The prevalence of US adult mental illness ranges from 18% in Florida to 30% in Utah. These statistics include almost one million living with Parkinson’s, 6.7 million with Alzheimer’s disease, and 21 million with depression. In addition, an estimated 40 million (19%) report anxiety.
Genetics, the modern environment and lifestyle undoubtedly contribute to mental health ailments and neurological disorders. Also, high fat and sugar diets, tobacco, alcohol, ageing, oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and brain injury may all play a role. In addition, recent research data suggests that mitochondria, tiny cell components, may be intimately involved in the development and progression of mood disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
What are mitochondria? These independently bordered organelles are the “powerhouses” of every cell in our bodies. They generate much chemical energy fueling cell biochemical reactions, storing energy in the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecule. An adequate supply of ATP ensures healthy brain functioning, including focus, concentration, and memory.
How Do Mitochondria Generate Energy?
When we eat, glucose enters the mitochondria by transforming to acetyl-CoA. Here, it becomes part of the Krebs cycle, which is then married to the respiratory chain to produce energy (ATP). The Krebs cycle is a mitochondrial reaction chain. Also known as the citric acid cycle, it is the process through which almost all cells generate energy via aerobic respiration. This chain reaction takes in oxygen and yields carbon dioxide and water.
The process relies on cell protons and electrons. The more of these available in our cells, the more and faster the energy is produced. The cells in organs requiring the most oxygen, such as the heart, brain, liver, and muscles, have the most mitochondria. Simultaneously, research suggests that our mitochondrial metabolism decreases as we and our brains age.
How Does Mitochondrial Metabolism Loss Impact Mental Health?
Study findings indicate that this loss in mitochondrial metabolism and ATP may be responsible for many neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. As the metabolic rate (energy generation) drops, so does the ability to think, speak, and remember efficiently. Nitric oxide, found in air pollution, also potentially contributes to neurodegenerative disease. This element accumulates around the brain’s amyloid plaques, where it’s thought to cause brain cell death.
Light, too, plays an essential role in mental well-being, as vital to health as food, water, and air. A lack of natural daylight and overexposure to stimulating blue light from devices at night may negatively impact mood.
Hence, keeping the metabolic rate up, avoiding nitric acid buildup, and ensuring adequate light exposure could help stave off neurological degeneration. An existing drug, methylene blue (MB), may offer scientifically proven support.
Blue Methylene and Red Light Therapy
Near-infrared (NIR) light therapy, photobiomodulation (PBM), or low-level laser therapy stimulates the mitochondria in cells to help improve cellular function and energy production. In turn, methylene blue acts as an electron acceptor and donor to boost mitochondrial efficiency.
Why is this near-infrared light and methylene blue intervention valuable? It helps metabolically protect neurons against oxidative degeneration, which is essential for those with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and mild cognitive impairment. The combination addresses two major disease drivers: chronic inflammation and poor energy delivery mechanisms.
What Is Red Light Therapy?
Infrared light is the same as the heat from the sun but without harmful ultraviolet rays, such as at sunrise and sunset. The therapy uses specific light wavelengths, from 700 to 1,000 nanometres – beyond human vision – to treat various ailments.
It is artificially produced using LED or laser technology and is safe enough for use among infants, even newborns. Near-infrared and red light therapy devices are FDA-approved for various applications, including antiaging, acne treatments, hair loss reversal, fat loss, wound healing, and pain relief.
Once absorbed by cell photoreceptors, the light energy metabolically triggers a series of natural, cellular-level events and processes. This selected spectrum of electromagnetic radiation can help repair and regenerate cells, improve oxygen-rich blood circulation, and encourage the body’s self-healing functions. It can help heal wounds and injuries and manage pain.
One of red light therapy’s main characteristics is that its longer wavelengths can penetrate the skin naturally and painlessly, reaching nerves, muscles, bones, and the brain. In addition, with the brain constantly requiring at least 20% of total body oxygen, scientists recently realized that infrared is a bioactive neuromodulator and boosts endorphin levels. The treatment is non-invasive and gentle, with manageably short sessions and improvement reported soon after therapy.
What Is Methylene Blue?
The inspiration for the term “magic bullet,” coined by Nobel Laureate Paul Ehrlich, methylene blue (methylthioninium chloride) is a multi-tasking, all-rounder, yielding numerous benefits without harm.
It is a synthesized chemical salt, the world’s “first fully man-made medicine,” with an age-old medical history.
It appears on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines. Consumers require a prescription with one injectable brand (ProvayBlue®) FDA-approved for treating methemoglobinemia. The substance readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to enhance attention, memory, processing skills, and motor function.
Used in low doses, Methylene blue is antiseptic, a potent antioxidant, and a potentially brain-boosting nootropic supplement. It may help our cells generate energy, protect mitochondrial operation, improve mitochondrial function, and boost our cells to produce more energy. This quality makes it valuable in treating disease processes associated with poor energy delivery, such as heart disease, dementia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and potentially depression and cancer.
