Colour Therapy with Food through Ayurvedic & Chinese Medicine

Colour Therapy with Food through Ayurvedic & Chinese Medicine

What is Chromo or Colour Therapy? A Brief History of Medicine’s Diversion from the Mind

Colour therapy is often associated, if at all, with our clothing but the effect of colours has historically gone far beyond such a surface approach. Chromotherapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine and then taken up by Western Medicine as a form of physiological and psychological treatment.

Like many modalities, chromotherapy has its roots in ancient observations and usages across various cultures spanning time. Colour has been investigated as medicine since 2000 BC. Phototherapy—light therapy—was practiced in ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and India. The Egyptians utilized sunlight as well as color for healing; Greeks used coloured minerals (crystals as we now call them), salves, and dyes as remedies; and the ancient Ayurvedic physician Charaka, who lived in the 6th Century BC, recommended sunlight for treating various ailments.

Edwin Babbitt was in fact among the pioneers of modern chromotherapy. According to Babbit’s research, “there is a unique color or energy vibration that either sedates or stimulates the stream of energy through a specific organ, causing a natural biochemical reaction.” The aim of chromotherapy is to be a complementary form of therapy in ailing the body and restoring its balanced function. His work on color healing, for the first time in history, proved to be comprehensive in taking both a physiological and a psychological approach. 

This certainly pulled from the aforementioned ancient practises namely Ayurvedic Medicine, wherein each chakra energises and sustains certain organs. What Babbitt’s research posited is that “the balance of the seven chakras activates healing by transmitting energy to the electromagnetic field around the body.” He reiterates the Ayurvedic idea that the body has seven major energy centres known as chakras, each centres is responsive to a different colour. For instance, the chakra located at the sites of the major endocrine glands, corresponds to particular states of consciousness, personality types and endocrine secretions.

During the nineteenth century the emphasis in science was exclusively on matter rather than on energy. As medicine came under the umbrella of science, it focused too much on the material physical body, ignoring the mind. With the advances in physical medicine and treatments such as surgery and antiseptic, interest in healing with colors declined.

Yet, there was continuing interest, even from pioneers including Carl Jung who once stated, "Color is the key to subconscious." Below is a two-part guide to exploring the ancient practises from Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine to complement your allopathic and alternative care of your body. Before you read this information, though, consider if there have been foods of a certain colour, texture, or flavour that you have been craving. It can be a surprising exploration of what they might be signaling.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: The Five-phase Approach

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, emotional balance is correlated with the five basic flavors in foods. Food functions as a figurative control knob that can either enhance or decrease certain energies, which in return can soothe overstimulated emotions or physiological states. Incorporating the five flavors into your diet supports the free flow of qi (the energy that provides the body’s life-force) and nourish shen (spirit and the psyche), an integral component of what is deemed spiritual nutrition.

From an Eastern perspective, however, all emotions are considered normal

From a Western point of view, one that is static in its understanding of “positivity" and happiness, it can seem counterintuitive to enhance emotions deemed as negative, such as anger, worry, sadness, or fear while reducing the seemingly positive emotion of joy. From an Eastern perspective, however, all emotions are considered normal, healthy physiological responses to stimulation, as long as they are kept in check and balanced. The yin-yang principle illustrates this as someone who is too sedated or calm, for instance, might be incapable of responding appropriately to a situation that calls for excitement. Too little or too much of anything applies to emotions, because it canause pathological damage to the organs and meridians, especially if its persistent longterm.

For instance, “too much joy will scatter the spirit and cause anxiety. This type of joy is not the sort that leads to deep contentment and peace, but rather overexcitement and hyperactivity.” Or if we lack the emotion of anger, our qi cannot rise, and we might fail to stand up for others or ourselves. Anger can be a positive response, especially in the current political climate. Yet, if we’re too angry, we can become violent and cruel. Worrying too much can lead to depression but if we don’t worry at all, life might go amiss as we might not reach out and bond with others. Sadness bonds us to those we love, as we would not feel their loss otherwise. On the other hand, too much or prolonged sadness can lead to being consumed by grief.

Flavor: Sour
Meridians: Liver and Gallbladder
Emotions EnhancedAnger
Emotions Reduced: Thought

Flavor: Bitter
MeridiansHeart and Small Intestine
Emotions EnhancedJoy
Emotions Reduced: Sadness and worry

Flavor: Sour
Meridians: Liver and Gallbladder
Emotions EnhancedAnger
Emotions Reduced: Thought

Flavor: Bitter
MeridiansHeart and Small Intestine
Emotions EnhancedJoy
Emotions Reduced: Sadness and worry

Flavor: Pungent
Meridians: Lung and Large Intestine
Emotions EnhancedWorry and sadness
Emotions Reduced: Anger

Flavor: Salty
MeridiansKidney and Bladder
Emotions EnhancedFear and shock
Emotions Reduced: Joy


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, you can also use the body clock is a remarkable tool for supporting a particular organ and its corresponding meridian.

