Leech is a boon to medicine. Because the usage for various medical applications is traced back thousands of years ago. Before the Christian era, medicinal leeching was mentioned in 1500 BC. The Greek poets mentioned leeches in his medical poems. In ancient times, Greek physicians used leeches for bloodletting and for treating rheumatic pains, gout, etc. Let’s see “How does leech therapy for blood circulation helps to treat blood decease?”
The usage of leeches during that period depended upon the concept of Galen. Galen prescribed bloodletting by leech for almost all illnesses. Leeches are used in Ayurveda since ancient times.
In Ayurveda, there are three types of doshas- vaat (space and air), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (water and earth). Rakt is considered as the fourth dosh according to Sushrut Samhita and Rakt moksha is one of the treatments in Panchakarma.
So Rakt moksha is bloodletting. This bloodletting is the removal of impure blood from the body. It can be done by a number of methods and leech therapy is one of them.
As we know snakes are poisonous and non-poisonous. Similarly, leeches are also poisonous and non-poisonous. The leeches that are used for therapy are non-poisonous. But they have to be very careful because if they use poisonous, it can become the source of infection.
Also, they can suffer from swelling, itching, ulcers, fever, vomiting, etc. Leaches with a thin tiny head, emerald green color, tiny and rounded like rat’s tail are found in moist rich places, where frogs are in abundance. Leeches with long head, black, grey or green color are described as poisonous.
Need for the leech therapy for blood circulation
Blood is the main factor in life. It is the root of our bodies. Blood helps in circulation, muscle development, etc. It also makes our organs active. Blood becomes impure due to several reasons such as eating junk food, keeping awake till late in the night, depression, etc. So we need to pure blood.
Leeches improve the blood flow to the parts of the body where it has stopped or slowed down.
Leech takes out all the doshas (kapha, pitta, vaat) of your body. Bloodletting is based on the concept of a Humoral imbalance that is an imbalance of various bodily fluids. Their imbalance causes diseases, whereas restoration of the balance leads to health.
Bloodletting can be given in the form of venesection (removing blood from the system through a cut), leech therapy is an essential part of blood circulation.
Sometimes bloodletting is done automatically by our body but in somebody parts bloodletting is not done so leech therapy is very useful for this purpose. By Purgation and Emesis therapy, the excretory system excretes the dosh of the body but organs do not excrete the dosh of the body.
So leech therapy works on the principles of excretion of excess fluids from the body. It, therefore, maintains the stability in the quality and quantity of four senses of humor (associated with fundamental elements of water, air, fire, earth) which is actually responsible for the maintenance of normal health.
Leech therapy is also approved by the FDA (Food and drug administration) in 2004.
Studies showed that the people who donate blood on a regular basis have significantly less chronic diseases and a host of other problems. So there is a real value in understanding the magic of bloodletting. Instead of donating blood, leech therapy can reduce all diseases at one time.
Who needs to do leech therapy?
The most common reason to do leech therapy is because of too much iron in your blood and a lot of people have normal iron when you go to get your regular blood tests and it’s fine but what doctors generally recommend is a test called the ferritin test.
Ferritin is the storage content of iron in your blood and that number is oftentimes chronically high. So to avoid those tests given by the doctors, leech therapy is very essential because it removes impure blood that would heal the body.
The procedure of the leech therapy
Leeches have two ends. One takes the support and the second part is its head. The head portion is applied to the body. Leeches are survived in water.
The best months to bring them for treatment are September-October. Because at that time our pitta dosh increases and we need to pureblood and for that purpose, leeches are brought for treatment. Avoid a leech if it is big in size or if it has low blood or if it looks dangerous.
Because a person can suffer from an infection or it can cause death. Leeches are harvested, cleaned; they are grown with specific standards by the institute before they are placed on your body.
How do we preserve leeches?
In an earthen pot, fill the mud full of water. In that earthen pot, place the leeches. Change the water of the pot regularly. Nowadays, the institutes place them in an aquarium.
Examine the patient-
The first step for leech therapy is to check the person’s pulse rate, BP, BT, CT. Check if the person is appropriate for the therapy.
Preparation of the patient-
For this therapy, a person needs to take 30 ml of liquid diet for 3 days. On the fourth day, a proper massage is given to the patient. On the fifth day, leech therapy is applied. They tie a strip of cloth over the patient’s eyes so that a patient is not afraid of the therapy.
Preparation of a leech-
In a bowl, fill water. Put 2 tbsp of “haridra” powder or turmeric powder. Take out the leeches form an earthen pot and place it in this bowl until 48 minutes. After 48 minutes, it becomes more active and pure. Again place them in another bowl full of water.
Procedure for leech therapy-
Hold a leech with a thumb and index finger and place it on the body part where there is an infection. Leech bites the body part and takes the impure blood of the patient. Place the wet cotton on a leech after the process is complete. If the leech doesn’t stick to the body part then cut the skin of the body part with the help of a needle so that it can directly suck the blood without biting.
