Leech therapy has been used since ancient times. It reached its highest popularity in the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, its popularity dropped in the beginning of the twentieth century when it failed to match the requirements of modern science.
However, it found its way back in the 1960s and doctors started using it for its amazing health benefits. It is a unique treatment which is known by the name of hirudotherapy. Doctors nowadays highly recommend it as a number of scientific studies and reports have confirmed the benefits of this treatment.
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Leech therapy is used in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The saliva produced by leeches contains natural blood thinners that can prevent and heal blood clotting. It improves blood flow and hyperalgesia or increased sensitivity to pain in connective tissues.
According to a study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, leech therapy reduced swelling and pain in the leg, improved discolouration of the skin and improved the walking ability of patients who had phlebitis, a condition in which there is a blood clot in a deep vein in the leg. In this procedure, four to six leeches are directly applied to the infected area.
A large number of physicians believe that leech therapy is useful in keeping the tissues healthy during and after surgery. If leech therapy is conducted during surgery, the saliva of the leeches help in thinning the blood, which in turn lowers the chances of venous congestion.
This condition is related to traumatic injuries and reconstructive surgery which results in edema, cellular death and slowed down blood flow. Leech therapy also boosts blood circulation after surgery.
A numbers of researches suggest that a combination of components present in leech saliva, protease inhibitors and anticoagulants can be as useful as cancer drugs.
Scientists have discovered that the saliva of leeches contain a compound called ghilanten which can suppress the growth of several types of tumours. It also contains a peptide known as hirudin which acts as a great anticoagulant and has anti-cancer characteristics.
Leech therapy is used for treating sudden hearing loss, acute and chronic inflammation of the ear and tinnitus.
According to a study published in the Journal of Research Ayurveda, when leech therapy was applied to the knees of patients with osteoarthritis, it showed considerable improvement.
However, leech therapy must be done carefully as it has certain side effects. It can leave skin marks, cause blisters, local tissue damage and itching.