Leech therapy

medical leeches

Leech therapy is the use of a segmented worm called leech for medicinal purposes. Leeches are applied to the body surface of the ailing person and they are allowed to suck blood from the host skin surface. Leeches can remain attached to the host for up to 6 hours and feed on the host’s blood. On an average a leech can suck around 5 – 15 ml of blood.


Leeches have two suckers and each sucker is at either end of the body. These help the leech to move on dry surfaces and to get attached to the host. Leeches used for medicinal purposes live in clear water.


Leech therapy has been used since ancient times. It is also a part of the traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine and is popularly known as Raktamoshana. It is believed to be a method of blood purification and that it helps to clear off the impurities in blood.

Medicinal leeches are used to drain local blood and are used in treating conditions involving venous diseases.



Leech produces saliva that contains certain bioactive substances like anti coagulants, pain relieving agents and vaso-dilators. These substances prevent clotting of blood and allow the impurities to flow out and this process is commonly believed to be a part of bloodletting.


Leeches are applied on the affected area and are allowed to get attached to the skin surface. The leech may suck some amount of blood around 5 ml from the host skin surface. After the leech is removed blood keeps oozing out and around 50 ml of blood can flow in the next 48 hours. This depends on the number of leeches attached and the severity of the disease as assessed by the therapist. Recovery is slowly seen after 4 -7 days and the normal skin color also begin to reappear.



Leech therapy of bloodletting is advised in liver and spleen disorders, hypertension, edema, abscesses, boils and other skin diseases like eczema. It can also be useful in treating sinusitis or swelling due to injuries and sprains.

Leech therapy is popularly known in treating ailments like vein diseases, tinnitus and cramp veins. It is also helpful in some surgeries where re-implantation of fingers or limbs has to be carried out.

Safety First

Bloodletting is contraindicated in anemia, jaundice and tuberculosis, in women during pregnancies, breastfeeding, menstruation, in young children and elderly adults.

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