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  • 1. Leech TherapyHistory - Biology - ApplicationSome of The Benefits of Using Holistic Leech Therapy:  Mental and Physical Relaxation  Better Blood Circulation  Reduction of Inflammation and Infection  Reduction or Elimination of Pain  Elimination of Arthritis (80%)  Reduction of Toxin and Blood Clots  Tissue Revitalization  Skin Disorders Elimination or Reduction  Brain Cells Rejuvenation and Better Synapses of Neurons  Help Fight Dementia Diseases such as Alzheimers  Lower The risk of Having Heart Attack or Stroke  Leg ulcer or Thrombosis Elimination of Reduction  Reduction of Spider Veins  Improvement of Digestion and Memory  Promote Instant Mobility by Repairing Joints and Reducing Inflammation  Tinnitus, Glaucoma, Gingivitis, Ear Ringing Elimination or Reduction  Sexual Enhancement (Better Blood and Better Brain Function by balancing ANS)  LongevityHistoryLeeches have been used since ancient time in traditional medicine bydoctors and practitioners. Throughout history, leech treatments were very useful andhad enjoyed periods when they had been in great demand in France, specially duringthe 19th century. After that century, leech treatments were disappeared almostcompletely. There were abandoned and even were the subject of many ridiculousarticles and books. In the middle of the 20th century, leeches have regained theirpopularity once again. Because of that giant return to modern medicine, it makessense to know and to understand the history of leeches that scientists call medicinalleeches.Who first used leeches for treating sicknesses, where and when that kind of therapystarted? It is very hard to believe that Themison of Laodicea in the 1st century BC,was the first person to have used leech therapy. Before Themison there were otherattributions of people who could be the first ones to have used leeches in treatments.The Greeks and Latin writers from ancient times (PLAUTUS, CICERO, HORACE)
  • 2. talked and wrote about leeches under many names (bdella, sanguisuga or hirudo).For instance, in Greece, NICANDER of Colophon (185-138 BC).Could there be another person? An eminent physician from India in ancient timescould be the first to have applied leech on human for the purpose of treating diseasesbecause the Ayurverdic Medicine mentioned leech treatment on humans, which isdated many thousands years ago. In fact, a lot of leech researchers mentioned intheir studies India as the country where leech therapy originated. Sushruta who wasan ancient Indian surgeon ( 800 BC) and was the author of the book The SushrutaSamhita in which he described over 300 surgical procedures, 120 surgicalinstruments and classified human surgery in eight categories. And he also namedover 1,100 diseases and discovered over 700 plants, which helped him treat thediseases he discovered. It is mentioned that he used to apply leech for treatment onhuman. That could be understood because he was a surgeon among many other titleshe had as a physician. He could have been the first holistic alternative practitioner.Furthermore, it was related that the God of India had 4 leeches in his hands. Let’stake a huge step from BC to A.D era. InFrance there are many books regarding leechtreatments and methods for applications. Many of them were written many centuriesago. Gironde which is a city in France was the most famous and the most known forleech therapy. France had become the most famous country in Western Europe forleech therapy in the 18 and 19 centuries. Francois Broussaint who was NapoleonBonaparte’s doctor was the most famous leech therapist in his time. He was wellknown in the leech industry and called his leech practice vampirism for using toomany leeches in his treatments. He is very important to know that he saved a lot oflives with leech and other natural medicines.The Leech LeadersThe French leech company, Ricarimpex, wrote about an article that was written in1949 in which the anonymous author recommended medicinal leeches for visceralcongestion, pericarditis, myelitis, laryngeal oedema, angina pectoris, hemiplegia,other congestive and inflammatory disorders (headaches, dizziness, otitis, sprainsand dislocations, contusions, etc. It could have been that article that came fromRussia because many Russian researchers who have studied hirudotherapymentioned most of the diseases in that article. That article could have been thesubject of many studies back then and up to now in Russia and Germany.Germany and Russia are now in the for front of leech technology and development,but in 1884 the English Professor of Physiology at the University of Wales, John BHaycraft whose Hirudin discovery from the leech saliva had led medicinal leeches to