Observation of a leech-
While sucking the blood of the patient, a leech swells. After sucking the blood, leech itself leaves the body part. If the sucking is complete and if it doesn’t leave the place, then pour some haridra or turmeric powder over it. It leaves the place immediately.
Observation of a patient-
Observe the leech carefully. Observe that the leech properly sticks to the body part. Ask the patient whether he/she is hurting after placing the leech on the body part. At one time, we can place as many leeches on the body parts of the patient. They suck around 5 ml-15 ml of blood.
The leech therapy is completed in 40-45 minutes.
After the procedure of leech therapy.
Care of the patient-
Even after the process, the blood comes out from the patient’s body part. So precautions need to be taken for patients. Pour some turmeric powder on a bandage and tie it on the wound.
Care of the leech-
After completing the process; place the leech on the kidney tray. For the leech, you have to do Vamana karma. Vaman karma is the process of vomiting of the impure blood from the leeches. Put haridra or turmeric powder into the leech’s mouth.
Press the leech so that it will puke the whole blood. Take the precaution of the leech so that it doesn’t get hurt. Place the leech in a bowl full of fresh water. Leeches are active for 7 days after that. The same leech can be applied to the same patient. But the same leech should not be applied to other patients.
Benefits and side-effects of the leech therapy
The much-maligned leech is a remarkable creature. It has 32 brains. It can live up to 30 years and it has a beneficial symbiotic relationship with human beings. Nowadays every modern hospital has a leech therapy unit.
Benefits of leech therapy for blood circulation.
Their therapeutic benefits have been rediscovered and embraced by modern medical practice.
Leeches thin our blood and allow our venal system to be cleaned of obstructions.
Leeches are carnivorous or blood-sucking worms with pronounced ability to extend their bodies.
The leech’s saliva contains 100 active biological substances like hirudin, hyaluronidase, vasodilators, anesthetics, antibacterial, fibrinase, collagenase, etc.
These properties are injected into the human body while sucking the blood and are responsible for the anti-inflammatory, vasodilators and analgesic and various other effects. So when leeches are applied, fibrin is not converted to fibrinogen and this part keeps on oozing on blood and blood circulation to that part increases.
Keeping this factor into the mind, Leeches can be applied to baldness, varicose vein, non-healing ulcers, hemorrhoids, diabetic gangrene, menopause, obesity, heart diseases. In these diseases, blood circulation is very useful.
The effect of leech therapy in the varicose vein is due to the biochemical present in the saliva of the leech which contains anticoagulant, antibiotic, anesthetic properties.
These substances present in the saliva of leech produce prolonged bleeding which reduces pressure at the vessels. Therefore, it increases blood circulation.
Nonhealing ulcers are those which do not heal by conservative treatment within six weeks. Nonhealing ulcers are those ulcers whose healing is delayed and associated with more damage and destruction of the local part having different types of causes.
Leech therapy has peripheral vasodilator properties. Due to the presence of vasodilator constituents in the saliva of leech which improves blood circulation and corrects the wound thus promotes wound healing.
The vascular complications in diabetic patients can lead to less blood flow to the distal parts of the body resulting in various diseases of limbs like gangrene.
The control of gangrene is very crucial to diabetic patients by lowering both blood pressure and lipidaemia, along with increasing blood circulation in the blood vessels.
The leech therapy is used to augment blood flow to the distal parts of the body and to alleviate coagulation disorders. Leeches can also be applied to baldness because people with less hair do not have good blood circulation.
Side effects of leech therapy for blood circulation.
Infection is the most common complication of leech therapy that occurs in 2-36% of the patients. Several bacterial strains have been encountered in these infections involving Aeromonas spp., Pseudomonas spp., and Vibrio spp. agents. Aeromonas hydrophilia can cause pneumonia, muscular necrosis, flap failure, and even septicemia.
A hydrophilia can infect the bite or surrounding the skin during feeding, such an infection presents itself as a local abscess. The infection is not reactive to penicillin but to chloramphenicol and aminoglycoside.
Other complications are allergic reactions such as itching followed by burning and blister formation and ulcerative necrosis due to toxins present in leach saliva that have also been reported to leech therapy. Transmission of infections from one person to the other is another probable complication of leech therapy.
To conclude, leeching has been a popular practice for a long period of time for a wide range of diseases and it was applied as an unscientific way by classical therapists.
Nowadays, leech came back to contemporary medicine with fewer applications, which has been proven and supported by a large number of scientific studies and case reports. Leech therapy is also useful in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery due to the ease of leech application and reduced side-effects. Leech therapy can be safely and effectively used to evacuate the blood and morbid humor from deeper structures.
Doctors who practice plastic operations consider leech therapy as a favorable remedy since they observed that the specific wounds caused by leech bites usually heal without scars or complications.
Furthermore, modern biochemistry has been able to point out so many substances in the leech saliva as well as their mode of action. Leech therapy is actually a modern-day approved therapy because it has unique benefits.
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