Leech therapy

The term leech therapy was derived from the Latin word for leech – HIRUDO. All leeches belonging to Hirudo medicinalis species can be applied in leech therapy. Leeches Hirudo Verbana bred in EURO-BION’s laboratory belong to this group.


Leech is not a remedy for all diseases but it effectively treats: cardiac diseases and pains, hypertension, hypotension, bronchial and pulmonary diseases, diseases of digestive tract and liver, stomach and duodenal ulcers, high cholesterol level, allergies, skin diseases, varicose veins, thrombophlebitis, ischaemia, slow wound healing, hemoroids, venereal diseases, infertility, sciatic neuralgia, radiculitis, joint pains, posttraumatic edema, hematomas and clots, kidney diseases, prostate, impotence, spinal pains, aggression, hysterics, neurosis, depression, certain tumors and aging processes. In 1996, a research confirmed the beneficial effect of hirudocompounds (raw extracts from leeches) on stimulating growth of nerve cells (neurons) and brought prospects for developing treatment for postpartum cerebral palsy in children as well as Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases. Initial tests have already brought positive results. Recently, medical leech has been introduced and successfully used in treating cellulitis, positive results have also been obtained in a therapy of non-invasive penis enlargement. Both procedures are patented. Leeches are very often used in microvascular surgery during procedures of limb, finger, skin, breast or ear reattachment, as well as in rejuvenating treatments.


There are not many of them, it should be however remembered that:

  • Leeching should never be performed on pregnant women. Hirudocompounds contained in the secretion of salivary glands might affect the development of pregnancy and in some cases, cause miscarriage.
  • Hemophilia is an absolute contraindication.
  • Recently undergone medical procedures that involved use of anticoagulants may be a contraindication. In such cases, leech therapy can be conducted two weeks after the procedure. Otherwise, bleeding from the site where the leech was attached may last for up to 48 hours.
  • Additional caution is recommended when treating patients with hypothomia with blood pressure 60/80 or lower. After hirudotherapeutical treatment such patients tend to get dizzy and suffer general weakness.
  • Leech therapy should never be performed on patients with strong anemia.
  • It is recommended to be very careful while leeching patients with allergies since they might be allergic to hirudocompounds. In such cases, only two leeches should be used during the first treatment.
  • We do not leech children that are ten years old or younger. The only exception to this rule may be the cases of replantation.


Leeches, including medical leech Hirudo medicinalis, are dangerous parasites characterized by an insatiable appetite. They have an inborn instinct to bite everything that has a temperature above 33 degrees centigrade, contains arginin (an amino acid) and a physiological solution of sodium chloride. Aggressive nature of leeches has been subject of numerous metaphors, parables and folk proverbs. It might however happen that a leech will simply refuse to bite. What might be the reason behind such behaviour? Let us try to analyze the potential factors triggering such behaviour in order exclude as many of them as possible.

  • This might not be the leech for leech therapy. It is recommended to double-check its origin.
  • If the leech was obtained from a legal source and does not want to ‘co-operate’, it is recommended to check whether it had previously been stored in a refrigerator. Thermal shock reduces the appetite of leeches making them temporarily unfit for any kind of treatments. It is therefore recommended to stay cautious while changing the water in containers where leeches are kept, fresh water should have temperature similar to that of the water just poured out.
  • Leech is a living organism and alike other living organisms is subject to different rhythms and biological influences. It is very sensitive to magnetic storms, solar and lunar eclipses as well as the phases of the moon, it is also less active at night. Leeches have also the ability to sense tension in both, the therapist and the patient. In such cases, it is recommended to abort the procedure until the nerves are calmed, during the next attempt the leech will probably cling willingly.
  • Our leech, or other leeches that remain in contact with it, are in the mating season. Leech that actively participates in the mating season as well as leeches that are merely passive observers of the process, are unwilling to bite in an instant. In order to apply them during the hirudotherapetical session, the therapist should patiently wait for a couple of minutes until they are willing to bite, and proceed with the treatment.
  • Leech might not like the smell of deodorant, soap, perfumes, gel and other cosmetic preparations used by the patient. Smells of rose and sandalwood are particularly badly tolerated by leeches. Therefore, it is recommended that the patients washed themselves thoroughly with a non-aromatized soap right before the procedure.
  • Attaching a leech to a part of the body that is not warm enough. Contrary of the common belief, different parts of the human body have a different temperature. The diagram of a spine presented below, illustrates diversification of subsurface temperatures in different parts of the human body. If the temperature of the site where the leech is to be attached is lower than 33 degrees centigrade then, despite the efforts, the therapist will not succeed in leeching this area. In order to encourage the leech to initiate treatment, temperature of skin in this area needs to be increased. This might be achieved by massaging, honey massage of the site is particularly recommended, chaffing, pressing or simply blowing a stream of warm air from a hairdryer.
  • Finally, leeches alike other living creatures are subject to various pathological conditions that oftentimes lead to death. Such conditions, though evoke sympathy, might instill fear of an infection spreading from the leech, which is absolutely impossible. None of the pathological conditions that leeches suffer from can spread on people, just the opposite. Oftentimes, substances found in the human body, such as pharmaceutical derivatives, food and various toxic gas substances prove to be highly toxic for leeches. When exposed to such substances, leeches used in leech therapy frequently get sick an die right after the procedure.


The procedure of leeching is not a very complicated one provided it is conducted by a person familiarized with the theory and practice of leech therapy.

