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 Parenting Does mom's dagga end up in breast milk? News SEE: This surprising group is at risk of getting Listeriosis Medical A quick guide to sinus-related congestion Fitness The genius ab exercise that all gymnasts use, but everyone else ignores News SEE: 6 body parts that can alert you to major health problems News Most SA claims are for this dread disease From our sponsors WIN a R2 000 beauty voucher! Understanding diabetes self-management Fed up with the Phlemings? Let’s chat diabetes and erectile dysfunction Live healthier FYI » When the flu turns deadly Why the flu makes you feel so miserable Could a deadly flu strain hit SA this winter? Following an intense flu season in the US and UK, should we be worried about our own upcoming flu season? Alcohol and acne » Dagga vs alcohol: Which is worse? SEE: Why you are drinking more alcohol than you realise Does alcohol cause acne? Some foods can be a trigger for acne, but what about alcohol? Dermatologist Dr Nerissa Moodley weighs in.