History of Leech Therapy

Hirudotherapy, in other words Leech Therapy, has been used as a treatment tool by physicians since ancient times. The first historical sources concerning the leech therapy goes back to the Babylonian physicians who lived in 15th century BC. Beside, it is widely known that this treatment was among the fundamental treatment methods of Egyptian physicians in the 3rd century BC. In addition, in the 2nd century BC Nikandros( The physician who lived on the Aegean coast), in the 1st century AC the Greek physician Pliny and in the 2nd century AC Galen administered leech therapy. The leech therapy has also taken its place in the books of Ibn Sina. However, the mankind who gave up the nature in the 20th century has forgotten the leech therapy. As the American researcher Roy Sawyer revealed the potential therapeutic effect of leeches and established the world’s first modern leech farms (Biopharm – UK), the medicinal use of leeches has been recalled again today.

Leech Therapy in Our Day

Today, leech therapy is defined as an “unique” treatment method in terms of its biological effects. In Germany, there are Hirudotherapy Clinics over 300. Hirudo Medicinalis has been pharmaceutically accepted pursuant to the subparagraph 1 of the Article 2 of the German Act on Pharmaceuticals. Thanks to the subsequently supplemented Article 4, it is defined as a ready-to-use pharmaceutical product. The difference between this and the medicine in the syringe is that “we do not give this medicine by injection but it is directly given from the mouth of a living being called Hirudo Medicinalis”. Only in Europe, 100 millions of leeches are used per year. The association found by the leech therapy performing physicians in America has more than 1000 members and in 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accredited leech therapy and allowed it to be sold in pharmacies like in Europe.

After  analysis of the studies from 8 different countries and 4 years long workshops with relevant academicians in coordination of Ministry of Health, the legal regulations on Traditional and Complementary Medical Practices (Acupuncture, Leech therapy, Cupping/hijama therapy, ozone therapy, apitherapy, phytotherapy, hypnotherapy, homeopathy, chiropractic, maggot therapy,mesotherapy, prolotherapy, osteopathy, reflexology and musical therapy) are accepted and published in official gazette in 27 October 2014. Even if it is late, we congratulate and appreciate our Ministry of Health for this works and bringing this arrangements to Turkish Medicine.

For which diseases can Leech Therapy be used?

In our clinic, Leech therapy can be successfully used for:  vascular problems such as varicose veins, hemorrhoids, deep vein thrombosis and peripheral arterial occlusion,musculoskeletal system diseases such as arthrosis and arthritis, various skin diseases particularly in eczema and psoriasis and eye diseases such as glaucoma and retinal artery occlusion.

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The list of the diseases for which leech therapy is effectively used:

– Some Eye Disease (Behcet’s disease, Uveitis, Glaucoma, Maculopathy, Yellow spot disease, Diabetic retinopathies, Hypertensive retinopathies, Retinitis pigmentosa, problems of the Optic nerve and vascular, neural, macular and retinal diseases of eyes such as Optic atrophy)
– Varicose veins and venous vascular problems
– Rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases
– Arthrosis and arthritis
– Migraine and tension headaches
– Dizziness, tinnitus and Meniere’s syndrome
– All kinds of muscle pain, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome
– Cervical disc herniation, lumbar disc  herniation, tendinitis, tenosivonitis, bursitis and pain
– Degenerative diseases of the nervous system and paralysis (such as MS, ALS, PARKINSON’S DISEASE…)
– Eczema, urticaria, chronic skin diseases, psoriasis and acne
– Chronic hepatitis and liver diseases
– Depression and phobias
– All immune system disorders and chronic  fatigue syndrome

The diseases that Leech Therapy is not recommended:

Leech Therapy is not recommended especially for the patients with anemia, using blood thinner drugs, any disorder preventing blood clotting, an active source of bleeding. In addition, the leech therapy does not apply to pregnant and nursing mothers as well as those with uncontrolled diabetes or heart failure.

The list of the diseases for which leech therapy can not be used:

– Bleeding diathesis (such as hemophilia)
– Presence of an Active Bleeding Focus
– Severe Anemia (Hb < 10)
– Pre-Surgery period
– Use of Blood Thinner drugs
– Pregnancy and lactation are the cases in which Leech Therapy is not administered.


To reach articles and news about leech, you can check out our “Natural Leach Treatment” page.