Author Julie Casper, L. Ac., is a hTMA clinician and educator, she works with patients across the U.S. and internationally. In addition, she supports health professionals who are interested in adding clinical hTMA to their practice. Contact:

Update: 17 February 2018

Near Infrared Therapy (sauna)

Author: Julie Casper, L. Ac.


The sun emits nearly half of its total energy in the near infrared (NIR) spectrum. We are biologically hard wired to use near infrared energy, much like sunlight is needed to produce vitamin D. It is now understood that the human body is partially photosynthetic 1 2 3. Our bodies require electromagnetic energy from sunlight to survive — and thrive.


  1. NIR Electromagnetic Radiation (illustrated)
  2. NASA Research
  3. Sweating Promotes Detoxification from Heavy Metals
  4. Infrared Light and Heat for Therapeutic Use
  5. Warnings and Cautions When using NIR
  6. Multi-light Therapy
  7. Single-Light Therapy - Treatment Instructions
  8. Inexpensive DIY Equipment for NIR Therapy
  9. Resources
  10. References

NIR Electromagnetic Radiation (illustrated)

Near infrared (NIR) light has dozens of biological effects on the body. The near infrared wavelength radiation penetrates into the body and has a direct effect on cellular structure. NIR can kill parasites and resolve infection. An important thing to understand about the near infrared spectrum is that human biology has evolved over millions of years receiving it and growing with it. Getting adequate NIR is essential for health.

NIR Graph

This graph illustrates where near-infrared radiation appears on the electromagnetic spectrum and the distinction in wavelength between near, medium, and far infrared.

NIR Graph

This graph illustrates the composition of solar radiation. Nearly half of sunlight arrives as invisible near-infrared radiation.

NASA Research

The main body of research on near infrared light therapy was done by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA research has found that the NIR electromagnetic frequency band of energy penetrates deeply into the body and has a very specific effect on the cells due to our body's natural response to specific near infrared wavelengths. Inside the mitochondria of every cell are receptors that respond to these near infrared wavelengths. The light triggers an increase in cell metabolism, protein synthesis (including collagen), and anti-oxidant activity. It reduces inflammation and pain. Overall, the light triggers growth and regeneration of the cells. 4

In many cells, microtubules form radial tracks from the nucleus to the cell periphery. These tracks are thought to make up a kind of ‘intracellular nervous system’ for communication information in both directions. For example, cells are often attracted to light. When exposed to a source of infrared light, cultured CV1 cells respond by sending our pseudopods, which enable them to crawl toward the light source. The cell's infrared sensor, the centrosome, is situated on the nuclear membrane, far from the incipient pseudopod. Communication between these sites is evidently necessary. As the cell receives the stimulus, the microtubules that interconnect these sites undergo physicochemical change. Hence, some information apparently propagates along the microtubule, enabling the cell to crawl in the proper direction. Gerald H. Pollack, Ph.D., — Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life

The importance of sunlight, and near infrared light, for healthy cell function is scientifically well understood. Until recently, we spent most of our time outdoors. We evolved with the sun shining on our skin. Our cellular function is designed around receiving this input. Infrared light therapy can help compensate for our NIR-deficient modern indoor lifestyles.

Dr. Len Saputo, explaining near infrared light (NIR) therapy.

Sweating Promotes Detoxification from Heavy Metals5

Depending on an individual's hTMA, sweating may be contraindicated (even dangerous). A 2011 study published in the Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology, explores the effects of toxic mineral elements accumulated within the human body, and the natural methods of excretion.

Toxic elements were found to differing degrees in each of blood, urine, and sweat. Serum levels for most metals and metalloids were comparable with those found in other studies in the scientific literature. Many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat. Presumably stored in tissues, some toxic elements readily identified in the perspiration of some participants were not found in their serum. Induced sweating appears to be a potential method for elimination of many toxic elements from the human body.6

Also, researchers made the observation that, "Biomonitoring for toxic elements through blood and/or urine testing may underestimate the total body burden of such toxicants. Sweat analysis should be considered as an additional method for monitoring bioaccumulation of toxic elements in humans." There is a body of evidence-based science regarding sauna therapy and physiology, and the therapeutic benefits of infrared sauna radiation and human health.8

Near Infrared Light and Heat for Therapeutic Use

NIR safety is an important consideration. For example, excessive sweating and tissue heating is contraindicated for a fast metabolizer with low copper so NIR should be avoided. However, many NIR benefits can still be realized without having to sweat. Please consult a qualified practitioner with concerns or questions.

Warnings and Cautions when using NIR

Sweating can drain vital electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium. If your levels of these minerals are low NIR use should be limited to non-sweating applications. Please consult a qualified practitioner with any concerns or questions.

