Infrared (IR) light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, has been increasingly used for a wide range of health applications due to its therapeutic effects at a cellular level. The use of infrared light for the treatment and relief from symptoms of the common cold has been a recent area of interest, with studies suggesting that it may have potential benefits.
To understand how infrared light can potentially help with the common cold, it is important to comprehend the nature of this therapy. Infrared light is a type of energy that our eyes cannot see, but our bodies can feel as heat. It is divided into three types: near-infrared (NIR, 700nm to 1400nm), mid-infrared (MIR, 1400nm to 3000nm), and far-infrared (FIR, 3000nm to 1mm). Most of the therapeutic applications of infrared light involve the use of NIR because it has the highest penetration depth into biological tissues, thus reaching cells and promoting their recovery.
The proposed mechanism of action of infrared light therapy is based on a biological process known as photobiomodulation. This process involves the interaction of photons with cells, specifically the mitochondria, which are the energy factories of the cell. The absorption of NIR light by a mitochondrial enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase can increase the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that provides energy for cellular functions. This leads to improved cell metabolism, increased protein synthesis, cellular detoxification, and enhanced cell growth and proliferation.
Now, considering the application of infrared light therapy for the common cold, it's crucial to note that the common cold is primarily caused by viral infections, predominantly by rhinoviruses. The symptoms, such as runny nose, sore throat, cough, and congestion, are immune responses to these infections.
Infrared light therapy may help alleviate these symptoms in several ways:
Boosting the Immune System: The enhanced cellular activity and proliferation caused by IR therapy may lead to a stronger immune response. It can increase the activity of leukocytes, cells that help fight infections, thus potentially aiding in faster recovery.
Anti-inflammatory Effects: Inflammation is a primary immune response causing many cold symptoms. Studies have shown that infrared light therapy has anti-inflammatory effects, possibly by decreasing the production of inflammatory cytokines and enhancing the output of anti-inflammatory ones. This can help reduce symptoms like a sore throat and nasal congestion.
Improving Circulation: IR light promotes the dilation of blood vessels, a process known as vasodilation, leading to improved circulation. This can help deliver more nutrients and oxygen to infected areas, supporting faster recovery.
Pain Relief: The common cold often comes with discomfort and pain, such as sore throat and headaches. The ability of IR light to stimulate endorphin production, the body's natural pain relievers, may offer some relief.
Congestion Relief: As a result of its heating effects, infrared light therapy can help loosen and drain nasal congestion, providing symptomatic relief.
The scientific community has been actively investigating these effects. A study published in "Lasers in Medical Science" in 2009 found that low-level light therapy, including infrared light, can modulate the immune response and reduce inflammation. Further studies, such as one in "Photomedicine and Laser Surgery" in 2010, showed that NIR light therapy could increase circulation and have a positive effect on the immune system.
While these results are promising, it's worth noting that more research is needed specifically in the context of the common cold. Most of the studies on the topic to date have been small-scale or laboratory-based, and large-scale clinical trials would offer more robust evidence.
In conclusion, infrared light therapy, through its effects on cellular energy production, immune modulation, inflammation reduction, circulation improvement, and pain relief, may offer a supportive role in managing the symptoms of the common cold.
With no significant side effects and only a warming comforting experience what have you got to lose. Any relief should be evidence enough!