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Dr. Michael Hamblin Interview: Infrared Therapy Expert

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

There’s a reason I’m big into infrared – and you’ll understand why after you see this interview. I love his answer to the last question when I ask him about the future of infrared… He thinks everyone will have multiple devices. LLLT will be used by everyone sooner or later. The only question is, will you be an early adopter?

Note: The video cut out in the beginning on my end (although he was able to see me). I don’t know why.

What we discuss:

  • The mechanisms for LLLT/Infrared,
  • The beneficial wavelengths,
  • What conditions can benefit,
  • Where to put it, for how long to put it,
  • Side effects,
  • How he uses it personally…
  • LLLT and Cancer


Dr. Michael Hamblin sure knows his stuff! He’s a professor at Harvard and has published close to 300 papers, mostly on phototherapy.

Basically, there is no one in this world who knows more about infrared or light therapy for healing than him.

If you ask a typical doctor about infrared therapy, they might start mumbling that they either don’t know or there’s not enough research on it. This just means they don’t know enough about the latest science behind it. This is why I’m interviewing the direct source.

See my post on LLLT.

Dr. Hamblin’s CV

  • Principal Investigator at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital,
  • Associate Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School
  • Member of the affiliated faculty of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology.
  • He was trained as a synthetic organic chemist and received his Ph.D. from Trent University in England.
  • His research interests lie in the areas of photodynamic therapy (PDT) for infections, cancer, and stimulation of the immune system, and in low-level light therapy (LLLT) for wound healing, arthritis, traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative diseases, and psychiatric disorders.
  • He directs a laboratory of around a dozen post-doctoral fellows, visiting scientists and graduate students.
  • His research program is supported by NIH, CDMRP, USAFOSR, and CIMIT among other funding agencies.
  • He has published 284 peer-reviewed articles, over 150 conference proceedings, book chapters, and International abstracts and holds 8 patents.
  • He is Associate Editor for 7 journals, on the editorial board of a further 12 journals and serves on NIH Study Sections.
  • For the past 10 years, Dr. Hamblin has chaired an annual conference at SPIE Photonics West entitled “Mechanisms for low-level light therapy” and he has edited the 10 proceedings volumes together with four other major textbooks on PDT and photomedicine.


I edited this for clarity and brevity. I would suggest reading this outline and listening to the interview.

Q: I emailed him an important question after the interview… Is there a problem using C60 olive oil with LLLT?

No problem combining C60 in olive oil and LLLT.

Q: How does LLLT work?

Absorption of Red and near-infrared photons.

Red = 600-700nm

Near Infrared = 780-1100/1200nm

  • Photons are absorbed by chromophores in the mitochondria
  • Nitric oxide increases
  • Mitochondria changes that are good
  • Signaling – from ROS, Non cAMP
  • Burst of ROS
  • cAMP from extra ATP
  • Activates transcription factors to create new proteins

Light has effects days or weeks after.

Q: Do you use light therapy personally and how do you use it?

There’s no danger to LEDs,

He puts it on in the morning on some part of his body, elbow (if sore), knee (if sore), eyes, forehead, and any part of his anatomy that could use some boosting…

He uses it on his forehead for 15 minutes 2X a week.

Q: Why don’t you use it on the rest of your brain?

Because hair blocks the light.

Q: How come I felt good effects from LLLT when I had hair?

Some of it goes through.

Near-infrared could give you a cognitive effect… if you put it on your head for a half hour or so… (You can get good effects for shorter periods).

Q: Does it make a difference if you get cheaper devices?

To some degree, you get what you pay for…

The more watts, the more effects it will have, but there’s a limit of course.

The upper limit of power density should be 100mw/centimeter…

Q: What about CCTV devices?

They’re good…

They put floodlights on top of the cage that had a lot of power (72 watts) and it worked for the animals.

Q: Can infrared (850nm) get through glass?

Yes, 800-1200 nm goes through glass, but far infrared probably doesn’t… to some degree it can also go through thin white clothing.

The heat you feel in the car from the sun is infrared.

Q: Have you heard of Dr. Gerald Pollack? What do you think of infrared creating structured water?

LLLT also works with ion channels…

Mosquitos see the infrared in your skin from light-sensitive ion channels in the eye.

Mammals have these ion channels as well, which are sensitive to ion channels.

Many physics papers talk about structured water.

It’s possible structured water has a role to play in activating the ion channels, which goes on to raise cellular calcium levels.

No one knows how the ion channels open, but it could very well be that this is mediated by structured water.

Q: Isn’t raising calcium in your cell, not a good idea?

Infrared is causing the ion channels to open, which causes small increases in cellular calcium, in a wave-like manner… it’s the large increases that are bad.

Q: How much infrared does the sun have and how does it compare to the LEDs?

Sun probably provides 20-30 milliwatts/sq centimeter of near infrared… so it’s beneficial, but it’s not nearly as powerful as the LEDs…

It’s long been known that sun is good for photobiomodulation… but too much UV is bad.

To get the correct dosage from the sun, you’d need to worry about UV exposure, and it would be better if you were at a higher altitude.

Q: How does someone know if they’re getting too much infrared?

If the benefits go away after continual usage, that’s a sign of overuse.

Some side effects from too much usage include:


Getting too tired from it – but this is not bad per se.

People with brain injuries generally get tired.

Q: Why do some people get tired from LLLT and healthy people don’t?

He thinks that people who get tired from it are already tired, but unable to sleep, but the light therapy somehow releases the block that stops them from sleeping, by perhaps relaxing them.

Perhaps because light therapy reduces glutamate, so it stops the parts of the brain that are overexcited.

