FDA approves firm to sell “medicinal leeches.”

Most folks consider the application of leeches for medicinal purposes to be representative of the dark ages of medicine, but it turns out they’re still used quite often around the world and right here in the USA for very legitimate reasons. I guess some things never really go out of style.

FDA Approves Firm to Sell Leeches as Medical Devices – from TBO.com

Leeches are already widely used in American hospitals, and companies that raised and sold them here before 1976 were allowed to continue doing so. However, the medical device law passed that year required newcomers to the field to seek approval.

For many people, leeches conjure up the image of Humphrey Bogart removing the bloodsuckers from his legs in African Queen, but FDA reports that leeches can help heal skin grafts by removing blood pooled under the graft and restore blood circulation in blocked veins by removing pooled blood.

Medicinal leeches – Hirudo medicinalis – normally make their home in fresh water.

In considering the Ricarimpex application, FDA said it analyzed the use of leeches in medicine, evaluated safety data provided by the firm and studied how the leeches are fed, their environment and the personnel who handle them.

This news should make the “natural remedy” fans happy. I mean, you can’t get much more natural than allowing living organisms to attach themselves to your wounds and suck out the bad blood. Here, apply two leeches and call me in the morning.

8 thoughts on “FDA approves firm to sell “medicinal leeches.”

  1. Actually, the information I’ve seen on leeches is that they offer medical benefits that are better than anything else available.  The common use is for re-attached limbs.  The study I read looked at their use on ears.  Because ears have such poor circulation, anything ingested or injected into a patient can’t reach the ear, but leeches possess a natural anti-coagulant which helps restore circulation and gives patients better odds for successful re-attachment with minimal tissue loss.
    I’ve read similar things about the use of maggots for removing necrotic tissue.  It makes sense, but they’d have to knock me out before putting those buggers on my body.

  2. Are you doubting the ability of leeches. Your first part of the sentence mentions ‘legitimate’ but your second part sounds dismissive.

    The reasons leeches are used in the past and the reasons they are used now are quite different. After all there was no plastic surgery or skin graft in the past.

    The saliva of the leech helps in blood circulation and is used by people who have are recovering from plastic surgery and skin graft as the article mentioned above. The reason is that for a skin graft to work a strong blood supply must be established and leeches are good at creating that, since that is what they consume. And to prevent their supply from ‘drying up’ their saliva acts as anticoagulants , which also helps in preventing clotting.

    Another thing you should know is the maggot treatment. It is used to eat away dead tissue and allows for healthy skin to grow back. Of course this is not your ‘normal’ maggots but those specially breed such that they are sterile.

    And for ‘snakeoil’ or to be precise snake venom, they have form the chemical basis of heart and circulatory drugs.

    I notice you have a tendency to adopt a somewhat hostile stance to natural remedies. When a result is observed and if it happens to be a natural remedy, you seem to adopt a ‘hmmm, this cannot be right got to find proof or evidence of how it does not work.’ Rather than adopting a neutral ‘hmm, I wonder what causes that result to occur.’ Of course, on one is stating that one should readily accept all traditional remedies merely one should approach it in a proper manner.

    One example of this problem to a certain extent is the malaria drug. For years Quinine (then artificial Quinine) has been the treatment. But for several hundred years the Chinese have been using this particular herb. And it is only recently that it is recognise that the herb is a treatment for malaria. And not only is it cheaper but that it also is supposedly more effective. I say supposedly because it is difficult to compare as there have been an increase of quinine resistant malaria recently.

  3. My step-father is a physician, he’s been saying for years that no one has ever come up with something artificial that prevents gangrene in re-attatched limbs better than leeches. They are especially beneficial in re-attatching small parts with many veins, such as ears.

    It goes without saying leeches are not being used today in the way they were being used 1000 years ago.

  4. I am in no way maligning the use of leeches for medicinal purposes. If I had been the entry would have been put into a category other than “science.” I’m also very well aware about the use of maggots on necrotic tissue, particularly in many developing nations, for treatment of both humans and animals. I have no issues with natural remedies in particular as long as they’ve been shown to actually remedy something.

    I’ll admit that I was poking fun at the natural remedy fans, but that’s only because they’re so easy to poke fun at due to their tendency to buy into any product that bills itself as “natural” without bothering to check into if it actually does what it claims to do. Homeopathy is popular with the natural remedy crowd and not only is it complete nonsense, but could be potentially dangerous. That is definitely something I’m hostile toward.

  5. Allow me to clarify: It’s not that there’s anything in the remedy itself that might be dangerous, but rather that many people will turn to homeopathy to treat serious illnesses while shunning traditional treatment that makes it potentially dangerous.

    Relying on homeopathic remedies isn’t a problem when it’s the common cold, but what about when it’s cancer?

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