About Leech Therapy

What is Leech Therapy ?

Leech Therapy (or Hirudotherapy) is one of the oldest natural methods of treatment that has been used for thousands of years across the globe. It is a safe and scientifically proven therapy which effectiveness is still surprising in the 21st century. 



The word “leech” is a derivation of the Anglo-Saxon “laece” meaning “to heal”. Or if literally translated a” physician”. The earliest records of use of leeches for medical purposes appear in paintings of Egyptian tomb, dated 1500 BC. Later Chinese, Arabic, Anglo-Saxon, Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, Roman and Persian medical texts provided frequent records of use of leeches. The most famous doctors of those times for example Galen and Avicenna promoted their use. In Indian mythology Lord Dhanvantari, the God of Ayurveda was often depicted holding leech in his hand. Ayurveda, the oldest medical system in the world that originated from India and is about 5000 years old, has been always using leeches to treat patients.


Leeches became particularly widespread between 17th and 19th centuries. In the 1830s England imported over 6 million leeches a year, Ireland about 4 million and France between 40 -100 million. Countries like Germany, USA, Russia and others used dozens of millions of leeches annually. Therefore, hundreds of millions of leeches were used by physicians throughout Europe and world. Their use was so common that physicians were often called “leeches”.

How It Works

- The Leech therapy provides mechanical and biological effect on human body -


The mechanical part involves the extraction of congested blood and lymph. Each leech sucks about 5-10 ml of blood plus there is a post-application bleeding where blood comes out mixed with lymph (2/3). The body will make the new pure blood and lymph to replace lost one within 24 hours. Lymph is the “drainage” of our body so it is important to keep it clean and in the good working order.

Therefore, leech therapy allows not only to renew blood but also to purify and renew lymph. This process provides a powerful detox which boosts patient’s immune system.


The discovery of the leech saliva enzyme hirudin in 1902 by John Haycraft marked the beginning of the scientific use of leeches in medicine. Studies have shown that the medicinal effect of the leech is largely due to the unique chemical composition of its saliva.

This saliva, the secret of special glands, contains more than 100 useful components. A leech is a true “mini-factory” of enzymes and biologically active substances highly beneficial for humans, which enter patient’s body at the time of the bite. Modern science has been attempting to recreate these enzymes in the form of tablets or ointments, however they still a lot weaker than live leeches, and so the most reliable way to receive a quality treatment is still through a direct contact with a live leech. Some of the key enzymes can be seen in the table below.



  • Improving OXYGEN supply to tissues and organs;
  • Reducing Atherosclerosis
  • Regulating BLOOD PRESSURE
  • Painkilling & Anti-bacterial effect
  • Reducing venous congestion
  • Reducing OEDEMA
  • Cleaning and moving lymph
  • Immune system boosting
  • Detox

Key components of Leech Saliva

 Hyaluronidase – an enzyme that has a strong antibiotic / antibacterial effect. It kills most pathogenic microorganisms and prevents their spreading. This is particularly useful with inflammation and infections. Hyaluronidase also promotes growth of new capillaries which in turn helps improve micro-circulation in organs and tissues.

 Apyrase determines the anti-sclerotic effect of leech saliva. It increases the activity of the lipoprotein lipase enzyme that decreases the total cholesterol and low-density betalipoproteins levels which lead to formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the blood vessels. That is why atherosclerosis is a direct indication for hirudotherapy.

 Hirudin – discovered in 1902, a natural powerful blood thinner which is approximately 10 times stronger than heparin. It helps fight increased blood viscosity and improves blood circulation throughout the body.

Bradikinins –  have strong anti-inflammatory effect plus enhance the phagocytic activity of leukocytes.

 Destabilase – dissolves blood clots, lengthens the blood clotting time and has strong  anti-aggregating properties causing decomposition of clotted blood. Destabilise along with other enzymes with similar actions can help prevent strokes and heart attacks.

Bdelins –  provide strong anti-inflammatory effect.

Neurotrophic factors cause the growth of nerve cell endings, which makes the use of hirudotherapy effective after a stroke, in patients with cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease.

Elastase in leech saliva heals the damaged blood vessels walls and helps dissolve solid compounds that interfere with the blood flow. This also improves blood  blood circulation throughout the body.


Kininase – destroys kinins (the chemical “basis” of pain) hence working as a natural pain killer.

