Questions before you start leech therapy

How safe is leech therapy?

Very safe. It’s been used safely in central and eastern Europe, for hundreds of years. After many years of problem-free clinical use, Hirudo medicinalis received official approval as a medical device in 1984 from the USA’s Food and Drug Administration.

Are there any conditions that leeches don’t treat?

Yes. Leeches are contraindicated in anaemia, and also in haemophilia and other clotting disorders. If you are taking aspirin (which inhibits blood clotting), you should avoid leech therapy. In addition, leeches cannot be used to treat blood-borne infections, such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV disease. They are also contraindicated in pregnancy. For cosmetic reasons, leeches should not be used in patients with a tendency to keloid scar formation.

I have a protein allergy. Can I receive leech therapy?

People with proven allergies to biological substances shouldn’t undergo leech therapy.

How many leeches do you use, at one treatment session?

Between 2 to 10 leeches, per session.

Is the treatment painful?

Some of my clients have felt no pain at all, when the leeches are applied. Others experience a fleeting sharp pain, something like a mosquito bite. This lasts less than a minute, as the leech secretes a local anaesthetic into the wound as it feeds, and this numbs any pain.

Can I eat and drink before a treatment?

Yes, although it is helpful to avoid drinks containing caffeine (such as, tea, coffee and cola drinks). It is also helpful to minimise the use of cigarettes, nicotine patches and other nicotine-containing products. This is because caffeine and nicotine both cause the blood vessels to narrow, and this may affect your treatment. Bottled water will be available during your leech therapy session at the clinic.

What, if anything, should I do before my clinic appointment?

No special preparation is needed, but I do advise clients to have a shower or bath in the morning before the treatment, without using any scented products at all (such as, soap, shower gel, perfume). This is because the leeches are sensitive to artificial fragrances, and sometimes won’t attach, if any of these fragrances are used.

Can I drive to my clinic appointment?

Yes, it is possible to drive to your clinic appointment, but it is advisable to be accompanied by a relative or friend who can drive on the return journey home. This is because a leech therapy session can cause short-term drowsiness. (Some clients have described this ‘drowsiness’ as a kind of euphoria, or as a sensation of wellbeing and physical and mental relaxation.)

What’s your success rate?

As is the case with any medical treatment, people respond to leech therapy in different ways. All of the clients that I have treated since 2010 have experienced improvement in their underlying medical condition, or in their general wellbeing, or both.

What should I wear, to the treatment session?

This will depend on the body part where the leeches will be applied.  In general, clothing around the areas to be treated should be loose. This is so that you can easily put the clothes back on again, over the several layers of absorbent bandage that I will need to apply. The absorbent bandage is needed to control the oozing that continues for about 10 hours after the treatment.

Can leech therapy be used in small children?

No. Because of the potent bioactive substances that leeches secrete, they should not be used to treat patients under 12 years of age.

Do you also carry out treatments in patients’ own homes?

Yes, within a reasonable distance of London and Birmingham. There is an additional charge, to cover mileage and my additional time spent in travelling. I am happy to supply a quotation, on request.

Do you also treat pets?

Some practitioners on the Continent do treat small animals, but I treat human patients only.

How will The Leech Clinic store my personal information?

The Leech Clinic stores personal information in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU):

– Stored for clinical purposes with the permission of the client

– Information is adequate, relevant and not excessive

– Information is accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date

– Is not kept for longer than is necessary

– Processed in line with the rights of the individual

– Kept secure and disclosed to client on request

All information is kept in a named file which is stored securely in a locked cabinet at all times. No personal client information is stored in an electronic format on the clinic computer.

Are leeches 'single use' or used more than once?

Leeches are ‘single use’ for each client.

Is it possible to book an appointment in the evening or at weekends?

Yes. If a client has trouble in attending during normal clinic hours (9 am – 5 pm) an appointment can be offered between 5.30 pm and 7 pm or on Saturday mornings.

Questions during & after leech therapy

Are there any side effects from leech therapy?

Yes. In most patients, the leech bite sites will start to itch on the second day after treatment, and will then continue to itch for about 2–3 days. This is a good sign, as the itching is due to histamine release, and shows that healing is taking place at the site. The leech bites can also cause varying degrees of inflammation (swelling, redness) at and around the bite sites.  Along with any itching, the signs of inflammation will usually subside within a few days of the leech treatment. Some people feel pleasantly drowsy for a few hours after a leech therapy session – this is probably due to the natural analgesic and bioactive substances secreted by the leeches.

How long does the bleeding last?

After a leech treatment session, the practitioner will apply several layers of an absorbent bandage. This is because leeches secrete an anticoagulant while attached, and without careful bandaging, the natural liquid loss from the bite site can escape onto clothing, bedding, etc. The liquid oozes from the wound for up to 10 hours. The bandages can be removed safely after about 12 hours. The wound site should then be carefully washed.

How soon after my leech therapy session can I shower or take a bath?

It is safe to take a shower or bath after 12–14 hours. By then, the oozing phase will have stopped, and the bandages on the affected area can be removed. Good daily hygiene is encouraged, following therapy. In most patients, the leech bite sites will itch for a few days after treatment – this is a good sign, as it shows that healing is taking place at the site. Avoid scratching the bite areas, and if necessary apply a small amount of anti-histamine cream, or cover with a small sticking plaster.

What happens to the leeches following therapy?

The leeches are humanely disposed of at the clinic.

Will I feel any pain, after the treatment session?

Once the treatment is finished, and for a few days afterwards, you’ll feel a pinprick-like sensation, where the leeches were attached.

How long following a leech therapy session can I resume driving?

It is safe to drive again after 12–14 hours. By then, the oozing phase will have stopped, and the bandages on the affected area can be removed. It is important that there are no bandages to restrict your movement while driving.

How soon after my leech therapy session can I resume normal exercise?

It is safe to resume normal exercise after 12–14 hours. By then, the oozing phase will have stopped, and the bandages on the affected area can be removed.

Can I contact the clinic after my leech therapy?

Yes. After each therapy session I provide my clients with an aftercare package. This includes the telephone contact details for the clinic.