Leech Therapy: Bloodsuckers Sold By Bloodsuckers To Suckers

By Josh Bloom — Aug 13, 2019
Just when you think "alternative medicine" can't get any worse, an article in The Week will prove you wrong. It's about leech therapy. You will learn that there is an approved use for these creatures, and also something so ghastly that you may regret reading about it. But you will anyhow. Morbid curiosity is very powerful. Just don't say we didn't warn you.
An Asian Medicinal Buffalo Leech Bloodsucker. No Home Should Be Without One. Ph…

Who would have ever thought that when I dropped acid (1) that its effects would last so long? But I cannot think of an alternate explanation for what I just (thought I) read. Other than hallucinations. 

It is 2019 and despite the miracles of modern medicine, there is a group of screwballs that continue to practice bloodletting – a practice that began 2,000 years ago and continued into the 1800s, when some surgeons still believed in the humoral system – balancing the fluids in the body to prevent or treat illness (2). The balance of fluids involved removing blood from the "affected" individual. When surgeons recommended bloodletting it was usually carried out by barbers. Perhaps blacksmiths or knockknobblers (3) were deemed unworthy of practicing medicine.

The Human body contains blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. These are the things that make up its constitution and cause its pains and health. Health is primarily that state in which these constituent substances are in the correct proportion to each other, both in strength and quantity, and are well mixed. Pain occurs when one of the substances presents either a deficiency or an excess, or is separated in the body and not mixed with others

Hippocratic Writings, Penguin Books, 1983

Welcome to this week's winner of the crazy sweepstakes – an article in The Week entitled "How leeches became the latest health trend" by Lexi Krupp. Here are some of the lowlights...

"Today, using leeches for medical treatment is called hirudotherapy."

Fancy word. Let's use it in the context of the article:

"In the Middle Ages, the use of leeches spread as barbers added the animals to their toolkits of razors and scissors. At the time, the professionals were just as likely to drain blood and extract teeth from their clients as they were to cut hair."

Marquis De Sade, 1740-1814, contemplating what life could have been. Photo: Wikipedia

"Doctors prescribed the creatures with such frenzy that leech populations throughout Europe grew scarce."

As an ardent follower of the three-ring-circus that is called the "opioid epidemic" I can't help but wonder if we are not simply seeing history repeating itself...

It goes without saying that if there's an alternative therapy out there and a celebrity or two recommending it then some bloodsucker is going to be selling it to a sucker for muchos dolares. And just like that, actress Demi Moore and model Miranda Kerr "have talked about getting the treatment, boosting its popularity in recent years."  So it cannot be surprising that a company called Medical Leeches exists. And these guys ain't kidding around. They have a serious inventory!

For those of you with an innie and are blessed with good health a "small medical leech" will probably suffice.


A "small medical leech" for innies. Aren't you curious which direction it's going?  It's a mere 6. Presumably, medical leeches for outies are in developmental stages. Credit for all leech photos: Medical Leeches

On the other hand, if your humors are seriously out of balance, and you need to get rid of a whole lot of blood, fortunately, there's this bad boy...

Asian Medicinal Buffalo Leech Bloodsucker. From €200. You know you need it! (Special practical joke benefit! Apply it to the face of someone who is sleeping. Guaranteed laughs!)

Although there are all sorts of varieties, sizes, and quantities of leeches, Medical Leeches also provides you with the equipment necessary to attain full leechness. For example, you can't just carry a leech around in your pocket. Accessories are essential.

Leech accessories. *You can buy a package of cotton rounds from Target for $1.99. €7.00 equals $7.85 in US dollars.

Finally, if you're at all squeamish or easily offended, DON'T look at this next item. I'm begging you.








Don't say I didn't warn you...

Vaginal Specula for Hirudotherapy €25.00. Good luck trying to "unsee" this.

And it makes a splendid addition to the collection of things that should not be done to a vagina:

Gwyneth Paltrow - Steam-cleaning her vagina. Something we at ACSH have made fun of many times before. Photo: Huffpost

My opinion of "alternative therapies," already rock-bottom-low has somehow managed to drop a little further. Seriously? Bloodletting? Steam and leeches in vaginas? 

If this keeps up I may have to rename alternative medicine/supplement huckster Joe "Crazy Joe" Mercola to Joe "Not-Quite-So Crazy-Joe" Mercola. That would qualify as "shame," to say the least. 


(1) This is technically true. In grad school, I did drop a bottle of hydrochloric acid on the floor. Quite a mess. I wouldn't touch LSD with a 10-foot psychedelic pole. 

(2) The only legitimate use for leeches seems to be helping reattached limbs heal. Leeches have been given FDA approval as a medical device for this.

(3) This is a term for dog catchers in Victorian England. Go figure. 



Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Recent articles by this author:
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