By Shafat Mir
Anantnag: The beginning of the Persian calendar on Navroz marks the first day of spring season in Kashmir. On this day, besides planting new tree saplings, people throng the practitioners of leech therapy — it is believed that leech therapy is much more effective on this day.
The European medicinal leech, Hirudo Medicinalis, is one of the several species of leeches used for medicinal therapy.
“I have developed several skin markings on my face lately, and one of my relatives had same skin disorder. After undergoing leech therapy last year, her skin infection vanished in just a few days. Leech therapy has divine powers; it was being done during the times of our prophets,” said Sakeena, who was one of the patients who came for leech therapy on Tuesday.
Many people consider leech therapy as a better alternative to pharmacological treatments. This traditional method of curing diseases is still thriving in Kashmir.
“We have been conducting leech therapy in our hospitals since a decade now,” said Dr Majid, in charge of Unani and Panchkarma hospitals across Kashmir. “Everyday hundreds of patients receive this treatment after proper prescription. We have a policy of use and throw of the leeches, so that there isn’t any chance of transmitting of viruses. We use the leeches only once and dispose them of instantly,” he said.
He added, “During the cold winters, people have less mobility or physical exercise, which leads to accumulation of harmful toxins in the body. With the start of the spring season on Navroz, more and more people throng our hospitals to get their bodies detoxified by leech therapy. This traditional method of treatment has also proven effective in the cure of skin diseases and in lowering of uric acid in the body.”
“However, one should avoid taking leech therapy without consultation of doctors, even though we have no recorded case of any side effects due to this form of treatment. The common problem of Acne Vulgaris and Hyper Pigmentation, which youngsters suffer mostly, is treated best by leech therapy. This treatment has also proven effective in several other health problems like Gout Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and hypertension. We have a separate branch of leech therapy in Unani Medicine,” Dr Majid said.
Mushtaq Ahmed, a patient, said of his experience, “I used to feel suffocated whenever I had cough, as I am an asthma patient. In the past five years, I have been coming to this hospital whenever I face an asthma attack. Within half an hour of leech therapy, I feel relieved. Today also, I have come here for leech therapy on the occasion of Navroz.”
Another local practitioner, requesting anonymity, said, “Since ancient times, leeches were used to treat many illnesses and diseases through blood-letting, a method where infected or impure blood is drawn out from the body by the leeches. I have been using this method of treatment on my patients since two decades now. People from far-off places visit me for this therapy. There are certain enzymes in a leech’s body which get transferred into the blood stream of a human during the sucking process. It is these useful enzymes which heal a patient.”