The leech therapy is one of the oldest methods of naturopathy. Their application has been handed down in writing since antiquity. Already 100 BC the leech was praised by the Greek doctor Nikandros of Colophon. Leech therapy became so popular in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries that the wild leech almost threatened extinction. Since they now had to be imported from Central Asia at very high costs, leech therapy was initially forgotten by us after that.
However, since the 70s of the 20th century, this treatment process has undergone a remarkable international renaissance. This is due to numerous scientific studies that confirm the positive effects of this naturopathic therapy in a variety of conditions. These include, in particular, the recent clinical studies on leech treatment for arthritis pain conducted at the Department of Naturopathy of the University of Duisburg-Essen. More than 80% of treated patients with painful knee osteoarthritis experienced a 60% reduction in pain after a single treatment with 4-6 leeches. This pain relief persisted for 70% of patients over a period of at least 3 months. Forty-five percent of patients reported a lasting impact and reduced analgesic demand after 10 months. Similar positive results were obtained by further clinical studies by our Essen group on osteoarthritis pain of the shoulder joint, the hip joint, the thumb saddle joint and the ankle joint.
In addition to arthritic complaints, there are also numerous studies and postoperative observations with very good to good clinical results for the following diseases:
- Venous diseases: phlebitis, varicose veins, spider veins
- Rheumatoid arthritis, gout LWS, BWS and cervical spine syndrome
- SIG syndrome (painful sacroiliac joints)
- Shoulder–arm syndrome
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Tennis elbow, golf arm
- Sudden Hearing Loss
- Tinnitus, middle ear infection
- Circulatory disorders of the eyes
- Peripheral circulatory disorders
- Hematoma etc.
In plastic and reconstructive surgery, leeches are also widely used in postoperative venous stasis with subsequent graft failure.
That the leech therapy can be used successfully in so many different diseases, is due to the diverse pharmacological effects of the ingredients of the leech saliva. In addition to the well-known hirudin, which inhibits blood clotting, research has today discovered a number of other substances such as calin, bdelline, eglins, hyaluronidase, etc. in the leech saliva.
In sum, these substances work:
- Dissolving blood clots
Before each leech therapy a blood count is created. The number of leeches used in a treatment depends on various criteria. As a rule, no more than 6-10 leeches are applied. These are placed exactly. A short pecking and rhythmic sucking movements indicate that the bite has taken place and the actual sucking act begins.
The suction time is on average 30 minutes to 2 hours. The patient sits comfortably in a chair or lies. When the leech has been soaked, it dissolves by itself.
A medical leech is only used once in it‘s life on a person. The blood loss caused by a leech is usually approx. 50 ml. Of this, about 10 ml account for the extracted amount and 40 ml for the subsequent oozing bleeding from the wound. These low blood losses are quickly compensated by the body. At the end of the leech treatment, we apply a light pressure bandage with sterile compresses. This dressing can be removed after 24 hours.