Leech Therapy in Medicine – Separating Myths from Facts

Leech Therapy in Medicine Leech Therapy in Medicine

Leech Therapy – Leeches in Medicine

Leeches are not new to medicine, as they have been used before, especially in ancient Egypt, to treat infections, skin diseases, dental issues, and nervous system abnormalities. Fast forward to present times, these squirmy creatures are now familiar in surgery rooms.

Currently, a significant number of health practitioners are using leech therapy because it is an inexpensive and simple way of avoiding complications. But just how effective is this therapy? Let’ get into what you need to know about it.

How Does the Therapy Work?

The first thing you need to know is that there are medicinal leeches that are kept specifically to help health practitioners treat various conditions. These have three jaws with numerous tiny teeth that they use to puncture human skin and anticoagulants.

Once they do that, the leeches then begin extracting blood for a maximum of 45 minutes. Now although this sounds like a long time, one leech will have sucked about 15ml when they are full.

Leech therapy is commonly used to treat varicose veins and blood clots or in cosmetic surgery where individuals stand the risk of losing soft tissue.

It is important to note that persons suffering from compromised arteries, blood clotting conditions, and anemia should not use leech therapy. The same applies to pregnant women and children.

Where Can Leech Therapy Be Used?

During a leech therapy session, live leeches are attached to a specific area so that they can draw blood and as they do that, these creatures release peptides and proteins that thin out the blood and prevent clotting.

In turn, that prevents tissue death and improves blood circulation. It is no wonder, then, that these creatures are used in treating cardiovascular diseases and circulatory disorders.

Here are some of the medical conditions that can be treated using leech therapy.


Some clinical studies confirm that leech therapy is ideal for joint issues, including osteoarthritis. This is because leech saliva has anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties that work to reduce tenderness and pain in the affected joint.

Heart Disease

People suffering from cardiovascular issues can get a reprieve by using leech therapy because it improves blood flow and reduces inflammation. Over the last few years, the therapy has been gaining acceptance as an alternative therapy for persons with cardiovascular disorders and diseases.


Currently, leech therapy for cancer is under study and so far, it looks promising. This is because leech saliva contains special enzymes and platelet inhibitors that are known to slow the progression of cancer.

Tests on animals have been positive as well, with leech saliva helping prevent the migration of cancer cells in mice.


Diabetes is known to cause a myriad of problems, including tissue death which may then necessitate the amputation of limbs. To avoid this, blood has to flow to affected tissues without clotting. Medicinal leeches can be used to improve blood circulation and ultimately prevent tissue death and amputation.

Cosmetic Leech therapy

Leeches are now popular when it comes to promoting healing after surgery. Research shows that leech therapy delivers positive outcomes in surgeries involving the cheeks, breasts, forehead, and nose. The therapy’s effect during and after cosmetic surgical procedures helps the body in healing naturally.

You may also want to note that the therapy has been used to treat hair loss and baldness because of its ability to improve blood circulation.

Does it Have Side Effects?

Although leech therapy is simple and inexpensive, it does come with a few risks. For instance, you can get a bacterial infection if you use leeches outside of a controlled environment. That makes persons with autoimmune diseases unsuitable candidates for the therapy.

In case things go wrong after a session of leech therapy, blood will flow out of the treated area and the bite created by the leech will not close. Other times, leeches will move to other areas of the body where the therapy is not required leading to unnecessary blood loss.

Another thing is that leech saliva can cause an allergic reaction in some people, thus leading to undesired effects.

Leech Therapy – The Takeaway

It may be hard to imagine or believe that leeches can be used to treat various medical issues but there is a reason why leech therapy is gaining momentum in modern medicine.

Research studies continue to reveal why this therapy may be the next big thing as far as medicine, so if you are suffering from conditions like cardiovascular disease, arthritis, or diabetes, you may want to try these creatures.

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I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.

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