Kirlian image of leaf

Since its development in 1939, Kirlian photography has awed doctors, artists, plant-lovers, mystics and more recently, foodies. A favorite of raw food fanatics, this method uses no light, but captures an intriguing glow around objects and people. Some compare these emanations to energy fields or auras, and point to visible differences between the Kirlian images of organic and conventional, cooked and raw food. What, if anything, do these images reveal about the vitality of food?

Also known as bioelectrophotography, Kirlian’s method applies a pulsed high voltage charge to a plate connected to photographic film. A body part or object is placed directly on the film, electrically isolated from the plate so the subject receives no electricity. Once developed, the images show the corona effect, an electrical discharge that occurs when moisture touches the electrically energized air around the plate.

Some raw food and superfood enthusiasts point to Kirlian photos as examples of life force energy in uncooked foods. Dr. Gabriel Cousens suggests that foods’ “Subtle Organizing Energy Fields” transfer to our physical bodies when we eat them. Coronas or fields with vibrant, balanced patterns are said to have the best effects on our physical, emotional, mental or spiritual being. David Wolfe also uses Kirlian images throughout his book Eating for Beauty to show the radiance of beauty-enhancing superfoods.

Whether you’re mystically inclined or partial to physics, Kirlian images are a fitting metaphor for the vitality of food. The brightness of the corona depends partly on moisture and metal content of the subject, which explains why both living and non-living subjects (like coins) show coronas. Given that moisture and alkalinity make better conductive fields for electricity, it makes sense that fresh-picked organic kale would glow brighter than a microwaved carrot. “Living foods” like fresh fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for your health no matter what they look like on a charged plate of aluminum. Good skeptics and fanciful foodies alike can enjoy the energizing effects of healthy food and the supernatural appeal of these electric images.

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image: sharprichard