods, which actually showed a much stronger effect in the treatment (because it increased blood flow). A 2007 study conducted by the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society suggests that far infrared therapy improved the symptoms of nasal itching, nasal stuffiness, eye itching, sneezing, and rhinorrhea.
These researchers found that far infrared therapy is an important, novel treatment of allergic rhinitis (12).
(15) – FIR Stimulates Effortless Weight Loss
According to a Journal of the American Medical Association report, in a single far infrared sauna session, you may burn as many calories as you would jogging or rowing for 30 minutes. Far infrared theoretically accelerates the breakdown of fat and cellulite.
Molecules of water and organic substances might absorb far infrared easily, as it has the same resonant frequency. However, a study is needed to back up these claims.
(16) – FIR Boosts Your Immune System
Far infrared therapy has shown the potential for preventing the flu and common cold from developing. The deep heat of far infrared rays raises your body’s temperatures and strengthens its immune system. A few studies have been conducted on this benefit, but further research is required.
As you can see, far infrared rays are reputed to offer an astounding range of potential therapeutic effects and benefits — in research conducted across the globe.
However, the data presented in the text above is only offered to provide references and stimulate further research.
If you suffer from any disease, make sure to consult with a primary-care physician about using FIR.
- Prescription Drugs. If you are taking prescription drugs, you should consult with your pharmacist or physician for potential changes in the drug’s effect, as a result of interacting with far infrared energy.
- Certain Ailments. Some authorities claim that it is highly inadvisable to raise the core temperature of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, adrenal suppression, or multiple sclerosis.
- Joint Problems. If you have had a recent joint injury, you should not heat it for the first 48 hours (or until the swelling subsides). Joints that are chronically hot and swollen may respond poorly to vigorous heating of any kind. Vigorous heating is strictly contraindicated in cases of enclosed infections — be they in the mouth, joints, or any other tissues.
- Menstruation. Heating the lower backs of women during the menstrual period may temporarily increase menstrual flow. When a woman becomes aware of this occurrence, she should choose whether or not she wants to experience this short-term effect.
- Hemorrhage. Hemophiliacs and those predisposed to hemorrhage should avoid far infrared usage or any type of heating that would induce vasodilatation. It can create the tendency to bleed.
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy or the suspicion of pregnancy, the discontinuation of far infrared ray usage is recommended. However, the usage of traditional saunas at a low-level intensity is not linked to birth defects.
- Silicone. Silicone does absorb far infrared energy. Silicone prostheses for replacing ears or noses or implanting silicone may be warmed by far infrared rays. The melting point of silicone is at over 200º C, but a far infrared heat system should not have adverse effects on it. It is still recommended that these patients check with their surgeons and tell them the name of the product manufacturer.
- Surgical Implants. Artificial joints, metal rods, pins, or any other surgical implants generally reflect far infrared rays, so they are not heated by a far infrared heat system. Nevertheless, you should consult your surgeon before receiving such therapy.
- Pain. You should not experience pain when using a far infrared heat product or technology. If you do, the use of radiant heat is clearly inappropriate for you at that time, and it should be discontinued.
- Worsened Condition. Should any condition worsen with the use of a far infrared heat source, it should be discontinued.
Far Infrared Therapy: Does it Work?
Far infrared energy is very easily absorbed by the human body, and far infrared therapy is being included in detoxification programs by a growing number of healthcare professionals worldwide.
Due to today’s high levels of toxicity and stress, the body’s natural ability to heal itself is often compromised. Some people have reached critical toxic and/or stress levels, so they do not have the energy to repair or detoxify our bodies.
The body generates far infrared energy that normally occurs within our tissues, which is linked to a variety of healing responses. Far infrared thermal treatment can leave you feeling energized and relaxed.
Healthcare and medical professionals in Japan have used far infrared thermal systems to treat a multitude of conditions for many years now (13).
Far-infrared radiation is actually light from the sun.
Approximately 80% of solar energy is made up of far infrared rays.
Far infrared radiation extracts all of the beneficial healing properties of the sun, while removing its detrimental effects (such as ultraviolet radiation).
Therefore, researchers have demonstrated that far infrared radiation can create some powerful benefits, such as treating numerous ailments (including cancer and diabetes) and medical conditions (such as detoxification).
Early results are promising, but more research is needed to definitively call far infrared radiation an effective treatment method for all the conditions listed above.