The first medical use of leeches is thought to have taken place in ancient India in 1000 BC.
The ancient Indians used leeches to treat a wide range of conditions including headache, ear infections and hemorrhoid.
In pre-scientific medicine, the medicinal leech was used to remove blood from a patient as part of a process to “balance the humors” that, according to Hippocrates, must be kept in balance in order for the human body to function properly.
What is a leech
Leeches are segmented worms, closely related to the earthworms, are anatomically and behaviorally more specialized.
Leeches are carnivorous or blood sucking aquatic typically having two “suckers,” one at each end.
- The medicinal leech lives in clean waters. Leeches swim free in the water, with an undulating motion.
- Overall Effects to the Human Body
- 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.
- There are three compounds in the leeches saliva that act as a vasodilator agent, and they are the histamine-like substances, the acetylcholine, and the carboxy peptidase A inhibitors. All these act to widen the vessels, thus, causing inflow of blood to the site.
- Technique of application
- The application of leeches to the patient is relatively simple, but does require application by a qualified healthcare professional.
- As few as one, or as many as six or more leeches may be required for a wound, depending upon its size and its clinical response. The greatest number of leeches should be applied by the healthcare provider to the area of maximal venous congestion.
Assistant Teacher Mohammed Hakim