Eglins –  strong anti-inflammatory effect, prevent further damage of the joints. Helps with joint problems.

Benefits of Leech Treatment



  • Improved OXYGEN supply to tissues and organs
  • Reduced risk of thrombosis
  • Dissolving existing blood clots and preventing new ones
  • Improved work of the heart
  • Restoration of micro-circulation
  • Stimulating growth of new capillaries
  • Reducing atherosclerosis
  • Reducing bad cholesterol
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Reducing venous congestion
  • Restoration of blood vessel walls
  • Blood-thinning effect
  • Vasodilation effect 



  • Relaxing and calming effect on nervous system
  • Improved mood (due to increased serotonin production)
  • Improved sleep (due to calming effect)
  • Restoring of neuromuscular transmission of impulses (for neurological disorders)


  • Cleaning and moving lymph
  • Reducing oedema and swellings


  • Improving metabolism
  • Immune system boosting


For a full & detailed list of indications please click above Conditions A-Z
  •  Cardiovascular disorders/ Stroke & heart conditions
  •  Vein thrombosis & varicose veins; Poor blood circulation
  •  Headaches / Migraines / High Blood Pressure / Hypertension
  •  Stress / Depression / Panic attacks / Anxiety / Insomnia / Agitation 
  •  Neurological disorders
  •  Joint problems: rheumatism, arthritis
  •  Skin diseases: eczema, psoriasis, etc
  •  Sexual health: male and female, Gynaecology / Urology
  •  Painful periods & difficult menopause
  •  Fertility & healthy baby conception
  •  Pain / cramps or spasms
  •  First aid / accident help / Injuries
  •  Ear / nose / throat diseases
  •  Endocrinology, thyroid issues
  •  Ophthalmology (Eye problems)
  •  Respiratory disorders
  •  Beauty and Detox
Condition Explanation
Allergies By cleaning blood and lymph with Leech therapy we can reduce many allergic signs and symptoms
Cardiovascular problems Leeches make blood thinner leading to improved blood circulation and better supply of oxygen and nutrients to all cells and organs ( hirudin). Leeches clean blood by dissolving blood clots and cholesterol plaques,. Furthermore, LT prevents atherosclerosis and protects arteries from hardening (enzyme apyrase), which in turn helps to reduce high blood pressure. All these properties combined allow to improve most cardiovascular conditions.
Detox By cleaning lymph and blood we carry out a thorough body detox
Diabetes Diabetic patients have sugar-laden and therefore blood is thicker than usual. This can lead to an increased risk of blood clots. Hirudin enzyme in leech saliva is a natural blood thinner which will help to regulate blood viscosity. Furthermore, destabilase will help dissolve blood clots.
Ear inflammation / ear infection Leech saliva has number of enzymes with strong anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which can help heal ear inflammation. Kininase (painkilling enzyme) will help decrease pain and hirudin will help to improve local blood circulation. Furthermore, secreted antimicrobial substances will kill bacteria and other pathogens which cause ear infection and inflammation.
Eye problems (ophthalmology)
Inflammatory eye diseases
LT can help improve eye sight by improving local blood circulation which in turn helps eyes to receive better nurishment. Also, strong anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial enzymes will help deal with any inflammatory disorders and ease spasm or pressure behind the eyes.
Fertility / Infertility
Preparing for a healthy pregnancy
IVF Support
Often the reason for infertility or difficult pregnancy is viscous or “thick” blood, as well as various inflammatory conditions of reproductive system. Leech saliva cleans blood and improves blood circulation, which is vital for fetus development as good blood circulation means that baby will receive more oxygen and nutrients. Plus, strong anti-inflammatory enzymes such as bdelins, bradykinis, eglins will help heal any inflammation.
Painful periods (dysmenorrhea), uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, adhesions
LT is effective at improving blood circulation, easing the pain during painful periods, healing any inflammatory diseases, helping dissolve fallopian tube adhesions (if they not too old) and can help with ovarian cysts.
Hair loss, baldness, alopecia Leech therapy is good at improving blood circulation which helps hair follicles grow. When applied to bold areas the hair starts to grow better.
INFLAMMATION (any) There are strong anti-inflammatory enzymes in leech saliva which can help heal any inflammatory conditions.
Lymphatic system & Detox
Lymph nodes swollen / painful
After the leech is removed from the bite area the patient experiences the post-application bleeding. What many people do not know is that most of the fluid which comes out is actually lymph, which is mixed with blood. Within 24 hours body will replace the lost body fluids. Such detox allows to get rid of stagnant lymph full of toxins, reduce swelling and oedema.
Traumas, Fractures
Sport and other injuries
Leech therapy is very effective in accelerating the healing of sport and other injuries. Substances in leech saliva have been shown to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling as well as speed up the wound and tissue healing.
Nervous system Nervous states
neurology disorders
Neurotrophic factor stimulates the growth of nerve cell endings, which helps regenerate nervous cells. Therefore, leech therapy is useful for patients after a stroke, cerebral palsy or with Parkinson’s disease.
After Leech Therapy patients have reported a significant reduction in osteoarthritis symptoms. Recent randomised controlled trials (RCTs), which were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, confirm reduction in swelling, pain and joint swelling. RCTs are considered the ‘gold standard’ of medical effectiveness. Please go to NHS & Research page for more information.
PAIN Kininase in leech saliva destroys kinins, the chemical “basis” of pain, hence working as a pain killer.
Poor memory, muzzy head Among other factors memory depends on a good blood circulation, particularly to the brain. Leech Therapy is very good at improving blood circulation hence can help improve memory, concentration and thinking.
SINUSITIS Leech Therapy has effective, time-tested protocols which can effectively help reduce symptoms of chronic sinusitis.
SWELLING, OEDEMA See Lymphatic system section above
Skin problems - Boils, carbuncles
Eczema Psoriasis, wounds, ulcers
Skin problems usually occur due to dirty blood, dirty gut and stress. Leech Therapy purifies blood and reduces stress thanks to its calming effect on the nervous system. Therefore, we often have good results when working with skin conditions.
Stress, depression Leech Therapy stimulates the production of serotonin, the "happiness hormone", which helps overcome the anxiety and depression. Furthermore, the calming and regenerative effect on nervous system helps relieve stress.
Tiredness LT helps to clean blood and lymph and heal any chronic inflammatory processes which might be draining energy. As the result of detox and improved blood circulation the blood moves faster and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to all cells of the body. This results in better wellbeing and higher energy levels.
Urology prostatitis, prostate adenoma, cystitis, Impotence
Erectile dysfunction (ED)
chronic pyelonephritis
Inflammation is the basis of most pathological processes in urology. Anti-inflammatory properties of leech saliva combined with improved blood circulation can help treat many urological disorders.
WELLBEING Leech Therapy helps to clean blood and lymph and treat various inflammatory conditions, calm and strengthen nervous system, brighten mood (thanks to increased serotonin production). As the result of detox and improved blood circulation the blood moves faster and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to all cells of the body. The result is a better wellbeing, cleaner body and higher energy levels.


