Since ancient times, leeches were used to treat many disease through bloodletting, a method where blood was drawn out to remove impure blood to treat the disease. Believe it or not, leech therapy is sometimes the best alternative in treating illnesses, and even surpasses pharmacological treatments. There are more than 600 species of leeches that have been identified, but only 15 of the species are used medically. Mostly they are used in skin diseases, hypertension, varicosity etc. They increase blood circulation, have anti-inflammatory properties, improves the healing of wounds and increases the immunity.
Properties of Leeches
According to medical experts, leeches remove blood from their host and release pain-killing and blood-thinning substances into the blood through their saliva. The saliva contains about 100 different bioactive substances, including anti-coagulants, vaso-dilators and anaesthetics.
- Their saliva contain hirudin, calin, factor xa inhibitor which inhibits the coagulation of the blood. The action of destabilase is to break up any fibrins that have formed. It also has a thrombolytic effect, which can also dissolve clots of blood that have formed.
- Bdellins is a compound in the leech’s saliva that acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
- There are three compounds in the leeches’ saliva that act as a vasodilator agent like acetylcholine etc.
- The saliva of leeches also contains anesthetic substances which deaden pain on the site and also bacteria-inhibiting substances which inhibit the growth of bacteria.
The affected site of the patient body part is chosen and cleaned and one or two or even more leeches according to the condition of disease are left on that body part to allow leeches to suck the blood. Either they suck it theirs eves or a prick is made to let them to suck the blood. They are covered with wet cotton once they start to suck blood to provide them moisture. To remove the leeches turmeric powder is sprinkled on their mouth and they leave the site. The wound is cleaned with turmeric and bandaged.
Once the leeches attach themselves to the skin of the patient and start sucking blood, the saliva enters the puncture site and along with it the enzymes and compounds responsible for all these positive effects. Working together, they act to cure the disease present in the individual. Because of anticoagulation agents, the blood becomes thinner, allowing it to flow freely through the vessels. The anti-clotting agents also dissolve clots found in the vessels, eliminating the risk of them traveling to other parts of the body and blocking an artery or vein. The vasodilating agents help widen the vessel walls by dilating them, and this causes the blood to flow unimpeded, too.
DISEASES TREATED BY LEECH THERAPY
- Skin diseases like psoriasis, acne,
- Varicose veins
- HIV infected patients
- Patients on immunosuppressive drugs
- Anaemic patients, pregnant ladies
In these conditions leech therapy should not be indicated because it may worsen the situation and puts them at risk for bacterial sepsis.