In addition, methylene blue acts as a nitric acid inhibitor. As the substance quickly accumulates in the brain, it can scavenge existing nitric oxide from the body and blood, reducing its synthesis.
Methylene blue was used as a fabric dye and abnormal cell stain in the 1800s and later to treat malaria successfully. The widely used anti-malarial, hydroxychloroquine, is based on methylene blue. The light-activated substance offers protection against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
Since the 1890s, this prescription medication has effectively assisted various conditions. These methylene blue responsive conditions include long-Covid Lyme disease and methemoglobinemia, a rare blood disease. Other known benefits include treating shock, cyanide and carbon monoxide poisoning, nail fungus, chronic infections and promoting youthful skin.
Methylene blue may help prevent mild cognitive issues and more severe Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and global cerebral ischemia by reducing oxidative brain damage. Moreover, methylene blue may offer significant antidepressant effects thanks to its ability to prevent the breakdown of, and possibly amplify the effects of, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. It may also help regulate bipolar disorder and anxiety.
Findings from a 2019 Alzheimer patient study showed that daily use of methylene blue in monitored doses halted the disease, reducing cognitive decline by over 85%. The study also concluded that doses up to 16mg are therapeutic, with no additional benefits or an opposite effect at higher amounts. Most notable is the extent of the impact of infrared light on methylene blue effect activation, methylene blue’s accentuation of the benefits of red light therapy.
Red and Blue – A Phenomenal Mental Health Therapy Combination
Both low-level infrared light and low-dose methylene blue increase cytochrome oxidase gene expressions in the brain, exhibiting high bioavailability. Combining their beneficial actions and effects offers synergies that are more significant than the effects of each therapy independently. Methylene blue preferentially enters neuronal mitochondria, while transcranially applied infrared light delivers photons to cortical neurons. These modalities, combined, may offer superior neurotherapeutic protection and increased cerebral blood flow and cell respiration.
Near-infrared light has a biophysical effect and donates photons, while methylene blue has a biochemical effect and donates electrons. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) combining methylene blue with red light therapy combines and accentuates their impact on inflammation, oxidative damage, mitochondrial function, and related behavioral symptoms.
How Is Infrared Light Therapy With Methylene Blue Administered?
A helmet emitting infrared light is applied transcranially to the forehead. This targeting allows photons to penetrate and stimulate the brain, specifically the cerebral cortex. Here, the cells absorb the light energy, causing a photochemical reaction called photoneuromodulation. Patients rest peacefully in darkness for 20 minutes while the invisible, soundless light therapy works on their frontal lobes.
The low-level infrared light impacts the mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC). It acts as a photon donor to complex IV or cytochrome c oxidase, generating increased blood flow, oxygen consumption, and cytochrome oxidase enzymatic activity. Effects impact cytochrome oxidase gene expressions, so outcomes are long-lasting for two to four weeks. Light beds can also provide red light therapy to the whole body. You can take methylene blue orally or intravenously to reach the brain via the bloodstream or as a direct injection elsewhere.
What to Know About Administering Methylene Blue
If you self-administer the therapies, only use pharmaceutical-grade methylene blue, not veterinarian or industrial variants, as these can contain additives not approved for human use. The recommended dose is 0.5 to 1mg per kilogram of body weight per day, no more than four days per week. Drops, troches (held under the tongue), and slow-release suppositories are ideal for treating yourself at home.
Both therapies show a hermetic response, being most beneficial in small amounts. In addition, the combined treatment is cost-effective, with almost no side effects. You can further support the combined modalities with a holistic ketone-increasing nutritional approach to enhance mitochondrial respiration and breathwork to boost oxygen availability. Meanwhile, infrared light is helpful yet harmless; however, methylene blue may be contraindicated in some conditions and with specific medications.
Speak to Your Medical Professional Before Using Methylene Blue
As impactful as methylene blue and red light therapy is, methylene blue is not safe for everyone. Those who are pregnant, nursing, and newborns should avoid it. It is also contraindicated in those taking antidepressants and people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency.
Potential side effects can include headache, abdominal or chest pain, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, confusion, excessive sweating, raised blood pressure, or green or blue-colored skin, urine, or feces. Users could also experience allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, nausea and vomiting, serotonin syndrome, and red blood cell breakdown.
Also, check with your doctor before using methylene blue if you’re taking medications. Those to be cautious around include anxiety or depression drugs, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), antihistamines containing cyproheptadine, certain opioids, lithium, and the mood-enhancing herb St. John’s wort. You may also need to avoid consuming alcohol when using methylene blue.
Achieve Increased Cognitive Functioning and Neuroprotection With Combined NIR-MB Therapy
In a polluted and out-of-balance external world, the delicate mind-body connection is easy to disrupt as we age. Many experience mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar, and those with or working to prevent neurodegenerative diseases don’t want to rely on chronic medication. Instead, everyone, including those with neurodegenerative conditions, can use NIR – MB combined therapy to feel more focused for longer, calmer, and enjoy improved memory and recall.