Blood Cleansing & Full Body Detox | Natural Health Blog

Date: 03/29/2008    Written by: Jon Barron

Bloodletting and Leeches - Blood Health

Talk about going retro! A recent article in Access Hollywoodreveals that Demi Moore uses leeches to purify her blood. Apparently, while in Austria doing a cleanse, she had "highly trained" leeches applied to her bare skin in order to detoxify her blood. The actress waxes enthusiastic about the health benefits, as if bloodletting was the best thing to be revived from the past since Steve Martin practiced medicine as Theodoric Barber of York.

In fact, bloodletting was practiced by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs, and Mesopotamiaians. It also is referenced in the Talmud and in Islamic and Ayurvedic texts. In the Middle Ages, barber/surgeons bled their patients to cure and prevent disease. Bloodletting still had advocates right up to the 19th century in the Western World, when cupping and leeches were the bleeding techniques of choice. But in modern times, healers rely on drugs and "advanced surgeries" to do what bleeding once attempted to do, and most of us now think of leech therapy as a form of primitive barbarism.

So is Demi's foray into bloodletting mere Beverly Hills insanity, or is there actually something to it? In fact, recent studies show that planned bleeding might have curative effects, after all.

For one thing, bleeding seems to have a protective effect on the heart. David Meyers, a cardiologist at Kansas University Medical Center, undertook research to understand the relationship between blood loss and heart disease. He noted that pre-menopausal women, who still menstruate monthly, have fifty percent fewer heart attacks than men their age, whereas they equal men in the rate of heart attacks after menopause. Noting that men with high iron content in their blood have double the heart attack rate of those with normal iron levels, he had some of his male subjects donate blood and discovered that the blood donors lowered their heart attack risk by 30 percent.

His conclusion: menstruation helps women reduce the amount of iron in their blood. Since excess iron binds to cholesterol and causes oxidation, which can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries, bleeding (and thus lowering the amount of available iron) possibly does lead to lowered heart disease risk.

Iron has another disease-promoting property say researchers out of the University of Chicago. They recently found that the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (or "staph") -- which causes infections of the blood, bones, and lungs (pneumonia) -- feeds on iron. It particularly likes the form of iron found in blood. The less available iron in the system, the less likelihood that a staph infection will survive, which may explain why bleeding purportedly worked in curing pneumonia and other infections.

"Bloodletting in the pre-antibiotic era may have been an effective mechanism for starving bacterial pathogens of iron and slowing bacterial growth," writes Dr. Tracey Rouault, Head of the research team. Given that staph has become increasingly antiobiotic resistant, perhaps bloodletting will also be called on in the post-antiobiotic era -- although scientists are trying to develop new drugs that kill the bacteria's quest for iron.

Finally, bleeding has potential benefits in pain management and in controlling hypertension. According to acupuncturist Roslyn Motter, letting out a little blood from swollen, painful areas can release stagnant, coagulated matter and relieve pain. She says that withdrawing, "old, stagnant, overheated and often black blood… allows the body to replace it with new, clean blood. Just a few drops of blood squeezed out makes a profound difference to the blood flow in the entire body." The benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of high blood pressure are well known in the alternative community, especially when the process involves removal of a small amount of blood.

But above and beyond bloodletting, leeches have some special healing properties. Their saliva is known to contain at least 15 enzymes with proven palliative properties. One is hirudin, a fast-acting anticoagulant that keeps blood clots from forming while the leech is feeding. Another, hyaluronidase, is a histamine-like substance that has a dilating effect on blood vessels. Other leech enzymes act against pain and swelling. And so, in spite of the grotesque appearance of the slimy slug-like creatures sucking blood from the flesh, leeches probably do less harm than many modern-day pharmaceuticals, and might do more good.

Personally, though, I think I'll stick with a good detox program and blood cleanse formula and forego the leeches -- thanks.


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    Submitted by Amaryllis on
    May 1, 2010 - 11:22pm


    Blood letting and the use of leeches have a long tradition in holistic medicine in Germany. Medicinal leeches are commonly used in cases of thromboplebitis, swelling of veines, and varicosis. Blood letting is traditionally used to purify the blood from toxins and to reduce high blood pressure. However, blood letting is not the same as the donation of blood. According to the condition of the patient, only small amounts (up to 100 ml) are slowly taken from the body in intervals of 3 - 8 days. A blood donation, which requires 500 ml at least, is way to harsh on a sick body. The purpose of blood letting is to give the bone marrow time to replace the old stagnant blood, contaminated with toxins, with fresh blood cells. A quick and voluminous donation will not allow the body to adjust in time and might cause an even higher blood pressure due to the stress. Germany`s most famous healers, Hildegard von Bingen, recommended to withdraw only 30 - 40 ml of blood per session.

    Ellen Berghaus, MA
    Natural Health Pracitioner

    Submitted by John Wagoner, on
    May 17, 2010 - 8:48am

    In Kenneth Kensey's book, The Blood Thinning Cure he makes a good case for periodic blood donations as a way to improve health by reducing blood viscosity. Kensey and Leslie Simpson ( In Blood Viscosity Factors ) both state that the deformability of blood cells is critical as they must pass through capillaries that are smaller than their diameter. Young blood cells are far more pliable, and by removing blood, the blood become thinner because of the replacement of old cells with young ones. Furthermore, Kensey states that donating blood stimulates the spleen to remove even more old red blood cells. Blood letting with leaches may or may not do the same thing. He maintains you get a three fold advantage by such blood thinning: "" decreases the work of the heart, ( 2 ) increases the ease of which the blood flows and reaches all of your other organs ( the brains as well ) and (3 ) reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis"". P. 62 The Blood Thinner Cure.
    So, donating blood makes sense to me. If the blood bank won't draw my blood, then I guess I have to get a pet leach!

