Holistic Family Health Care - Leech Therapy & Counter-irritation
Servicing areaNorthern Rivers, NSW
Although the first known description of its use, was in the classic Ayurvedic text titled Sushruta Samhita (dating 800 BCE) Leech Therapy is currently experiencing a renaissance with six public hospitals in the state of NSW alone having reinstated its use. The trend is an international one as the following facts attest: Demi Moore spoke positively about the effects of leech therapy; Britain's National Health Service buys 50,000 medical leeches every year; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved leech therapy in 2004 because they proved beneficial in increasing blood circulation for patients who have had skin grafts.
Most Commonly Treated Conditions:
- Rheumatic joint pain
- Varicose veins
- Skin conditions
- Cardio-vascular disease
From a modern biochemical perspective the efficacy of medical leeches is due to more than 15 active compounds injected into the blood by the leech when it pierces the skin. These include:
- Hirudin ( an extremely potent thrombin binding anti-coagulant)
- Bdellins (Trypsin-plasmin inhibitor Anti-inflammatories )
- Destabilase (a clot disolving thrombolytic)
- Opio-mimetics (unidentified anaesthetics)
- Calin (a collagen binding anti-coagulant and vasodilator)
Leech therapy is contraindicated for patients with haemophilia, HIV/ AIDS, leukemia, life threatening allergies or lymphoma. It is also contraindicated for patients who are on any blood thinning medications, immunosuppressive drugs, or under active chemotherapy treatment.
Having studied medical leech therapy during one of 4 research trips to Ayurvedic hospitals in south India, I introduced the technique to my clients in Australia in 2010. I have also since trained other therapists in Hirudotherapy.
Other forms of Counter-irritation Therapy
Bee Venom Therapy (BVT)
Bee Venom Therapy has been used in folk medical systems across the globe through-out history. Traditionally it involves holding a live bee against the area to be treated until a sting results. The venom includes around 40 currently identified compounds including Mellitin, an anti-inflammatory agent that is reportedly one hundred times stronger than cortisone, and adolapin, which is both an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic.
Common conditions treated with Bee Venom Therapy include Arthritis, Lower back pain, Multiple Sclerosis, nerve pain and numbness
Urtication, or Sting Nettle Therapy has been used by a very wide range of cultures throughout history as a kind of folk-herbal acupuncture for painful conditions, muscle weakness and nerve problems. The leaves contain very small needles that act like hypodermic syringes to inject a cocktail of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving compounds. These needles inject the neuro-transmitters acetylcholine and serotonin, which appear to be involved in the analgesic action of nettle sting on painful joints. The sting also contains histamine and two known leukotrienes, both of which are known to be involved in the inflammatory process.
Stinging Nettles contain a wide range of highly active constituents including: Acetylcholine, Adrenaline, noradrenaline, histamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine, Cytokinnins, Leukotrienes, and possibly Formic acid A German study shows that hox alpha, a new extract of stinging nettle leaf, contains an anti-inflammatory substance that suppressed several cytokines in inflammatory joint diseases.
To reduce complications, in non-diabetic patients I recommend the simultaneous internal use of nettle for arthritic, inflammatory and painful conditions.
In capsule form nettle leaf extract is prescribed in Germany for the pain of osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, and two studies have been reported (Chrubasik S et al, 1997; Chrubasik S, Eisenberg E, 1999). A large study of 8955 patients taking 1340 mg Urtica extract IDS-23 per day produced encouraging results of improvement in pain at rest (55%), pain on exercise (45%), physical impairment (38%) and reduction in consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in 60% of patients. Onset of effectiveness occurred after 11 days (Chrubasik S, Eisenberg E, 1999). A compound call Urtica dioica agglutinin (UDA), from Urtica dioica root, was demonstrated to have properties of a 'superantigen ', since it is capable of binding to many glycoproteins on cell membranes (Galelli A, Truffa-Bachi P, 1993). UDA has also been found to be a potent and selective inhibitor of human immunodeficiency virus, cytomegalovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus in vitro (Balzarini J et al, 1992).
Contraindications to Urtication:
Known allergy to nettles, other than the usual urticarial rash with stinging. The author has found no reports of severe allergy or idiosyncracy, but recommends discussion with and advice from the patient's medical adviser before commencing nettle therapy
- ATMS - Australian Traditional Medicine Society
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