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LEECHING: THE ANCIENT ART OF HEALING
Md. Anwer Alam, Zarnigar and Md. Tanwir Alam*
Ibne Sina, Akbar Arzani, Ibn Baitar and Ambroise (1510-90) recommended leeches for bloodletting in cases where cupping glasses could not be used, "to those leeches may for the most part be put to open the coat of the haemorrhoid veins, to the mouth of the womb, the gums, lips, nose, fingers and calf.”.[1,2,3,4] Harvey defended venesection as a major therapeutic tool for the relief of diseases caused by plethora. Long after accepting Harvey’s theory, physicians praised the health promoting virtues of bloodletting with as much (if not more) enthusiasm as Galen. For hundreds of years after the death of Galen, physicians warned their patients about the dangers posed by a plethora of blood. If a plethora of blood caused diseases, venesection was the obvious remedy; thus, spontaneous haemorrhage and venesection were as natural and helpful to the maintenance of life as the menstrual purgation was in healthy women. Bleeding was a perfectly rational means of treatment within this theoretical framework. Leeching had a fixed & relatively modest range of indication in humoral pathology. The dominant paradigm in ancient European and Arabic medicine until the 17th century like bloodletting, leeching as mainly conceived as a means of eliminating the superabundance of blood, or plethora. Roman physician Galen (129-199 C.E) classified leeching as part of the system of elements & temperaments, the healthy balance of which required the drainage of excess corporal substances. Plethoric changes were treated by draining blood from the body, which was achieved by leeching & bloodletting. Leeches have been used medicinally for phlebotomy. They were once used in India and elsewhere for the abstraction of blood from foul ulcers and other congested parts of the body.[Full Text Article] [Download Certificate]