Multi-light Therapy

3-head light stand

Using NIR to induce sweating for detoxification is commonly called infrared sauna therapy. Sauna therapy has been used by many cultures for thousands of years as a safe and powerful method for eliminating toxins and improving health 7. Saunas are pleasant, relaxing and effective for detoxification. Infrared sauna rooms are available in near infrared, far infrared and full spectrum infrared. Here are some commercial examples:

DIY - A Simple Standing Sauna (for a small bathroom or closet)

If you don't want to build a sauna room, you can purchase a multi-light stand (like the one pictured here) and set it up in a small bathroom or closet. You can stand in front of the light and rotate as desired for 20 - 40 minutes (depending on how long it takes for you to work up a good sweat). Sweating is a good detoxification practice, and with infrared, you get the added benefits described above.

NIR Single-Light Therapy

Single-light NIR therapy can help speed healing by improving circulation, and oxygenation and hydration of the tissue it is affecting. NIR also treats viral and bacterial infections. The following symptoms and conditions can benefit from NIR therapy.

Treatment Instructions
NIR for Treating Pain

NIR therapy to relieve pain, including joint and back pain, sore or strained muscles, soft tissue injuries, sports injuries, neuropathy.

  1. Shine the light on the painful/injured area for 20 minutes per session.
  2. Always use a timer to prevent excessive treatment.
  3. Use only over clean, dry skin. Do not apply oils or lotions before therapy.
  4. The lamp should be about 8" to 24" from the body. It should feel warm but not burn.
  5. Move and turn the treated area during the session to help prevent burns.
  6. Treatment sessions; one-to-three times per day.
  7. Allow at least two hours between sessions.
  8. To avoid increasing inflammation, wait 24 hours after an injury before using the lamp.
NIR for Skin Conditions

NIR therapy for skin conditions including rashes, acne, boils, nail fungus and other skin problems.

  1. When using the lamp on any area of the head, do not use for more than 5 minutes per session. Wait at least two hours before repeating the therapy. This will prevent over-heating the brain.
  2. Follow instructions above for pain, except for the below caution when using on the head area.
  3. Always keep your eyes closed when shining the light on the face area.
  4. Do not use to treat rosacea or skin cancers.
NIT for Treatment of Infection

NIR therapy for viral and bacterial infections, including stomach flu.

  1. For general treatment for infections, shine the light on the thymus gland (located at the base of the throat at the level of the top of the breast bone). Treat for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times per day.
  2. Follow instructions above for pain to spot treat infections, but if anywhere on the head, do not treat for more than 5 minutes at a time.

Inexpensive DIY Equipment for NIR Therapy


You don't have to spend a lot or purchase expensive commercial products to set up a NIR sauna. Depending on how handy you are, you can build or purchase a simple stand, or several stands, to hold the light fixture(s). Your local hardware or farm supply store will usually carry clamp-on fixtures and 250 watt red heat lamps. There are many brands of heat lamps available with similar spectrums. Better lamps are made by GE, Sylvania and Philips. GE bulbs have a built in reflector and a wider beam-spread than most brands. These bulbs may cost a little more, but can be worth it. Other brands have more of a spotlight effect which tends to focus too intensely and be too hot to be comfortable.

Inexpensive Single-light Stand

For single-light NIR thearpy purposes you can easily assemble a portable light and stand unit inexpensively. Purchase a clamp-on light fixture and securely attach it to a common microphone stand with a boom. Be sure the light fixture is safely attached with a strap or fastener of your choice (ask your hardware store assistant for secure attachment options).

boom stand heat lamp

DIY Components

  1. The unexpected capacity of melanin to dissociate the water molecule fills the gap between the life before and after ATP Biomedical Research 2010; 21 (2): 224-226
  2. Photosynthesis of vitamin D in the skin: effect of environmental and life-style variables PubMed
  3. The Cutaneous Photosynthesis of Previtamin D3: A Unique Photoendocrine System Journal of Investigative Dermatology (1981) 77, 51–58
  4. Effect of NASA Light-Emitting Diode Irradiation on Wound Healing Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine & Surgery Volume 19, Number 6, 2001 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Pp. 305–314
  5. Sweating promotes detoxification from heavy metals: Evidence-based scientific studies (listing)
  6. Blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study: monitoring and elimination of bioaccumulated toxic elements. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2011 Aug; 61(2):344-57. Epub 2010 Nov 6. PMID: 21057782
  7. What is a near infrared (NIR) sauna?
  8. Studies of Sauna Treatment and Physiology Dr. Douglas Lobay, B.Sc., N.D.
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