According to the Ayurveda, leeches have been used for the treatment of certain diseases since ages. They are used to remove the impure blood in the cases where there are symptoms of localized swelling, burning sensation, redness, and pain. Only the blood that is vitiated by the increase of both vata and pitta can be brought out by this method. Special considerations have to be taken before this process of bleeding out vitiated blood by leeches is initiated.
Generally, leeches should be used only in specific cases where surgical invasion to spill out the infected blood is problematic or inappropriate. This method is used in cases when the patient has fear of blood and is frightful, weak (such as in case of tender aged kids, children, women and the aged) or the people with high ranks where surgical invasion can hamper functionality (such as kings and dignitaries in ancient times).
Zoologically, there are two kinds of leeches that have been identified – poisonous and non-poisonous. Only nonpoisonous leeches are used in Ayurvedic treatment.
- Found in polluted water
- White or very black in color
- Thin or thick,
- Very active and slimy
- Thick hairs in moderate quantity
- Different kinds of colored lines resembling the rainbow on their body
- Clean water inhabitants
- Found in the vicinity of fragrant flowers like has lotus, lily, and other fragrant flowers
- Also found in large reservoirs having pure water and algae;
- Display colors of algae like blackish green,
- Some may have blue lines over their body
- Usually are round
The patient who is to be treated should be made to sit comfortably, and the part of the body selected for the application (of the leech) should be made a little rough by rubbing it with mud or powder of cow dung. Once ready, the leech is applied to the spot. The leeches drink only the infected or bad blood first from the pool of (vitiated) blood in the body. When the patient experiences pricking pain or itching at the site of the application, the leeches are to be removed from the site, to protect the pure blood.
If the blood coming out from the place of the bite after the removal of the leech is still bad, a few drops of honey or molasses are applied and the wound is squeezed slightly to let out some more blood. Afterward, the place is washed with cold water and covered with a cloth dipped in ghee. When the bleeding has stopped, a thin paste of herbs having astringent and sweet taste and cold potency, mixed with ghee should be applied over the place to conserve the residue of good blood.