The History of the Leech in Medicine
Treatment with leeches (hirudotherapy) was known since ancient time. Medicinal leeches are as old as the Pyramids Records indicate that Egyptians used leech therapy over 3,500 years ago and leeches are included in the hieroglyphics on the walls. Pharaohs used leeches in the treatment of headaches, backaches and erectile dysfunction. Cleopatra used leech treatment for infertility.
Other ancient cultures throughout the world were using leeches as well. Romans were the first to use the HIRUDO name for leeches. Leech therapy or HIRUDOTHERAPY survived the fall of the Western Roman Empire and remained popular throughout the Middle Ages.
Indeed, by the mid 1800’s the demand for leeches was very high. France purchased leeches
from Russia, Turkey and Hungary. 30-40 million leeches per year. 7 million leeches
purchased by hospitals of London.
Leech was MUST DO item amount aristocracy of Europeans countries for most of health
conditions, overweight or for healthy glowing skin just before ball. Kings and queens used
leeches like Bonaparte Napoleon himself.
Dr. Benjamin Rush Founding Father of the United States and signer of
Declaration of Independence. Rush became a professor of chemistry, medical theory, and
clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as Surgeon General in
the Continental army and was big fan of leech therapy.
In 1835, the American government even offered 500 dollars to anyone who could
successfully breed the European leech.
Many abandoned leeches with the advent of antibiotics and blood thinners in the 1930’s.
Leeches in medicine are coming back!
In the Act of June 28, 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared and approved for the first time the commercial marketing of Medicinal Leeches for medicinal purposes and classified medical leeches as medical device.