  • 3. modern medicine. That happened because in the middle of the 16th century, ConradGESSNER of Zurich offered a detailed description of the medical leech andadvocated its use in medicine. And Jérôme Negrisoli published a work on theapplication of leeches in the field of gynecology, which is being practice in Russia.Modern medicine had gotten enough insights, studies and proof to fast forward leechtherapy to a new level, leech applications in micro and constructive surgery byapplying leeches on flaps and other body parts to facilitate blood flow. As a proof1960 was the year for the two Slovenian surgeons, the followers of the Parisiansurgeon, Philippe-Frédéric, who in 1836 pioneered leech reconstruction surgery byfixing a nose; and after whom the two Slovenian surgeons, M. Derganc and F.Zdravic who published a paper in the British Journal of Plastic Surgery in 1960describing leech-assisted tissue flap surgery (in which a flap of skin is freed orrotated from an adjacent body area to cover a defect or injury). That paper and manyother studies had helped put leech therapy in the list of approved and classifiedmedical devices in the very early of the 21st century, the year of 2004.The French made it again by having the first approval for the marketing of medicinalleeches in North America. 2004 was really the greatest year for the surgeons andother physicians who have worked with leeches in micro and constructive surgery.That was the year the FDA approved the request of the French company, Ricarimpex,for the commercialization of medicinal leeches in the United States. This approval ofmedicinal leeches as a medical device in the field of plastic and reconstructivesurgery has helped LEECH USA to do the commercialization of the medicinal leechesin United States for the French company. Leech USA has been selling medicinalleeches since 1986.Carolina Biological Supply Company is probably the oldest company that has beenselling leeches since 1927 in United States.Based on that approval it is clear that medicinal leech therapy has made a big step inmodern medicine. Yes, that was a good news! Now the leech therapists have to workharder to make leech therapy more popular and more acceptable in the holisticalternative practice. A better and more education is required to make leech therapista mainstream profession like chiropractor or acupuncturist here in the United Statesand abroad. In fact, The FDA in TAB 4 Momerandum under Section 12 – Labelingsubtitled: Directions for use, mentioned the following: “Instructions shouldencourage local institutional training programs designed to familiarize users with thefeatures of the device and how to use it in a safe and effective manner.” That is whymany institutions like BiebertalerBlutegelzucht and Dr. D. Kähler Schweizer areproviding a solid training for certified leech therapists. The hope is to obtain stateand federal licenses for alternative leech therapists, so more people can benefit from
  • 4. the multiple curative effects of medicinal leech therapy, and in so doing a newchapter in the history of Hirudo Medicinalis will be written for the nextgeneration.BiologyBiology of Leeches - Focus on Medicinal LeechesEtymologyLeech: MiddleEnglish leche, from Old English lǣce; akin to Old High German lāhhi physician. It isvery possible that the word "Leech" was in use to identify this kind of worm, leech,before the 12th century. Hirudo (leech) definition from The Latin word: Hirudo iscome from hoero, which means “I adhere to”, and Sanguisuga from the word sanguis– blood – and suga – I suck.Leech in different languages: In French: Sangsue; German: Egel; Spanish:Sanguijuela; and Russian: пиявка.In the Bible, the word leech appears under the name aluka and in many Arabicaccounts under the name aleca. In English, the old meaning of leech stands fordoctor. The word leech means doctor or physician or surgeon, which demonstratesits use in ancient medicine.Leeches were created many million years ago (300 - 600 million years), there areabout 600 to 700 species of leech around the world. In Minisotta, USA, alone therewere over 120 species. In Australia there are many species. In 1554, GuillaumeRONDELET who was a naturalist was able to present the fist descriptions of thedifferent species of leeches in his “Natural History of Fishes”.Hirudo MedicinalisScientific classification