The leech was known for its healing properties long before the Middle Ages. In medicine, leech therapy is now experiencing a renaissance.
The German word for leech, Egel, comes from the Greek word echis, which means little snake. In the Germanic tribes, their word for leech more or less corresponded to the word "healer" and for centuries was a loyal helper to doctors. The best known is the medicinal leech (Hirindo medicinalis), which is bred today for therapeutic purposes.
In the mouth of the leeches are the 3 radially arranged jaws with approx. 80 lime teeth. The leeches are placed on clean, non-creamy skin areas. Its bite is star-shaped (the patient then feels a minor pain). The so-called saliva (leech saliva) is immediately released through the opening between the teeth. This saliva contains the following previously identified active ingredients:
- Hirudin: this main active ingredient inhibits blood clotting.
- Calin: a substance in the saliva that is also responsible for blood clotting causes the wound to bleed again, which has a cleaning function and can be compared to a gentle bloodletting.
- Egline: anti-inflammatory, hyaluronidase; antibiotic.
- Collagenase: inhibits platelet aggregation.
Furthermore, there are other, unidentified substances in the saliva that make up the unique cocktail of active ingredients.
The average suction time of the leech is about 30-60 min., Max. up to 2 hours. Each leech drinks approximately 8-10 cc of blood. The leeches then let go and slide off. Now the bleeding takes place (about the same amount of blood again). The small wounds become substances such as Histamine washed out, which guarantee a quick healing process. At the same time, congestion is released, muscle and skin tensions are reduced, pain and pressure sensation at the affected areas is reduced. Metabolic processes are also stimulated, which results in detoxification and purification of the organism and thus stimulation of the self-healing powers. Bleeding, which can last up to 24 hours after treatment, should not be prevented. In exceptional cases, a light suction bandage is applied.
The gentle bloodletting is used for diseases of the musculoskeletal system and all inflammatory processes. Painful arthrosis provides pain relief and an anti-inflammatory effect. The treatment of poorly healing wounds can be supported.
The great advantage of leech treatment is that internal organs such as the liver, kidney and heart are not unnecessarily stressed as in e.g. medication over conventional pain relievers. Therefore, the therapy can also be used very well in older people.
Leech therapy should not be used for blood clotting disorders, anemia, simultaneous use of anticoagulant medication, existing immunosuppression and parallel therapy with medication containing mercury.