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 More in Natural Health Both chiropractic and 'sham' treatments relieve migraines! 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 Mental health New tool to predict survival odds after brain injury Mental health Surfing through selfies linked to low self-esteem Lifestyle SEE: 8 places to go hiking in South Africa this summer Medical SEE: 10 medical discoveries that changed the world Medical Girls and boys have different autism profiles News Health24 Health Challenge: Week 16 From our sponsors Keep an eye on your vision Which skin products are better, ‘medical grade’ or ‘over-the-counter’? Win 1 of 6 R5000 cash prizes Win a R2 000 Skin Renewal voucher Live healthier Exercise benefits for seniors » Working out in the concrete jungle Even a little exercise may help prevent dementia Here’s an unexpected way to boost your memory: running Seniors who exercise recover more quickly from injury or illness When sedentary older adults got into an exercise routine, it curbed their risk of suffering a disabling injury or illness and helped them recover if anything did happen to them. No relief for MS » Drug shows promise against MS in mouse study Vitamin D may slow multiple sclerosis Obesity in girls tied to higher MS risk Exercise may not lower women's risk of MS A Harvard study showed no evidence to support the idea that exercise lowers the risk of multiple sclerosis.