Ummid Assistant

Applications open for Manmohan scholarship at Cambridge

Opportunities for Indian students in US

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home » Health

Leech therapy makes a comeback in India

Friday March 29, 2013 11:03:06 AM, Haris Zargar, IANS

New Delhi: A few years ago when Hollywood actress Demi Moore said she let leeches suck her blood as part of a therapy to look fresh and young it made headlines. This ancient medical therapy of using leeches for clinical bloodletting to treat certain health conditions is making a comeback of sorts in India where the therapy is said to have originated.

Leeches (or Hirudo Medicinalis) are segmented worms from the Annelida family with suckers at the ends of their body. A leech can consume between 5 and 15 ml of blood - or four-six times their body weight in a single feed. The bite of a leech is not painful as it releases an anaesthetic to prevent the hosts from feeling them.

Many people are now taking to leech therapy to treat conditions ranging from blood pressure to gout, from healing wounds to even hair fall. Only the medicinal leeches are used for treatment, which are brown, red striped and olive-coloured.

"The therapy has a lot many advantages, without any side effects. It is a major therapeutic tool and helps in many blood-related diseases. It also minimises the chances of blood rejection in blood transfusion cases," ayurveda specialist Ravi Raghuvanshi told IANS.

Describing the therapy as "safe and advantageous", Raghuvanshi said the treatment is already "very popular" in the West. "The therapy is very popular in the West particularly in countries like the US and Germany. The reason is there is good awareness in the West as a lot of research has been done on the subject."

"In India, where the therapy originated, there is hardly any awareness or much research, though the practice dates back 5,000 years. The knowledge has not been transferred well. The popularity is also scattered. Only 300-400 people every year in Delhi and NCR use leech therapy," Raghuvanshi said.

In 2008, the union health ministry decided to recognise leech therapy to treat a range of diseases, including eczema, gangrene, vascular reconstruction and vascular surgery in chronic wounds.

The technique is in vogue in Jammu and Kashmir, coastal Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Gujarat. Now the therapy is also practised in some clinics across metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

Divya Sharma, 47, a resident of east Delhi's Rohini area, says she found the treatment very effective and life-saving. "I had suffered serious injury to my legs in an accident some months back. The wounds turned gangrenous and doctors said they might have to amputate my legs if the injury does not heal. Then a friend advised me to try leech therapy. After I started it, my injuries began to get better day by day. The doctors said no operation was required."

"The therapy is usually done on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, skin disorders and even in cases of hair fall. People suffering from bleeding disorders are not given the therapy. Otherwise the practice has only advantages," S. Jain, a Delhi-based ayurveda specialist, told IANS.

"The subject has been taken out of ayurveda, but not many people have the awareness. It will, however, gain in reckoning in the near future,"said Jain, whose clinic provides the facility.
"About 150 patients avail of this service every year," he added.

According to medical experts, leeches remove blood from their host and release pain-killing and blood-thinning substances into the blood through their saliva. The saliva contains about 100 different bioactive substances, including anti-coagulants, vaso-dilators and anaesthetics.

The medicinal leeches are brown, red striped and olive-coloured.

In Jammu and Kashmir, this traditional medicinal practice has consolidated its position, with many people preferring the therapy to conventional medication. A high number of patients in the state prefer leeches over allopathic medicine to cure various skin and blood-related diseases.

Srinagar-based skin specialist Aaliya Nowsheri says the treatment has been very popular traditionally among the people of the Kashmir Valley.

"A good number of patients have shown interest as they find the treatment effective, hygienic and clean. Moreover, the practice has always been present in the state through traditional healers who are preferred by many in rural areas," Nowsheri told IANS over phone.

"The leeches used have special enzymes which quickly coagulate the blood sucked out. No further action or medicine is given to the patient post treatment. The patients get instant relief without much pain," she added.

The first description of leech therapy, classified as blood letting, was found in the text of Sushruta samhita (dating 800 B.C.) written by Sushruta, who was also considered the father of plastic surgery, according to information on the web.

The application of medicinal leeches for cleaning the blood of poison was used in Egypt around 2,500 years ago. The therapy was common until the mid-1800s when newer therapies took their place.

In the 1980s, medicinal leech therapy got a big boost by plastic surgeons who used leeches to relieve venous congestion, especially in transplant surgery. In 2004, use of blood-sucking leeches was also approved by the US government as a tool for healing skin grafts and for restoring circulation.

(Haris Zargar can be contacted at






Home | Top of the Page


Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of

Comments powered by DISQUS


More Headlines

Justice Katju seeks pardon for Sanjay Dutt, Kazi under section 72

Karnataka BJP law-maker in sex CD row

Clash after Dalits stopped from praying at Haryana shrine

Two more women accuse Marathi writer of rape

10,339 people prosecuted for traffic offences on Holi

104-year-old photographer awarded for his pre-independence photos

Property document only piece of paper if unregistered, unattested: SC

Maharshtra wants to fast track Shivaji memorial proposal

Not seeking pardon, says emotional Sanjay Dutt

300 new bank branches to open Friday in UP


Top Stories

Not seeking pardon, says emotional Sanjay Dutt

Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, who has been convicted under the Arms Act for his role in the 1993 Mumbai bombings, said Thursday he would "surrender" when the time comes and would not be seeking "pardon".  »

Justice Katju seeks pardon for Sanjay Dutt, Kazi under section 72

Parliamentarians join 'pardon Sanjay Dutt' chorus


  Most Read

New Saudi labour policy major issue for India: Vayalar Ravi

"It's a serious issue that will affect not only India but also other countries. Yesterday I spoke to the Indian ambassador  »

Migration to Middle East will continue: Expert

Outrage in Bhiwandi over provocative post on social networking site

Provoked by an allegedly objectionable content on a social networking site, a spontaneous bandh is called on Thursday in Bhiwandi - the textile city some 50 kms from here. Local police promised stern action against the culprits."The bandh call is spontaneous and it was   »


  News Pick

Property document only piece of paper if unregistered, unattested: SC

Upholding the finding arrived at by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the apex court said that a document by Rao Gajraj Singh was neither  »

Karnataka BJP law-maker in sex CD row

A CD allegedly showing Karnataka BJP law maker Raghupathi Bhat in sexual acts has surfaced, prompting him to announce that he would not contest the May 5 assembly »

NIT Agartala students face suspension over Facebook comment

A disciplinary panel of the National Institute of Technology (NIT) here has proposed to suspend 57 students for six months over a comment on Facebook against a girls' hostel superintendent. »

Mumbra to have Islamic Cultiral Centre of international standard

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday declared to establish an Islamic Cultural Centre of International standard here at Mumbra – a town in the Thane district some 40 km north east of India’s business  »


Picture of the Day

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh being welcomed on his arrival, at King Shaka International airport, to attend the Fifth BRICS Summit, at Durban, South Africa on March 25, 2013.


Recommend the story to your friends



RSS  |  Contact us


| Quick links



Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant



Science & Technology



About us




Government Schemes










Contact us


The Funny Side

Education & Career Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

© 2012 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.