Both near and far infrared provide heat which in itself has many health benefits. This article will explore the two types of heat source and compare the different range of benefits. The term ‘near infrared light’ (NIR) refers to electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength between 0.75–1.4 µm. This accounts for 37% of the suns natural output of light perhaps explaining why the human body has evolved in such a way that this light source can have such a profound effect upon us. NIR light generates the most amount of heat but doesn’t pierce deep into human tissues.
It has been found to stimulate the function of mitochondria inside the body, leading to a multitude of health benefits. These included an increased metabolism, improved tissue repair as well as reducing inflammation from injuries. (Karu, 2008; Sommer, 2019; Sunlighten, n.d.).
Not only can NIR light provide impressive physical health benefits, there is also evidence to suggest that it can have a profound psychological effect on the mind. Schiffer et al (2009) conducted a study where patients suffering with major depression and anxiety were subjected to a single treatment of near infrared therapy to the forehead. After two weeks, 70% of patients experienced a remission in their depression score and 60% of patients experience a remission in their anxiety score. Indicating the potential for NIR light to be used in the treatment of depression and other psychiatric disorders.
Patients with chronic, mild traumatic brain injuries reported an increased ability to perform social, interpersonal, and occupational functions after undergoing a NIR light treatment. Patients also noted a decrease in PTSD symptoms (Naeser et al, 2014).
Far infrared (FIR) light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength between 5.6 - 1000 µm. FIR light penetrates much deeper than NIR light, right into the tissues of the human body.
The benefits of FIR light stem from both thermal and non-thermal effects. It can facilitate increased blood flow to an area of the boy and patients have also reported decreased stress and fatigue levels when subjected to FIR radiation. FIR therapy has also been proven to improve the symptoms of diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic kidney disease. (Shui, Wang, Chiang and Zheng, 2015; Sunlighten, n.d.).
Beever (2010) studied the effect of regular FIR sauna sessions on patients with Type 2 diabetes. The study found that systolic blood pressure was decreased amongst participants and that there was also a trend towards decreased waist circumference. Giving FIR therapy the potential to be an effective means towards maintaining a healthy active lifestyle.
The use of FIR radiation has also been proven to be effective for patients suffering from osteoarthritis in the knee. Patients were supplied with a FIR emitting plaster and reported a 20% greater reduction in pain after one month, when compared with a placebo group. (Bagnato, Miceli, Atteritano, and Marino, 2012).
All of our electric patio heaters work using infrared radiation, the majority of which include an infrared heat lamp which uses NIR light. This means on top of the benefits described previously, there are also no harmful side effects from using these heaters.
Infrared heaters waste no time or energy heating up the area surrounding them and are designed to work as efficiently as possible. Helping businesses and homeowners to make the most of their outside space, whilst keeping energy costs down.
To explain such a finding it must first be understood how infrared light differs to other types of heating. Infrared heat directly heats the object as opposed to having an affect on the surrounding air. Although perhaps a difficult concept to grasp this is in fact the sensation experienced when stepping out into the sunshine. Thus the warm sensations one associates with the sun are in fact infrared heat, meaning that heat radiated in such a way is distributed much more evenly than any other heating method. This consequently means that when using infrared heat the air around you wont feel as hot as one would expect given the heat of surrounding objects. For example in a sauna, due to the intense heat of the surrounding air many find spending long periods of time in such heat intolerable. However when compared to modern saunas, commonly used by athletes which utilize the heat of near infrared light, the room will seem much cooler as the air is not heated.
So given this difference in heat transfer it is reasonable to expect that both heat sources have different effects on the human body, and indeed research has confirmed this. Near infrared heat in itself has much deeper tissue penetration (more than 3 inches), allowing it to target cells throughout your whole body that far infrared and conventional heat sources would not reach. The mitochondria of cells (organelles responsible for cellular respiration and subsequent energy production) directly absorb near infrared heat enhancing their production of the energy-carrying molecule ATP. This therefore has the effect on the human body of providing more energy to respiring tissues. As well as this, additional health benefits were found. Exposure to this wavelength has been shown to aid cell regeneration and the turnover of dead cells meaning skin appears more youthful and revitalized. Cells are also protected through near infrared’s antioxidant powers, which again contribute to the slowing of aging. Another beneficial effect of near infrared heat technology is its ability to boost nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide is also a benefit to those who suffer with high blood pressure and thus leads to a healthier heart as found by NASA who used this heat source to keep astronauts hearts in optimal condition.
This type of heat benefits circulation of blood around the body through the dilatation of capillaries, allowing more heat to reach the extremities and supplying blood to muscles increasing their tone. It is for this reason that many athletes choose to use infrared heat when healing injuries. This type of heat source is able to target one specific area producing reflex-modulated vasodilators in other areas of the body even without changing the core body temperature. This method of heating muscles produces an increased blood flow similar to that experienced during exercise. Due to the improved circulation, this heat source is said to speed up the healing process of wounds, muscle and tissue drama.