Ayurvedic Approach


Root Chakra

Sanskrit name: Muladhara; root support
Element: Earth
Color: Red

The first chakra is the energy center in which supports our entire foundation. It connects us to the earth as well as our identity and self-esteem. As you might have guessed then, it is the most common chakra to experience blockage or weakness. Psychologically, it controls our survival instincts, security, fight-or-flight, and fear. Physically, it supports our limbs, muscles, joints, and the immune system. Genital organs; the adrenals; coccygeal vertebrae; as well as some kidney, bladder, and excretory functions are affected by it. An imbalanced root chakra may cause issues with the legs, feet, digestive system, and emotional imbalances which cause feelings of not being supported, insecurity, loneliness, or fear.

Foods That Balance

To balance your first chakra, think red. Root vegetables as well as protein, which nourishes the muscles it controls and blood sugar, is especially supportive. Root vegetables grow beneath the ground, absorbing a high amount of vitamins and nutrients from the soil and are rich in folate, vitamin C, antioxidants, and beta-carotene. The most nourishing root vegetables include sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, garlic, parsnips, onions, rutabaga, ginger, and turmeric. For fruits, think red apples, beets, tomatoes, pomegranates, strawberries, and raspberries. Spices to include might be paprika, cayenne, and horeseradish.

Make ThisCrispy Roasted Potatoes with Horseradish

Use ThisRed Agate

Sacral Chakra

Sanskrit name: Svadhisthana; dwelling place of the self
Element: Water
Color: Orange

The second chakra is our passion, pleasure, and. creative center. It governs our emotions, senses, intimacy, and connection. Physiologically, it is connected to our reproductive organs, sacrum, and hips as well as water-based organs, such as the kidneys and large intestine (colon).

When this chakra is balanced, we can freely express our creativity, form honest, intimate relationships, and pursue our passions. An imbalanced sacral chakra can lead to many disturbances, including commitment issues, stifled creativity, lack of drive, lack of confidence, depression, back pain, and urinary/reproductive issues.

Foods That Balance

Balance your sacral chakra with all things orange as well as plenty of water. Think carrots, mango, oranges, orange peppers, peaches, apricots, and sweet potatoes.

Foods rich in Omega-3s and healthy fats, such as salmon, also work well to balance this chakra. Nuts and seeds such as flax, almonds, walnuts, and sesame provide additional fatty Omega-3s, which aid in cardiovascular health and reduce inflammation. Coconut and spices such as cinnamon also calm this centre.

Make ThisSweet Potato Soup with Coriander & Blood Orange

Use ThisOrange Calcite

Solar Plexus Chakra

Sanskrit name: Manipura; lustrous gem
Element: Fire
Color: Yellow

The third chakra represents your personal power. Psychologically, it controls our energy as it is related to our willpower, goals, and general purpose. When balanced, it will translate into feelings of inner peace, confidence, and self-control. Physically, the solar plexus supports your spleen, stomach, liver, and pancreas or organs that feed the digestive system.

An imbalanced third chakra can cause feelings of insecurity and lack of purpose, as well as stomach issues (pains, ulcers, chronic indigestion, etc.). It also affects the lumbar spine, causing lower back pain when imbalanced.

This might be due to its dual effect on the digestive system; think of how when your digestion is off with gas, it can also cause lower back pain. It’s important to consider with this chakra what foods sustain or drain your energy. Consider your fiber consumption, which sustain energy, and protein intake, which provide satiety through balanced blood sugar levels.

Foods That Balance

Like the chakra’s color, yellow foods are restorative for the solar plexus. Bananas, pineapple, corn, lemons, and yellow curry. (Bonus: yellow is a natural mood enhancer). Also feed this chakra with complex carbohydrates and whole grains if you do eat them, so think about including foods such as oats, root vegetables, and sprouted grains.

Make ThisProbiotic Vegan Mango Lassi

Use ThisCitrine

Heart Chakra

Sanskrit name: Anahata; unstruck
Element: Air
Color: Green

This system is all about love. It tells us something about our empathy, compassion, and devotion. The love in our body nourishes feelings of expansion, openness, and giving. It oversees our arms, armpits, blood vessels, breasts, hands, heart, lungs, lymphatic system, shoulders, and wrists.
b. Green foods often contain naturally occurring nitrates, which help our blood vessels to expand. Other green foods, such as avocado, broccoli, dandelion, mustard greens, and all types of sprouts, also serve to nourish this system. 

The fourth chakra is the energy center in which we feel compassion, centeredness, and love, both for others and ourselves. It connects to deeper, meaningful relationships and it governs our self-worth. Physiologically, this chakra supports our heart, lungs, upper torso, shoulders, hands, and arms as well as the lymphatic system and blood vessels hence circulation. An imbalanced heart chakra can cause feelings of unworthiness, heart issues, anxiety, low self-esteem, paranoia, low energy, poor digestion, and anger (among many others).

Foods That Balance

Balance your heart chakra with green, raw foods. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, chard, and arugula, can all help the heart chakra as their nutrients that provide our bodies with whole, balanced, and mineral-rich nutrients that oxygenate the blood. Leafy and cruciferous vegetables are especially healthy, as we know. Some other foods to incorporate include avocado, herbs such as cilantro and parsley, celery, cucumber, zucchini, matcha green tea, peas, kiwi, peas, spirulina and chlorella, and green apples.