Serotonin metabolism is also affected by light. There’re more serotonin metabolites in the urine when people use infrared.

LLLT only increases inflammation transiently in people without any baseline inflammation. In people with inflammation, LLLT only has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Q: Would increasing cellular calcium cause glutamate to increase?

Not quite. Light therapy causes a small increase and gets a protective response. So maybe a small increase in cellular calcium causes a protective response by the cell.

Light therapy works by hormesis and also preconditioning…

Q: How is it working that a small increase in ROS stimulates an adaptive response in people who have very high levels of ROS already. Something else must be happening?

ROS only transiently increased in people who have low ROS… but in people who have high levels, it ROS only decreases.

Q: Does it make a difference on the time of day that you put it on?

He’s never seen research on that.

Q: How does near-infrared compare to far-infrared?

Well, therapy is only effective at certain light lengths. 700-760nm has very little to no effect, and when you get to 800, the effects come back.

1,500nm seems to do something… broadband far infrared such as 10,000nm also does something.

It’s possible that all the wavelengths from 800-10,000nm do the same things.

At those wavelengths, water is the main chromophore or molecule that absorbs the light… by a long shot.

Q: What’s better, infrared bulbs/lamps or LEDs?

LEDs seem to better than lamps, but he’s not sure why.

Q: Can infrared LEDs damage eyesight?

No, it’s probably good for your eyes.

Light therapy can help with cataracts…

Infrared LEDs can preserve your retinal photoreceptors from damage.

LEDs and light therapy can be good for autoimmune thyroid antibodies. It probably works by decreasing systemic inflammation.

Q: What about using LLLT on the testes? Do I have to be worried about fertility?

No – in fact it’s been shown in animal studies to increase fertility.

Q: What about using light therapy on your gut?

It’s hard for the infrared to make its way to the inside of the intestines, so it’ll probably only have a superficial effect.

Studies are done on an infrared pill for problems such as colitis.

Red and near infrared have some effect on microbes. Blue light actually kills microbes.

Q: What does LLLT NOT help with?

Not aware of any negative studies…

Q: Did LLLT help with fatigue in people with traumatic brain injuries?

Helps them with fatigue.

Q: What about infrared or ceramic laced clothing?

Because of the nature of the material, it keeps more in and puts less out.

Clothing can maybe increase athletic performance.

The benefits exist, but they’re not huge.

Q: What about clothing such as UA cold gear?

He believes it would have an effect (beneficial).

Q: What about an infrared sauna? Would that be better than a regular sauna?

He believes so.

Q: What about pulsing vs non-pulsing LLLT?

If you’re going to use pulsing, 10-100hz is good or else the cells get confused.

Q: What about the using LLLT in your nose?

He thinks it’s working by irradiating the blood in circulation. He thinks the benefits are occurring via the platelets, as they cause a variety of growth factors.

Q: What about LLLT for cancer? Should we be scared that it increases cancer risk?

Light therapy could not conceivably cause cancer… It’s entirely possible that light therapy makes an existing tumor grow faster.

It’s not a great idea to put it directly on a tumor, but putting it on your thymus is a good idea.

It could also be beneficial by increasing the local area of the immune system so that it can fight cancer better.

There are some studies on infrared light therapy in advanced cancer and preliminary studies have been positive.

But at this stage, it’s too early to say if it can benefit or not.

Q: What’s the future of Light therapy?

He thinks not too far in the future everyone will have multiple devices for use in multiple body parts. Wearable/portable light sources may come in.

Q: What modalities do you focus on to improve your own health?

He’s not into healthy eating or anything, he just focuses on light, as he thinks it’s most important. It could be light therapy will allow you to get away with all the things that are bad for you?

Q: Where can people find you?

The handbook of photomedicine is already out.

The handbook of low-level laser therapy is coming out.

See Dr. Michael Hamblin’s book on Amazon.

Links to Vielight

I personally use the Vielight products rather than the cheaper intranasal ones.

I’ve bought the Vielight products to try out higher powered devices. They are better, so I’d suggest that if you have the money, go for the Vielight. If you don’t, go for the cheaper stuff below.

Use discount coupon code JOSEPHCOHEN for 10% off all Vielight products. Vielights are better than the cheaper ones.

“The Vielight 810 Infrared emits infrared light with an 810 nm wavelength. The longer wavelength enables photons to reach and photobiomodulation your brain cells. Engineered to pulse at 10 Hz, this frequency is associated with neural oscillation in the alpha state. In a Harvard study conducted, this draws the greatest neurological healing in traumatized brains. This state also helps to release calming chemicals in the brain, which helps with sleeping conditions. The LED beam footprint spans the underside of the brain, including the mid-brain area. With these specifications, the power density is 7.6 mW/cm² (net of duty cycle) per session.”

This section contains a sponsored link, which means that we may receive a small percentage of profit from your purchase, while the price remains the same to you. The proceeds from your purchase support our research and work. Thank you for your support.

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen flipped the script on conventional and alternative medicine…and it worked. Growing up, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety, and other issues that were poorly understood in traditional healthcare. Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a learning journey to decode his DNA and track his biomarkers in search of better health. Through this personalized approach, he discovered his genetic weaknesses and was able to optimize his health 10X better than he ever thought was possible. Based on his own health success, he went on to found SelfDecode, the world’s first direct-to-consumer DNA analyzer & precision health tool that utilizes AI-driven polygenic risk scoring to produce accurate insights and health recommendations. Today, SelfDecode has helped over 100,000 people understand how to get healthier using their DNA and labs.
Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, with a mission of empowering people to take advantage of the precision health revolution and uncover insights from their DNA and biomarkers so that we can all feel great all of the time.


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