Home > Natural Health > News Updated 09 April 2014 A quick look at leech therapy Leech therapy actually has a name: hirudotherapy, and it is practised as much at the foothills of the Himalayas as it is in surgeries in New York. 1 Leech at work ~ Related Online therapy an alternative to 'face-to-face' Under-tongue therapy for bee-sting Assess Ask the natural health expert » Learn Natural therapies to try » Quiz Is my vegetarian diet balanced? » Test yourself: How flexible are you? » A quick guide to The Atkins Diet This medicinal plant that only grows in the Western Cape could replace antibiotics one day Leeches have been used throughout history to treat a variety of conditions, including arthritis and inflammatory diseases such as allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disease, and asthma. In 2004 the FDA (Federal Drug Administration in the US) approved the use of leeches in modern medicine, though in the West they are most commonly used in plastic and reconstructive surgery. One brilliant point in case is the use of leeches to re-attach a surfer's hand in Australia after he was mauled by a great white shark. According to Polish hirudotherapist, Dr Andrew Plucinski, who uses leech therapy extensively, leeches are used as an aid when a severed digit has to be surgically reattached. It's also useful in reconstructive flap surgery, such as during a skin graft.The leeches are applied to an injury site – like a severed digit or skin flap – where they suck up the pooling blood and reduce tissue swelling, which promotes healing by allowing oxygenated blood to reach the injury point. They also secrete an anticoagulant which prevents blood from forming clots and promotes the flow of new, oxygenated blood.In many parts of India, Russia and Poland hirudotherapy is regarded as a great "cure" for those with vascular (arterial and venous diseases), heart (ischemic diseases and hypertension), and lung problems (bronchitis and bronchial asthma). Read: 5 more strange natural therapiesLeech therapy today – every year in KashmirIn the image below a leech therapy practitioner blows hot air from his mouth on a leech as he administers leech therapy to a patient in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, India. Nowruz, the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar, has a different significance in Indian administered Kashmir. On this day, thousands of patients suffering from various skin ailments gather at Hazratbal, the outskirts of Srinagar to receive a spot of leech treatment. In this centuries-old alternative treatment, practitioners use leeches to suck impure blood from the affected patient. Leech treatment is one of the oldest skin therapies in the valley and has been used to treat many thousands of patients. Though overshadowed by more conventional treatments over the years, people from various parts of Kashmir travel to the Hazratbal market every Nowruz to receive the therapy. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)Children receive leech therapy in Kashmir Leech therapy for a diabetic amputeeIranian nurse Amir-Reza Safaei puts a leech on the amputated leg of Hassan Soroor, who lost his leg to diabetes, during "Leech Therapy" at a traditional medical clinic in Tehran.BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty ImagesRead more: The benefits of drinking warm lemon waterAsk our natural health expert your pressing questionsHow ozone therapy worksLeeches at work, Shutterstock Health24 NEXT ON HEALTH24X Here's how stress can cause diabetes 2017-11-14 10:00 More: Natural HealthNews advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 1 comment Comments have been closed for this article. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... Other news News 10 freak accidents that killed people Diet and nutrition 5 healthier ‘adult’ ice lollies to eat if you’re watching your weight Medical Health dept on alert: This is why 800 000 homes are being fumigated News QUIZ: What would you do in these 7 emergencies? Medical TB levels rising in Northern Cape Diet and nutrition 4 signs you’re not getting enough protein From our sponsors Discover treatments that can help reduce acne What can I do to reduce or remove acne marks? Dementia and Incontinence: what you need to know WIN a R2000 Skin Renewal online store voucher! Live healthier Watch out! » Gross fungal infections you can pick up at the gym You go to gym to exercise. But make sure the only thing you pick up is a dumbbell and not one of these gross fungal infections. Holiday health » Your 10-step asthma holiday checklist Don’t let asthma ruin your summer holiday. Whether you are travelling or embracing the summer at home, make sure you plan ahead.