Leech Therapy

Leech therapy has shown drastic result in patients with pain disorders, psoriasis, eczema, swelling and all other kind of skin infections.

Ayush Ayurveda Kendra has recently started its Rakthamoksha Department where many chronic diseases are treated by Leech Therapy.

Leeches are 'worms' with suckers on each end. Leeches can range in size from a half of inch to ten inches long. They are brown or black in color. Some feed on decaying plant material. Others are parasites, feeding on blood and tissue of other animals.

According to Ayurveda, the leech at first bite, only sucks impure blood from the skin and only the pure blood is left so it is a blood purification therapy. Later, when it starts sucking pure blood, the patient feels pain.

Blood-sucking leeches suck your blood using two ways: they use a proboscis to puncture your skin, or they use their three jaws and millions of little teeth. They live just about anywhere where water is. But leeches are still being used to suck blood! The leech can remove any congested blood to allow normal circulation to return to the tissues, thus preventing gangrene from starting.

Storage of leeches

Leeches are stored in a Glass Aquarium filled with up to 2/3 by non-chlorinated water, covered by fabric with a good elastic or thread band (leeches can crawl out without it - the smallest hole is big enough for them).

Keep in mind leeches must breathe (they can breathe through fabric but not through a plastic cover) Change the water every 3-6 days (depends on quantity of leeches in a jar). Clear water that is free from chlorine is necessary for maintaining leeches. Avoid placing leeches in chlorinated water. Leeches are sensitive to substances such as chlorine, copper, and other chemicals. Non-chlorinated tap water in most areas is suitable for leeches. Do not use distilled water alone since its extreme purity can be harmful to the leeches' metabolic balance. Keep the water clean. Once the water shows signs of becoming dirty or polluted, it should be changed. Water of the aquarium has to be changed every 3-6 days, depending on the quantity of leeches.

Changing the water of Leeches

Cover the jar opening by gauze and dump the old water. The gauze will absorb the grease from the jar (pieces of the old leech skin, etc.) Then pour some fresh water in the jar. Sudden temperature changes could harm the leeches, so keep your containers with fresh water in the same room where you keep the leeches. Ideal temperature for Leech is in a range of 40F to 80 F (5-27 C). Leeches can live up to one year without food so there is no need to feed them. Leeches live Up to 10 years. It depends on many factors that are out of our control: quality of water, smells, quality of ventilation, sharp temperature or pressure changes, etc. Leeches can die after a meal just because they have eaten too much.

Leech therapy can be used for the following diseases:

  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cellulites
  • Sciatica
  • Inflammatory Reactions
  • Blood purification
  • Varicose Veins
  • Rheumatic Diseases
  • Diabetic Wounds
  • Boils and abscesses
  • Hypertension
  • Thrombosis (blood clot)
  • Alopecia
  • Herpes zoster

Safety and Adverse Affect of Leech Therapy

Leech therapy rarely ever leads to serious complications. The local pain of treatment and short-term itching are regular side effects. Prior to treatment, the patient should be advised accordingly and asked to sign a consent form describing the relevant side effects. Prevalence data from systematic and prospective studies are only available for some of the different side effects of leech therapy.

Local Pain during Treatment

Perceptions of the local pain of leeching varies. Most patients describe a local dragging pain that occurs immediately after the leech bites and persists for around one to five minutes. As more and more saliva is introduced into the tissues, the anesthetic effect of leech saliva begins to take effect. The perceived intensity of the leech bite varies from one individual to another. A slight (or sometimes somewhat stronger) rhythmic pulling sensation is usually noticed for the first one to three minutes after the start of feeding. Whether stimuli of exactly the same intensity are perceived as painful or are not perceived at all is certainly dependent on the individual's personality, but also depends on that person's concentration on the leech or attitude toward leech therapy. Many people never even notice the leech bite, for example when they are bitten under water while their attention is focused on something else. Frequently, the more anxiously the patient focuses on the leech preparing to bite, the higher the pain perception. If latex gloves must be worn for hygienic reasons, the leech therapist should never use forceps on the leech.

Local Itching

Transient itching at the site of the leech bite in the first few days after treatment is very common and should not be mistaken for an allergic reaction. Transient itching at the site of the leech bite in the first few days after treatment is very common and should not be mistaken for an allergic reaction.

Blood Loss

Leech therapy is always associated with a certain degree of blood loss, which is clinically irrelevant in most cases. The cause of this wound-healing disorder is unknown. Improper handling, especially early stoppage of after bleeding from the wound, squeezing the head of the leech with forceps, forceful removal of the leech before it has finished feeding, and failure to keep the animals in fresh water, have frequently been implicated as potential causes.

Steps for application of the leech:

Purvakarma (before procedure)

  • Proper nehana (oleation) and swedana (sudation) of the patient.
  • Purification of leech by pouring the leech in haridra (turmeric powder) and water.
  • Part preparation – cleaning of place by turmeric water. The patient’s skin is cleaned thoroughly with soap and water or turmeric water.

Pradhana karma (main procedure)

  • Application of honey or by making an incision or a needle prick at the desired site so that of blood is produced and the leech attaches to the wound / incision quickly.
  • Steer the leeches head to the area to be treated. The head of the leech can be recognized by is searching forward movements, while the tail end is used as a sucker for attachment, The leeches must be applied in adequate numbers to area of maximum infection / congestion.
  • When the leech starts sucking blood, cover the leech with wet cotton.
  • When the leech has finished sucking the blood, usually within 30 minutes, remove it (if it does not come off by itself) by applying salt or turmeric powder on its head.
  • Ensure that the same leech is applied next time to the same patient.
  • Check the bleeding & clotting time of the patient. These should be normal.

Paschata karma (after procedure)

  • Induction of emesis to the leech by dusting of haridra churna (turmeric powder) on its mouth.
  • Sometimes pressing the leech from caudal to front end is required for proper emesis so Press the detached leech between fingers to force out the sucked impure blood.
  • Then put back in fresh water container. Leech should be freed in fresh water, where it swims swiftly and then settles down.
  • The patient’s area where the leeches have been put should be examined for local infections.
  • The minor wounds can be cleaned and washed with honey, and bandaged.
  • One leech should be reserved for one particular patient.

Why Sometimes Leech Doesn’t Bite?

Remedy is possible through warming up and cleaning the skin. Further measures those are helpful the skin soften and the blood circulation promote. If the leech does not want to bite at all, there is the possibility the skin with a needle to puncture still.

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