According to the traditional folk medicine the amount of leeches used in the hirudotherapeutical process should follow the proportion: one leech per kilogram of body weight. Nowadays this proportion is treated with reserve since lesser amounts of leeches proved to be equally effective. The total amount of leeches used in treatment is now established based on factors such as age, gender, type advancement and duration of the medical condition, patient’s temperament, body posture, personal attitude towards leeching as well as seemingly irrelevant factors such as season and weather conditions.

During single hirudotherapetucical session 2,3,5,7 or 9 leeches are attached (in isolated cases 10 or 20), sessions are followed by breaks lasting from 3 to 5 days. One session takes from 15 to 90 minutes (on average 45 minutes), its duration is determined mainly by age, gender and site where the leeches are to be attached. In justified cases, when the medical condition is serious and treatment brings significant improvement, the hirudotherapeutical cycle might be repeated (two or three times) in 3 to 6 months. The amount of leeches used in therapy as well as duration of sessions and breaks between them is established individually every time the patient begins a new hirudotherapeutical cycle. In some cases, the course of hirudotherapy may be radically different from the presented process.


  • Before and after each hirudotherapeutical treatment blood pressure should be measured. Some patients, especially after the first hirudotherapeutical treatment, may suffer from dizziness, general weakness and low blood pressure. These are not serious symptoms. After each following treatment, patients were reported to experience flush of both physical and mental strength.
  • A leech should be sterilized for 5 minutes in a solution made by dissolving one tablet of HIRUDOCLEANER in 2 liters of water. Components of the preparation are harmless for leeches and effectively inhibit crucial enzymatic reactions in cells of bacteria, viruses and funghi. By triggering protein denaturation, HIRUDOCLEANER effectively destroys microorganisms which might be found on the body of a leech and its jaws as well as in its sucker and mouth opening. The solution remains in effect for 30 minutes and is entirely biodegradable.
  • Rules of asepsis should be obeyed. Dressings used during the procedure must be sterile. Before hirudotherapeutical treatment hands need to be washed in green soap. It is recommended to use disposable latex gloves since they prevent the leech from attaching to hands of the therapist and protect against blood exposure. Under no circumstances, should the mark after the leech bite be touched once the procedure is finished. The bite mark and skin in the area within 5 to 7 centimeters from the mark should not be scratched.
  • For 24 hours after the leeching, it is important to protect the bite mark from contact with water and sweat. Regular baths should not be taken for three days after leech therapy. After the bath, the bite mark should be covered with a protective dressing.
  • Leeching should be performed after the patient is back from work, in the evening before the sleep, but most preferably on the days off. For 2 to 3 days after the leech therapy strenuous physical exercises should be avoided.
  • For 24 hours before and after the leech therapy, patient should not drink alcohol, coffee or strong tea. These beverages might cause additional dilation of blood vessels, which during the procedure might prove to be harmful. This recommendation is particularly important for patients with low blood pressure. There are no contraindications for drinking a glass of red wine directly after the procedure.
  • Women should not perform hirudotherapeutical treatments nor approach the leeches during menstruation period. It also applicable to women who are willing to undergo leeching.
  • Experiments violating standards and rules applied in leech therapy are strictly prohibited. They will always have a negative effect on the patient regardless whether the patient is a third person or the therapist. For example pregnant women suffering from hemoroids, a condition easily cured in the course of leech therapy, must be categorically denied from the procedure. Leeching on pregnant women is strictly prohibited and any attempts to perform or undergo hirudotherapy while pregnant, are likely to cause harmful effects.
  • Sites for leech attachment are chosen individually, depending on the type of treatment. It is however important to avoid the threat of potential complications which may include:
  • a leech entering body orifices and spaces such as eyes, nose, mouth, ears, anus, vagina and uterus. It should be taken as a rule that, given the opportunity, a leech will try to enter the orifices.
  • nerve damage, infections, poisoning and venous or arterial bleeding when applying leeches obtained from an unknown and illegal source, or when attaching leeches directly onto major veins or arteries.
  • visible scars after leech incisions that might affect the visual appeal of a patient, especially young girls, or affect the ability to pursue a career in, for example acting or modeling. It should be noted that in certain patients the healing process might take a relatively long period hence, small scars after a leech bite will remain visible for along time.


Contemporary leech therapy uses over twenty technologies (methods) based on which the therapeutical sessions with use of medical leeches are conducted. There are also numerous methods for locating sites of leech attachment which vary depending on the type of  medical condition. Basically, they are determined by the physiological manner in which leeches are expected to operate on patient’s body in treating the particular condition. An individual choice between a general effectiveness of the therapy and the ability to leech given patient in precisely pointed site on their body, required in certain hirudotherapeutical technologies, is another important factor. The multitude of developed technologies provides the opportunity to adjust the method of treatment to individual needs and requirements of a patient while ensuring the most effective, or at least optimal, results.

Factors deciding upon the effectiveness of hirudotherapeutical session include:

  • correct diagnosis of the medical condition which is to be the subject of therapy with the use of medical leeches,
  • thoroughly considered choice of method that is to be applied in the course of treatment. It might be for example a standard preventive treatment, local treatment, hirudoreflexotherapy, hirudoenergotherapy or other,
  • appropriate choice of site, or sites, for leech attachment taking into consideration the type of illness or injury and the chosen method of treatment,
  • time span for which the leeches should be attached to particular sites on patient’s body,
  • establishing the total amount of leeches required to conduct the hirudotherapeutic cycle effectively,
  • establishing the minimum amount of leeches required for every session within the hirudotherapeutic cycle
  • properly planned breaks between the individual therapeutical sessions
  • establishing whether the hirudotherapeutical cycle should be repeated within the confines of treatment, allowing for necessary modifications.