Make ThisChlorella Milk, blend all ingredients below in a high-speed blender

  • 1 cup of plant-based milk choice, I prefer hemp or coconut mylk

  • 1 small ripe banana or plump date

  • 1 teaspoon of chlorella

  • A dash of pink salt & Sweetener of choice

Use ThisRose Quartz

Throat Chakra

Sanskrit name: Visuddha; purification
Element: Akasha
Color: Blue

The fifth chakra translates into our ability to use our voice to express ourselves as it’s located in our throat. It focuses on the energy of authentic expression, intuition, integrity, honesty, and openness, whether it’s to hearing our intuition or the voice of others. An imbalance in this chakra can cause a blockage of communication, misunderstanding, and a stifled voice.

Physically, the chakra supports the neck, throat, jaw, and teeth, the thyroid gland, thoracic vertebrae, and part of he lympathic system. A blockage in its energy can cause issues with sinuses, swollen glands, and neck/shoulder pain.

Foods That Balance

For balance in the fifth chakra, it’s important to mindfully eat our food and pace ourselves. Consuming blue foods, such as fiber-rich Blueberries and blackberries can be helpful. Sea plants and vegetables, such as nori and dulse, are rich in minerals that nourish the thyroid.

Other moist foods that help lubricate the auditory channels and this chakra include soups, sauces, juices, teas, and high-fluid fruits, like honeydew, kiwi, and melon. Liquids such as coconut water, herbal teas, raw honey, and lemon are also restorative as well as fruits that grow on trees such as apples, pears, and plums.

Make ThisRaspberry Leaf Tea

Use ThisTurquoise 

Third Eye Chakra

Sanskrit name: Ajna; to perceive
Element: Light
Color: Indigo

The sixth chakra is the third-eye or the brow chakra. This chakra, located on the forehead between our eyes, aids in perceiving of reality balanced with our centre of internal wisdom. Physically, it’s related to the pituitary gland, connects to other glands in the body, and is associated with the nervous system with the brain, neurons, and neurotransmitter. A balanced third-eye chakra allows us to see clearly, focus, and trust our own intuitions, charging our purpose and curiosity towards growth.

An imbalanced sixth chakra can lead to feeling a lack of direction or purpose in our life. Since it is related to the frontal sinuses, ears, and eyes, an imbalance can also cause tension headaches, blurry vision, coordination/balance problems, and sleep disturbances.

Foods That Balance

For this chakra, think purple and deep blues. Nutrients in blue-purple foods support the brain, specifically with memorycognition, and even mood. Blue-purple foods include açaí berries, blackberries, figs, eggplants, purple cabbage, red grapes purple carrots, and wild blueberries. Also include cocao, which is rich in flavonoids and boosts serotonin, which helps to relieve stress and inflammation. These “brain foods” can instantly help clear an overworked mind and help to regain focus.

Make ThisHormone-balancing Bars from The Thirlby book (the recipe is available for free in this link)

Wear ThisAmazonite

Crown Chakra

Sanskrit name: Sahasrara; a thousand
Element: No element/thought
Color: White

This system relates to the nonphysical self-the spirit. As we move away from the physical aspect of food, we enter a realm of spirituality, purification, purpose, and meaning. Through our spirit, we gain inner clarity and enlightenment. Health issues associated with the spirit include those elements that are invisible, yet impactful, such as electromagnetic fields, energy meridians, the nervous system, and the pineal gland.
b. Besides incorporating periods of fasting to promote cleansing, eating white foods, such as cauliflower, coconut, garlic, onion, parsnips, sesame seeds, and turnips, may support detoxification practices, which can ultimately help the finer aspects of the body—the complex neural wiring—to work better.

Last on our list, the seventh chakra or the crown chakra is located at the top of our head. It represents oneness, truth, spirituality, and knowing, though the nonphysical, spirit, or soul-self. It fosters self-realization and the connection of the world around us by seeking wisdom. Physically, it’s relate to the nervous system and the pineal gland in addition to the invisible forces of the aforementioned energy meridians and electromagnetic fields. It radiates an energy dedicated to peace, faith, trust and gratitude for our lives. An imbalance in this chakra can cause feelings of confusion, disconnection, and insignificance. It also commonly causes disorders of the central nervous system or headaches, depression, and sensitivity to light.

Foods That Balance

The crown chakra focuses more on the spiritual aspect of our bodies rather than food as sustenance. Favour white and light foods such as cauliflower, coconut, garlic, onion, parsnips, turnips, and sesame and chia seeds.

Make This: Orange Chia Pudding

Wear ThisClear Quartz


About the Author

Almila Kakinc-Dodd is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief of The Thirlby. She is also the author of the book The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, & Soul. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing as a Dean’s Scholar at John’s Hopkins University. Her background is in Anthropology & Literature, which she has further enriched through her Integrative Health Practitioner training at Duke University. She lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, where she regularly contributes to various publications. She is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and urges others to join the movement.

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