was indicated by LINNAEUS in 1735Kingdom:AnimaliaPhylum: AnnelidaClass: ClitellataSubclass: HirudineaThere were many books written about leeches, but in the 19th century numerousmonographs were dedicated to this curative animal, leech: VITET -1809, Treaty ofMedical Leeches, MOQUIN-TANDON - 1827, Monograph of the Hirudinea family,MARTIN - 1847, Paper on the issue of leeches and FERMOND -1854, Monograph ofthe medical leech. Very early in the 20th century, the French pharmacopoeia gave adetailed description of the pigmentary characteristics of the medical leech. And 2006a group of German researchers published "Blutegeltherapy" which means medicinalLeech Therapy. This book provides a lot of information about leech with a scientificapproach. This book was translated in English in 2007. The Morphology ofleeches (medicinal Leeches)The Hirudo medicinalis (leech) is a segmented worm that is dorsoventrally flattened.The length of its body varies depending on whether it is observed extended or
  • 5. contracted in its “olive” form. European medicinal leeches come in a great number ofvarieties. Leeches have different pigmentation, which make it possible todifferentiate them between different varieties.The Hungarian leech is bigger than the German leech. The back of the leech isbrightly coloured with various shades: dark green, brick red, yellow and black.Themedian band of its dorsal surface is dark green, demarcated on each side by anevenly serrated, thin black line. Its ventral surface is green (Verbena) and the Hirudoventral surface is close to a light yellow color.There are many other types of leeches in America, Asia, Europe and the CaribbeanIslands and some of them have a median emerald green band demarcated on eachside by a thin, straight black line on their dorsal surface. They are very smooth to thetouch, with two black stripes running along each edge. Many other leeches have ayellowish-green longitudinal median band demarcated on each side by a black lineon their dorsal surface. Their ventral surface is yellowish green and very smooth tothe touch with a straight black stripe.Hirudo medicinalis has been the focus of most scientific studies for many hundredsyears . This annelid from the subclass Hirudinea has 2 suckers, an anterior (head)and a posterior (back), The back is bigger than the anterior. The Hirudinea has 32brains. It has between 80 to 100 tiny small teeth in each jaw, in total it has between240 to 300 teeth. It is hermaphrodite, which means it has two reproductive organs:Ovaries and testes.Leeches usually have three jaws but the Australian land leech has only two jaws andmake a V-shaped incision. In general leeches make a Y-shaped incision when theyattach to its prey. Their size range between 7 mm long to 300 mm when extendedand very agile to extend or reduce their length. They normally breathe with theirbody and they have anaerobic breathing system, which means they can breathewithout oxygen unlike human. The two main types of Leeches:1. Hirudinea: the true leeches – marine, freshwater and terrestrial – which havesuckers at both ends and lack chaetae (bristles). 2. Acanthobdellida: a small northernhemisphere infraclass ectoparasitic on salmonid fish, which lacks an anterior suckerand retains chaetae.The Hirudinea is further divided into two:A. Rhynchobdellida: jawless marine and freshwater leeches with a protrusibleproboscis and true vascular system B. Arynchobdellida: jawed and jawless freshwaterand terrestrial leeches with a non-protrusible muscular pharynx and a haemo-coelomic system.Most leeches are freshwater animals, but there are terrestrial and marinespecies.NourishmentMost leeches are sanguivorous, that is they feed as blood sucking parasites on certain
  • 6. hosts. If their preferred food is not available most leeches will feed on other classes ofhost to feed themselves. Some feed on the blood of mammals including humans,while other leeches suck fish, frogs, turtles or birds. Some leeches will even take ameal from other sanguivorous leeches, which may die after the attack, but this doesnot happen very often. Sanguivorous leeches can ingest blood up to 10 times of theirbody weight in just one meal. After feeding the leeches retire to a dark spot to digestthe blood. Digestion is very slow and this enables them to survive during very longfasting periods (up to 2 years).Senses and MobilityMedicinal leeches have 5 pairs of eyes, but they do not see the full spectrum of apicture, although leeches can find their way almost perfectly. Smell, taste and touchare