Added to this reports have claimed that regular exposure to this heat source may reduce the appearance of cellulite due to the deep cell penetration which has the ability to liquefy fat. Moreover radiant heat can also provide benefits through short term pain relief to those who suffer with arthritis through stimulating the circulatory system through persistent peripheral vessel dilation (in a way some cant otherwise do through exercise due to physical limitations.)
In much the same way, far infrared heat has been found to in fact antidote the effects of toxic electromagnetic heat sources after extensive work by Japanese researchers led to this conclusion. More research has shown that there is a 20% decrease in rheumatoid finger joint stiffness at 45 degrees Celsius as opposed to 33 degrees Celsius, once again lending evidence to radiations health benefits in treating joint stiffness.
Both types of infrared heat can also be said to play a major role in weight control and general conditioning. Guyton's Textbook of Medical Physiology states that only 0.586 kcal are burned in producing one gram of sweat. When linked to the fact that the average person can easily sweat away 500 grams in an average sauna (around 300 kcal ) , but up to two or three times this amount in a infrared sauna ( around 750 kcal ), it becomes clear that infrared exposure provides a powerful alternative to exercise. While this water loss weight can be easily regained after heat exposure, the calories lost are not.
Far infrared rays penetrate deep into the body tissue; up to 3 inches, releases nitric-oxide into the haemoglobin which delivers higher levels of oxygen to the damaged cells. The rays gently heat the joints, as blood vessels are heated they dilate allowing more blood cells to flow to the affected area, therefore helping to eliminate the pain.
Infrared energy is naturally produced within skin tissue in our bodies for warmth and cell repair without the use of extra intervention, at times when cells are damaged a boost of external infrared rays will greatly help the healing process and repair damaged tissue faster than it would naturally do so alone.
Yes it is.
The Swedish National Institute of Radiation Protection have found that the use of infrared heaters are completely safe as they are free from any harmful toxins, as the skin cannot burn from the infrared rays they are completely healthy and safe to use; it is so safe that infrared heaters are used to warm new born babies. The body tissue cells that need an extra boost of infrared will absorb this and any unneeded rays will pass harmlessly through the body, this is known as resonant absorption.
Using infrared heat to aid health is not a new thing; China and Japan have been using these methods for around 25 years with great success. Japan even have their own Infrared Society which consists of highly qualified medical professionals, doctors and therapists who are all dedicated to the research and development of the use of infrared therapy as a method of healing.
Below are just a few of illnesses/ailments that they have found that infrared healing has proven to help:
In May 2001 Merl Bowers was diagnosed with prostate cancer, at the time of diagnosis his PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood count measured 1885.
He was told about the health benefits of infrared by his step son, so he went and bought himself an infrared hothouse rather than undergo courses of radiation or chemotherapy. 12 weeks later he visited the hospital where he was told his PSA had dropped from 1885 to 30, this was only after 12 weeks of continuous use of the infrared hothouse
Merl Bowers, Alberta, Canada
The full story can be found at www.chimachine4u.com
Bagnato, G., Miceli, G., Atteritano, M., Marino, N., & Bagnato, G. (2012). Far infrared emitting plaster in knee osteoarthritis: a single blinded, randomised clinical trial. Reumatismo, 64(6). doi: 10.4081/reumatismo.2012.388
Naeser, M., Zafonte, R., Krengel, M., Martin, P., Frazier, J., & Hamblin, M. et al. (2014). Significant Improvements in Cognitive Performance Post-Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Treatments in Chronic, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Open-Protocol Study. Journal Of Neurotrauma, 31(11), 1008-1017. doi: 10.1089/neu.2013.3244
Schiffer, F., Johnston, A., Ravichandran, C., Polcari, A., Teicher, M., Webb, R., & Hamblin, M. (2009). Psychological benefits 2 and 4 weeks after a single treatment with near infrared light to the forehead: a pilot study of 10 patients with major depression and anxiety. Behavioral And Brain Functions, 5(1), 46. doi: 10.1186/1744-9081-5-46
Shui, S., Wang, X., Chiang, J., & Zheng, L. (2015). Far-infrared therapy for cardiovascular, autoimmune, and other chronic health problems: A systematic review. Experimental Biology And Medicine, 240(10), 1257-1265. doi: 10.1177/1535370215573391
Sommer, A. (2019). Mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase is not the primary acceptor for near infrared light—it is mitochondrial bound water: the principles of low-level light therapy. Annals Of Translational Medicine, 7(S1), S13-S13. doi: 10.21037/atm.2019.01.43