HIRUDOTHERAPY Overview Information
Hirudotherapy is a medical treatment that uses leeches. Leeches are freshwater worms that suck blood or eat flesh. Hirudotherapy developed after J. B. Haycraft discovered in 1884 that a certain leech species produces a powerful chemical that thins blood.
At first, leeches were used for a long list of conditions including headache, gangrene, and “imbalances of the humors.” Today, hirudotherapy is used for treating redness and swelling (inflammation), grafting skin, and restoring blood vessels and circulation.
Hirudotherapy is approved as a medical therapy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Companies that raised and marketed leeches before 1976 in the U.S. are permitted to continue doing so. However, those marketing leeches after 1976 are required to get FDA approval.
How does it work?
Hirudotherapy or leech therapy is used for conditions where blood clots or blood pooling is a problem. When people have skin grafts, blood pooling or clotting can decrease tissue healing. Leeches secrete a natural blood thinner that helps keep the blood flowing and improves survival of the tissue.
Likely Effective for:
- Skin grafts. Hirudotherapy or leech therapy is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medical therapy.
- Swelling (inflammation).
- Improving blood circulation.
- Other conditions.
HIRUDOTHERAPY Side Effects & Safety
Hirudotherapy or leech therapy is safe when used appropriately by a medical professional. Leech therapy is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medical therapy.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of hirudotherapy during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For skin grafts and similar conditions: 2-3 leeches are typically applied until they fall off after about 40 minutes. The process is then repeated.