well-developed, which help leeches to survive. It is worth noticing that leecheswonderfully respond to smell of items that are deep down the water. They cant livein contaminated and smelly water. Medicinal Leech cant be closed to salt, beer,wine, chlorine, alcohol, etc. If they do they will be killed almost instantly. Leechesdon’t walk, but they move by either an undulating swimming motion (eel like) or byan inch-worm like crawl using both, the anterior and posterior suckers.Coupling and reproductionLeeches often die after one or two bouts of reproduction. Leech are hermaphrodite,which means they have both male and female sex organs. Like the earthworms theyalso have a clitellum, a region of thickened skin which is only obvious during thereproductive period. Mating involves the intertwining of bodies where each depositssperm in the others clitellar area. Rhyncobdellids leeches have no penis but producesharp packages of sperm, which are forced through the body wall. There are about 6stages for reproduction to take place in a cocoon. The leech shrugs itself free of thecocoon, sealing it as it passes over the head.The cocoon is either buried or attached to a rock, log or leaf and dries to a foamycrust. After several weeks or months, the young emerge as miniature adults. Expertsbelieve that the cocoons are capable of surviving the digestive system of a duck. Afterbirth leeches can live up to 19 or 30 years.ApplicationLeech in Modern Medicine:Hirudin in medicinal leech is the mainfocus of modern medicine and because of that medicinal leech therapy has enjoyed agreat comeback in modern medicine. In United States and around the world medicaldoctors are using with great success medicinal leeches in reconstructivemicrosurgery. Venous congestion is decreased using hirudo medicinalis applicationsuch as following replantation of amputated legs, fingers or congested flaps. Theyprovide an important relief to venous engorgement while venous drainage is re-established.
  • 7. The traditional way is getting better and more people can benefit fromleech therapy The old fashion way of applying medicinal leech is gone, but newtechniques and knowledge are being used by leech therapists in Russia, Germany,France, Turkey, England, Spain, and even here in the United States to help people inso many areas of health and prevention. The Russian and the German leechtherapists and Medical Doctors are using leech therapy to treat arthritis, venousdiseases, gout, psoriasis, pain, aches, etc.In November 2010 in Los Angeles, California, The BTER Foundation wrote a veryimportant brochure to promote Biomedicine. Leech therapy has a wide-range ofapplication according to them. Read the bellow paragraph: "The objective of ourstudy is to summarize the experience of modern medicine in hirudotherapy clinicaleffectiveness in different human diseases and disorders, based on more than 10-yearsof good clinical observations, experimental data and special literature overview. Thefirst part of the report will address some new experimental findings on anti-inflammatory, antiedemic, decongestive, immunomodulative and regenerativeproperties of leeching. Curative and preventive healing effects of aspirative and non-aspirative types of leeching will be described in experimental rat models.The report provides comprehensive information on a wide-range of clinicalapplications of leeches - in internal medicine, microvascular and reconstructivesurgery, synosteology, neurology, gynecology, ophthalmology, dermatology,cardiology, maxillofacial surgery and dentistry. The clinical part of the report alsopresents numerous case histories of patients who have had different diseasessuccessfully treated with leeches. This presentation will include clinical photographs,line drawings and schematic figures to assist in our understanding of hirudotherapy.We will also focus on some actual problems associated with hirudotherapy: bioethics,temporal toxicity of leeches, bioutilization, hirudotherapy combination with otherpharmacotherapy and physiotherapy methods and etc. Special attention will be paidto leeching side effects: why they occur, how to recognize them, and how to preventor treat them. Cupping techniques will also be addressed. Finally, recommendationsfor using the leeches in clinical practice will be made, based on controlledrandomized trials." Certified leech therapist experts who practice holistic naturalmedicine can help the body recover from many other health problems by applyingleech therapy combined with other natural applications.