In this video a woman receives leech therapy to demonstrate the medical procedure.
Medicinal leech therapy has been used for centuries to help alleviate a variety of of illnesses. When leeches attach they secrete approximately 60 different proteins in their saliva. Some of these help increase the flow of blood to the area attached. Additionally, they have anticoagulant properties to stop coagulation of blood at the area. One of these proteins known as hirudin has been found to stimulate blood flow.
While attaching to the host, medicinal leeches have three jaws that fix on with around 100 sharp teeth. Typically no pain is felt on the area due to the leeches ability to secrete a powerful anesthetic in their saliva.
One of the main benefits of leech therapy is its ability to increase circulation. This is helpful for procedures such as reconstructive surgery, and skin grafting. They have been used to treat the finger after reattachment surgery, as well as reconstructing the ear, nose, lip and eyelid. Further, leech therapy has been successfully used to for the treatment of varicose veins, muscle cramps, osteoarthritis, and thrombophlebitis.
There have been known to be some side effects associated with leech therapy. Generally, these are mild with some patients experiencing allergic reactions, prolonged bleeding, and bacterial infections. This is why it is important to use a skilled physician when attempting this type of procedure.
In medicinal leech therapy the most common types used are the Hirudo medicinalis (European medicinal leech), and the Macrobdella decora (North American leech). Some additional medicinal leeches used are the Hirudo troctina, Hirudo verbana, and the Hirudo orientalis.