Home > Complementary Therapy > Does Leech Therapy Really Work?

Does Leech Therapy Really Work?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 4 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
Leech Leeches Detoxification Blood

Dating back more than 5,000 years ago to ancient Egypt, leech therapy has been used the world over to cure ailments ranging from headaches to fevers to flatulence.

The correct term for using leeches in a medicinal fashion is hirudotherapy, and it literally can – believe it or not - perform medical miracles. The humble leech plays a big role in reattaching limbs and promoting healing, thanks to this unpleasant-looking creature’s gift for promoting blood flow.

Using leeches in surgery began in the 1980s. Leeches are parasites, and have an enzyme in their saliva which when released stops the host’s blood from clotting. It also acts as an antiseptic, and can help to promote a feeling of numbness and relieve pain.

Helping with Surgery

One of the first people to use the leech for surgical purposes was a Harvard doctor back in 1985. He was finding it difficult to reattach the ear of a small patient because the veins in the ear were so tiny and therefore kept clotting. Using a medicinal leech to help with the blood flow proved to be the saving grace, and the ear was saved.

More than 20 years earlier, two Slovenian surgeons made headlines when they pioneered "leech-assisted tissue flap surgery". They credited their usage of leeches to a Parisian surgeon who used leeches in 1836 to help restore blood circulation after nose reconstruction surgery.

Leeches are now known to help relieve venous congestion, which is helpful when it comes to transplant surgery. Leeches also help nourish bone tissue when a limb has to be amputated, and they stop swelling and allow fresh blood to enter the reconnected limb, so it stays alive.

In trials, leeches have also proved useful when it comes to treating patients with osteoarthritis, as they help relieve pain and stopped swelling when placed on the knee. And they are also occasionally used in breast reconstruction as well.

Detoxification Cure

In the 19th century people used leeches, which are actually worms, to get rid of “bad blood” and replace it with healthier stuff. Leeches were stuck on to the bodies of ill people in a blood-letting practice that in some countries still continues.

If the idea of having a parasite suck out your blood appeals, there is no shortage of places to have this therapy carried out. Today, this form of alternative medicine is performed in fancy health spas in the West as a detoxification cure. The leeches replace old blood with new, detoxified blood – blood that has its natural anticoagulant in it - that is said to be better for you.

Actress Demi Moore is a big fan of leech therapy herself, having tried it out as part of a “cleansing” she underwent at a spa in Austria. Recently she told US talk show host David Letterman that having leech therapy was the fulfilment of a long-held dream.

“I feel like I’ve always been someone looking for the cutting edge of things that optimise your health and healing,” she told Letterman. “These aren’t just swamp leeches, these are highly trained medical leeches. These are not just some low level scavengers; we’re talking high level blood suckers.”

British Farming

One of the biggest advocates of medicinal leeches was American Roy Sawyer, who started the first modern leech farms in the world – in the UK. Called Biopharm, today it provides 50,000 of the creatures to hospitals every year – around the world. They are produced in a sterile environment and promise to be virtually free of infection.

Leeches are not for everyone, though. Not everyone wants a blood sucker attached to them, and sometimes they attach themselves to the wrong part of the body. Occasionally they have even been known to get lost in one orifice or another, which is not a very pleasant thought.

That’s perhaps why a mechanical leech was invented in 2001, a machine that does the job a leech can do, without the disgust factor. It works in much the same way as a leech does, sucking out blood and distributing an anticoagulant at the same time.

While live leeches drop off the body when they are satisfied, a mechanical leech can keep on sucking until the job is done.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Hi I want to give this a try but there is nowhere locally for me to have access to this therapy. I wouldn't mind giving it a go myself at home! I was introduced by an Ayurvedic Doctor as this therapy started from ancient ayurveda practices! Please can someone guide me how to get these leeches etc and try self remedy without having to travel distances?? Rita
Rits - 4-May-18 @ 9:29 AM
Thank you for this interesting article. I have been to leechtherapy for a year now and thinking of doing it by myself. Do you know where to buy leeches? I found this company Hirudo Horti, which seems to be trustworthy. What do you think?
Kev - 20-Feb-17 @ 7:54 PM
Thank you for this interesting article. I have been to leechtherapy for a year now and thinking of doing it by myself. Do you know where to buy leeches? I found this company, which seems to be trustworthy. What do you think?
Kev - 20-Feb-17 @ 7:53 PM
Can you use this therapy more than once? How many times? Thank you.
Rube - 20-Oct-16 @ 3:03 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Rits
    Re: Does Leech Therapy Really Work?
    Hi I want to give this a try but there is nowhere locally for me to have access to this therapy. I wouldn't mind giving it a…
    4 May 2018
  • Dr.Ali
    Re: Natural Testicular Cancer Treatments
    Hello Is there any update treatment for testicular microlithasis?? Thank you much.
    21 January 2018
  • Sue
    Re: Essential Oils to Avoid
    I have very low blood pressure 81/31. What oils should I avoid?
    21 December 2017
  • kin
    Re: Lavender: a Natural Antibiotic and More
    We are asking for the price of; ANTI-BACTERIAL LAVENDER THICKNESS 5CM THICKNESS 5 pcs each also include cost…
    11 October 2017
  • Baraka
    Re: Wild Yam: Is it a Scam?
    I have been using wild yam tablets and I do not experience menopausal symptoms that my friends in their 50's do. My sister who has a…
    4 July 2017
  • Lady T
    Re: Can Garlic Treat Athletes' Foot?
    I've used garlic w. Olive order for about 3 nights straight and it is working tremendously! And my feet were awful but they…
    1 July 2017
  • Jo G
    Re: Essential Oils to Avoid
    Can I use WHITE Angelica as a diabetic? I know the book says not to use Angelica, but my book is missing information for White Angelica,…
    18 June 2017
  • Mia
    Re: Essential Oils to Avoid
    I have high blood pressure and love Eucalyptus oil. Are fragrance aromatherapy scents that are concentrated just as bad for HBP. Also if…
    4 May 2017
  • Wondermama
    Re: Health Benefits of Magnetic Bracelets
    My step father recently bought me a magnetic bracelet and it works well for me. I have 2 children. My daughter is…
    3 May 2017
  • The remedy lady
    Re: Essential Oils to Avoid
    Pure essential oils are considered medicine and must be use with care. Apply them diluted sparingly with education and care. As a…
    6 April 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SafeAlternativeMedicine website. Please read our Disclaimer.