  • Anaemia
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Blood disorders
  • Anticoagulants (caution is needed, pls ask)
  • Severe exhaustion or starving diet
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Haemophilia
  • Any sexually transmitted disease
  • Any type of cancer
  • Mentally unstable patients
  • Immunosuppressed patients
  • Hepatitis (any variety)

NHS currently uses Leech therapy to avoid operations as well as in reconstructive or cosmetic surgery. The Guy & St. Thomas Hospital leaflet (2018) states: “Leeches may be used to help improve blood flow in an area of tissue or skin flap that has poor blood circulation. Leeches do this by removing clotted blood (congested blood), which restarts blood flow in the small blood vessels of the flap and helps to prevent the tissues from dying”.

Treatment Procedure

Leech therapy uses only special types of medicinal leeches grown in modern bio farms. Leeches are single use and are disposed after each session according to medical standards. During the session a few medicinal leeches applied to the body’s problematic area to extract blood (usually 5-10 ml per leech). The procedure is relaxing and lasts about an hour. At the end the bite area will be covered with sterile cotton wool dressing and materials given to patient to take home in case of additional bandage is needed.

The initial post-application bleeding should normally last be between 8 to 16 hours, however after the Pandemic most patients bleed less, about 3-6 hours. With each following session the body adapts to leech saliva and the bleeding time gets shorter and shorter until it reaches the natural minimum (about 1-2 hours). The number of leeches for each patient is decided based on person’s age and health condition, usually about 3-5, but can reach up to 8-10 in some cases. The procedure is generally relaxing and many patients fall asleep during the session.

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