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Are Leeches Really Used in Modern Medicine?

Leeches are still used in modern medicine, although the bloodsucking worms' medicinal use has declined since the mid-19th century, when it was thought that removing blood would help cure diseases. In 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved leeches for use in recovery treatment of skin grafts and other body part attachments. Leeches draw blood from the body when applied, which is thought to prevent blood from building up underneath a skin graft. They also are used to help recirculate blood in the case of blocked veins that sometimes occur after reconstructive reattachment surgery.

More about historical medicine:

  • Heroin was used as a cough suppressant from 1898 until 1924, when the addictive nature of the ingredient was discovered.

  • In the early 1900s, radiation was considered to have healing properties and was used in products for a range of conditions, including wrinkles and arthritis. The dangers of radiation became well known after the death of prominent American tennis player and industrialist Eben Byers, who said he drank three bottles of radium-laced water each day.

  • Eye drops containing bird dung were used from the 16th century through the 18th century to help treat eye infections.

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More Info: nsf.gov

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