Leech Therapy = Hirudotherapy
Leeches have been used in medicine for thousands of years. Leeches remove blood (“phlebotomize”) from their host, and they release pain-killing (anesthetic) and blood-thinning (anticoagulant) substances with their saliva.
Live leeches are currently used to treat blood-congested limbs, which otherwise might die or require amputation, if the pooling blood cannot be removed any other way. They are also sometimes used to provide pain relief, and for many other therapeutic effects.
Medical applications for leech therapy
Benefits of Leech Therapy / Hirudoterapy
During a session, live leeches attach themselves to the target area and draw blood. They release the proteins and peptides that thin blood and prevent clotting. This improves circulation and prevents tissue death. The leeches leave behind small, Y-shaped wounds that usually heal without leaving a scar.
Leeches are effective at increasing blood circulation and breaking up blood clots. It should be no surprise that they can be used to treat circulatory disorders and cardiovascular disease.
Chemicals derived from leeches saliva have been made into pharmaceutical drugs that can treat:
- varicose veins
- skin problems
Clinical trials suggest that leech therapy is an appropriate treatment for the common joint disease osteoarthritis. The anti-inflammatory and anesthetic properties in the leech’s saliva reduce pain and tenderness at the site of the affected joint.
- Heart disease
People with heart disease use leech therapy because of its potential to improve inflammation and blood flow. In the past few years, leeches therapy has become an acceptable alternative therapy for people with vascular disease and disorders.
Cancer treatments using leech therapy are being explored because of the platelet inhibitors and special enzymes contained in leech saliva. While people with certain blood cancers are not advised to use leeches therapy, it has been shown to slow the effects of lung cancer. Animal testing also shows that directly injecting leech saliva into mice helps prevent the colonization of cancer cells.