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Suck it up. For thousands of years, leeches have been used medically to remove impure blood from the body and now their thirsty eating habits are being employed for detoxification purposes. Sound like something you’d like to sink your teeth into?
Although it might not be the most pleasant thought in the world (in fact, it seems more like the stuff of nightmares) these little bloodsuckers have a long list of qualities that work in their therapeutic favour. For a start, they have an enzyme in their saliva which stops blood from clotting – a life-saver when it comes to reattaching limbs and promoting the flow of blood through veins. Their saliva also works as an antiseptic and an anaesthetic, which is why they’ve been used with such success in surgery.
Now, with our ever-increasing love for innovative and unusual treatments (as long as they promise to make us look and feel even more gorgeous), leeches have been thrust into the spotlight as a detox therapy. It’s believed that, thanks to their ability to suck out “bad blood”, leeches can leave you with cleansed, detoxified blood. The jury is out on whether this is scientifically true or not, but celebrities like Demi Moore insist that it’s fantastic for optimising general health.
If you decide that it’s something you want to try, the leeches will be placed directly on to your skin and left there until they’re engorged and decide they’ve consumed enough blood – at which point they will simply fall off. No matter how much you can’t stand the sight of them, they should never be pulled off as this may make the wound much worse. A single treatment usually lasts between 60 and 90 minutes, but you will probably experience some bleeding from the wound for a further 12 to 24 hours, due to the anti-clotting effect of the leeches’ saliva, but it shouldn’t be painful.
As well as a detox therapy, leeches can also be used in connection with the following problems:
You should be aware that there is a risk of infection and as a result, you should ensure that the hungry leeches involved in the treatment have only been used on you, to avoid any possibility of transferring blood. Patients with HIV, AIDS or who are on immunosuppressive medication are not advised to have leech therapy as they are far more likely to contract an infection from the treatment.
Over 100 hospitals in the UK are now believed to use leeches to help a wide range of patients. And, just as an afterthought: leeches have three jaws, so their bite looks like a Mercedes Benz logo...