Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Asian Medicinal Leech (Hirudinaria manillensis)

"Yuck a leech!"

That is what almost everyone say when they see these annelids attached to their leg, enjoying a buffet with free flow. But did you know that leeches have been used for medical purposes? Yup, you can have doctors placing a leech on your arm.
Before looking at the picture, lets learn a bit more about our slimy friends, shall we?
Leeches are annelids comprising the subclass Hirudinea. There are fresh water, terrestrial, and marine leeches. Like their near relatives, the Oligochaeta, they share the presence of a clitellum. Like earthworms, leeches are hermaphrodites. There are 650 known species of leeches. The Hirudo leech has three jaws with 100 teeth on each jaw - making 300 teeth in all.Thats a lot of teeth biting into you. The Medicinal Leech(Hirudo medicinalis) which is native to Europe, and its congeners have been used for clinical bloodletting for thousands of years.
Medicinal leeches are any of a group of several species of leeches but most commonly European Medical Leech(Hirudo medicinalis). Other species sometimes referred to as Medical Leeches include: Hirudo verbana, Macrobdella decora (North American Medical Leech), Hirudo troctina, Hirudo orientalis and Hirudinaria manillensis (Asian Medicinal Leech).
Today, doctors use leeches for treating abscesses, painful joints, glaucoma, myasthenia, and to heal venous diseases and thrombosis. Medical leeches are used in plastic surgery, for improving blood circulation and for curing infertility. The secret of all this leech miracles lies in the leech saliva.
Ok then, after reading the long, wordy text above about the Medicinal Leech, you might be keen to see some pictures. If you have a phobia of leeches, its alright, you can read the other posts and give this a miss.

The Asian Medicinal Leech (Hirudinaria manillensis)

You can almost see the teeth.

"Yummy blood!"