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Leech therapy ‘cures’ paralysis, osteo-arthritis

Here is new hope for those suffering from diseases like paralysis, osteo-arthritis, hair-fall and skin disorders. The "Kaya Chikitsa" department of the Faculty of Ayurveda in the Institute of Medical Sciences at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) now offers treatment of these diseases through the leech therapy.
Ayurveda experts at the BHU have been successfully using blood-sucking leeches to treat human ailments, including paralysis and osteo-arthritis.


"We have treated many complex cases of osteo-arthritis, skin disorders like leucoderma, alopecia (type of baldness), paralysis induced by brain thrombosis, besides filarial and diabetic wounds which usually take time to heal," says Dr O.P. Singh, an expert in the leech-based prick and suck therapy.

The leeches, that often feared by humans for their blood sucking power, embody chemical enzymes which can work as catalyst in treatment of human ailments, by diluting blood clots in the infected body part, reducing the pain of the diseased part and ultimately improving the blood circulation in the problematic body area.

"Once the leech is allowed to prick and suck blood from infected body part of the patient, it not only sucks away the infected blood, but also salivates the treating attributes of the chemical enzymes into the patient’s body,’’ Dr Singh explained.

Giving the details of the procedure of the treatment process, Dr Singh said the leeches, before being administered on the patient’s body, were kept in a bowl of turmeric water that act as disinfectant and activating agent for the disease-treating leeches. The leeches are then set upon the infected part of the patient’s body to prick and suck blood.

A leech can suck up to 10 ml blood within a span of 40 to 60 minutes after which it automatically detaches from the body of the host. While the infected body part of the patient is bandaged properly and also dusted with "mulhathi" powder, the blood sucking leech is also dusted with turmeric powder and then cleaned with turmeric water to enable it to vomit the diseased human blood sucked from host’s body.

The leeches are then taken to the aquariums in bottles to be kept at room temperatures varying between 15 and 25ºC. Every bottle containing the leeches is assigned a unique identification code to ensure they are used only for the concerned patient for the remaining five weeks. Once the six-week treatment is over the leeches are destroyed.

The patients undergoing the prick and suck therapy are administered sufficient doses of immunity boosters like "Guduti Choorna" and "Ashwagandha Choorna" for the success of the side-effect free treatment.

Patients, mostly from rural areas, who come to the BHU for treatment, bring along non-poisonous medium sized leeches collected from village ponds.

According to Dr Singh, this type of therapy finds mention in ancient scriptures like Charak Samhita and Sushuruta Samhita. Besides, this technique of treating human disorders had been used to success in villages since centuries.

"BHU is the only centre in the northern region using the therapy termed Jalauka therapy (Jalauka means leech) since last year. Central Research Institutes in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala are also using the leech therapy for curative purposes," the doctor added.
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