Heal with leeches
Leeches are used in leech therapy. In addition to sucking blood, the leeches excrete therapeutically active substances with their saliva.
What diseases are treated?
Principle of treatment
How effective is the method?
Search for a therapist
Who pays for the treatment?
The saliva of the leech contains over 20 different substances with numerous positive effects: anti-inflammatory, blood-thinning and bactericidal properties have been demonstrated.
The leech is actually a predator and lives on the blood of other animals. It belongs to the ringworms and is a relative of the earthworm. After a blood meal, his weight can be ten times higher than before and he can live on it for about 2 years.
Leeches have been used in medicine for over 2000 years. The first representations of leech therapy come from India and ancient Greece. It reached its peak in Europe in the Middle Ages, where, along with bloodletting and cupping, it was one of the most common applications. It was primarily used to drain and clean the blood (especially "black-bilious juices").
With the beginning of modern medicine, leech therapy, like many other naturopathic methods, almost completely disappeared from the range of medical treatments. Only through the discovery of the anticoagulant substance hirudin from the leech did these animals gain importance, but they were increasingly forgotten due to the discovery of heparin and marcumar.
Since the 1970s, however, clinical studies with leeches have increasingly been carried out, which impressively demonstrate the effectiveness of leeches in pain therapy. Leech therapy has proven itself internationally in plastic and reconstructive surgery and prevents e.g. Complications from venous congestion and thrombosis after skin flap transplants.
Today they are grown in laboratories under hygienic conditions and distributed through pharmacies. According to the applicable hygienic rules, they may only be used once.
What diseases are treated with leech therapy?
2- Osteoarthritis (knee and ankle)
3- Surgery: venous congestion after surgery (replantation of ears, fingers, toes or skin flaps)
4- Gelosen: skin and muscle hardening with blood congestion
5- Lymphatic congestion
6- Open legs (leg ulcers)
7- Inflammation: rheumatism, otitis media
8- Dizziness: Leeches are placed on the neck and lead to relaxation and improved blood circulation in the ears, since the saliva of the leeches contains substances that make the blood thinner.
9- Thrombosis, post-thrombotic syndrome
10- Venous disorders: chronic venous insufficiency, phlebitis, hemorrhoids
11- Wound healing disorders
Diseases where leech therapy can help
5-Upper respiratory tract infections
Principle of treatment
When the leech is attached, a small pin prick is made at the desired location so that some blood escapes. The leech will attach itself to it with its suction cup and scratch the skin with its three razor-sharp jaws. Its saliva prevents blood from clotting and pain, so that the leech can suck about 20-40 ml of blood unnoticed. When the leech is full, it drops. The wound may bleed for a long time.
Leeches are still used today, mainly for joint pain, "open legs" (leg ulcers) and chronic venous insufficiency.
How effective is the method?
The leech's saliva contains numerous biochemically active substances. The connective tissue becomes more permeable, the vessels are dilated and the lymph flow is accelerated. The therapy improves the supply of tissue and the flow properties of the blood.
How exactly the leeches work is still unknown. It is certainly not just a bloodletting effect that is based on the withdrawal of blood. In addition to the anticoagulant substances, the saliva that the leeches inject into the wound also contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic substances. Long-lasting bleeding is important, which can last up to 12 hours and requires good follow-up care (including changing dressings).
Caution is advised when taking anticoagulant substances such as Marcumar or ASA. Marcumar patients should refrain from therapy, acetylsalicylic acid should be discontinued a few days beforehand if medically responsible. It is important to coordinate with the therapist beforehand, as there are also a few things to consider beforehand. With the right indications, the method can be a useful addition to conventional medical therapy.
An example: leech therapy for knee osteoarthritis
The best-examined standard indication is knee osteoarthritis. A number of clinical studies have shown an excellent effect, which was clearly superior to standard treatments with pain relievers.
The long-lasting effect of leech treatment is particularly noteworthy here. Pain relief and improvement in joint function were demonstrable for months. Another area of application for leeches is chronic joint inflammation and rheumatic joint changes. Tennis elbows and mouse arms are also among the documented indications.
Most health insurance companies do not cover the cost of leech therapy unless there is additional insurance for alternative medicine.