Even though human medical capabilities have evolved to the point that sci-fi mainstays such as robots and lasers are commonplace in operating rooms, many of medicine’s most important breakthroughs still come from nature. The world’s greatest apothecaries do not wear white lab coats or attend a university.
Throughout human history, a well documented natural medical aid has come from medical leeches. Hirudo medicinalis is the most common species of leech used in the medical arena, but other species are used depending on your location on the globe.
Medicinal leeches have had a place in the doctor’s medical kit for centuries because they have proven themselves often to be the most effective treatment. Leeches were especially useful treating wounds and saving lives on the European battlefield in the 18th and 19th centuries. Leech therapy is also is referenced in the Talmud and in Islamic and Ayurvedic texts. Today, they even have FDA approval as a medical device. Tens of thousands of medicinal leeches are supplied from specialty biofarms every year to hospitals in dozens of countries for reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts. The creatures’ saliva is known to contain at least 15 enzymes with proven healing properties. The enzyme hirudin, for example, has a therapeutic effect on dangerous blood clots.
Hirudotherapy – the formal name for leech therapy – is making a comeback in the United States as an increasing number of people are looking for drug-free solutions for their health conditions. Leech therapy has been used to successfully treat thrombosis, cramped veins, heart disease, tinnitus, bruises, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, muscle complications, and numerous other conditions.
The therapeutic activity of the leech is not based on a single mechanism of action, but on a combination of multiple effects. The leech’s saliva is truly extraordinary containing a number of chemical compounds useful in medicine. These include a local anesthetic that the leech uses to avoid detection by the host, the anti-coagulant hirudin that can help prevent heart attacks and strokes, a vasodilator and a prostaglandin that help reduce swelling. The leech’s gut harbors a bacterium known as Aeromonan hydrophila. This bacterium aids in the digestion of ingested blood and produces an antibiotic that kills other bacteria that may cause putrefaction. The medical term for such a cornucopia of effects is called a “multifactorial mechanism.”
The positive effect of hirudotherapy on the blood makes it very effective against difficult diseases such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, and atherosclerosis.
Leech therapy should always be administered by a trained professional. To achieve the greatest effect, it is necessary to have a well-developed understanding of the human body and particularly the circulatory system.
The therapy is relatively simple, inexpensive, and indispensable when it comes to many chronic diseases and performs as good as, if not better than, some conventional medical procedures which may be more costly, have higher risks of complications, and are usually accompanied by synthetic pharmaceutical drugs that can have nasty side effects.
In the case of a severe illness, the effects of leech therapy are felt almost immediately. The patient experiences reduced pain, diminished swelling, and a drop in body temperature. Moreover, leech therapy can be used to reduce the duration of a disease, prevent possible complications, and support a good state of health.
Leech therapy is not just a surface treatment. It is a complex process that should be regarded as a holistic treatment for the entire body, rather than a mechanical bleeding in one spot that benefits only a local issue.