    John Wagoner

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    August 20, 2008 - 4:32am

    Obviously, here at the Foundation we are not in a position to track all of the alternative health practioners in every city thoughout the world. But in answer to your question, if you're looking for leech therapy, your best bet is to look in the alternative health communities that practice it. Leech therapy, also known as hirudo therapy, is common to both traditional Chinese medicine and to Indian ayurvedic medicine. If you're looking for genuine leech therapy in the Chicago area, I'd start calling people within those communities and ask for referrals. Or if it's just the bloodletting you're after, you can always donate blood.

    Submitted by nora on
    August 20, 2008 - 3:45am

    where can i go in chicago for this

    Submitted by Tom Hennessy on
    May 14, 2008 - 6:33am

    I wonder why blood donation does not at ANY time(I'm assuming this includes menopause) benefit women.
    This would be a matter of contention since the latest in the diabetes journals say phlebotomy to be a cheap and effective method of treatment for NAFLD / nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
    It also states pretty much everyone has fatty liver therefore logic would leave us the fact then women would ALSO benefit from bloodletting / phlebotomy.
    Logic .. ?
    I keep hearing about problems with Iron. I don't know where it's all coming from.
    I would think that Iron, as other minerals, is depleted from the soil, & since plants can't make minerals,-it should be scarce in our diet.- I wonder how do we get excessive amounts in our body, & how to control it.
    Studies have shown we control iron from our foods at the gut level.
    If we do not need iron the amount of iron we absorb from our food lowers to compensate for this non-need for iron.
    When we need iron our bodies upregulate the percentage of iron we absorb to keep our iron levels safe.
    This regulation of iron is not fully controlled though when we eat meat.
    Studies have shown the iron from meat is different in its' absorption rates and times of absorption.
    As mentioned earlier the body attempts to downregulate the amount of iron it absorbs but when we eat meat / blood the iron is STILL absorbed.
    There is another problem with this and this is the fact the iron from meat / blood binds TO other iron ingested at the time and causes it TOO to be absorbed.
    Therein lies a double whammy because they fortify all our food with iron.
    The only way one can be sure the diet is low for iron is the exclusion of meat / blood because it is absorbed all the time whether you need it or not.
    The effectiveness of bleeding lies in the fact it lowers the levels of iron in the body.
    As evidenced in these links to the studies.
    ""These results justify iron depletion""
    ""Phlebotomy offers a safe and efficient therapy""
    Conclusions: Iron accumulation in NAFLD may result from an impaired
    iron export .Phlebotomy offers a safe and
    efficient therapy for these metabolic disturbances.
    ""Phlebotomy offers a safe and efficient therapy""
    NAFLD may be present to some extent in ""just about everybody.""

    Submitted by Val Nixon on
    April 14, 2008 - 2:50am

    Very interesting article. I will no longer think of leech therapy as a form of primitive barbarism.- So the Ancients were doing more
    than Herbal Medicine, correctly.
    I wonder why blood donation does not at ANY time(I'm assuming this includes menopause) benefit women.
    I keep hearing about problems with Iron. I don't know where it's all coming from.
    I would think that Iron, as other minerals, is depleted from the soil, & since plants can't make minerals,-it should be scarce in our diet.- I wonder how do we get excessive amounts in our body, & how to control it.

    Submitted by Guest on
    March 2, 2012 - 3:19am

    Leech therapy is not a barbarism, and it is not primitive. It is, in fact, very sophisticated therapy. And it is not just blood donation - the most of the therapy happens due to a rich composition of enzymes in leech's salvia. In fact, in Russia they are producing a leech extract called "Piyavit" - it has been registered and certified as medicine (not "food supplement"!) and it is prooven to have huge beneficial effect on health. Doctors say that live leeches are better, but for those who don't have access to leeches or qualified doctors to apply them, this may be a valid option.

    Submitted by Dr. Iftikhar on
    March 27, 2012 - 2:28am

    Blood letting (Hijama - wet cupping) is quite common in Islamic world as Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) informed about its importance. He also mentioned about the best days and dates to perform it.

    More about Hijama (wet cupping therapy)

    Hijama (Arabic: حجامة‎ lit. "sucking") is the name in Arab traditional medicine for wet cupping, where blood is drawn by vacuum from a small skin incision for therapeutic purposes.[1] Hijama is generally performed by Muslims as it is a form of medicine specifically mentioned and encouraged by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. (p.b.u.h.)

    Submitted by pied piper on
    September 25, 2014 - 12:45am

    I used to freak out at the idea of blood tests....then came to realise that it was my fear of the idea of body parts being In sympathy with it's origin and could wrought havoc on ones being. It comes from my frazers golden bough.iow excess blood or hair etc should be buried in the earth.I've come to realise that the state. Is like a dam. It grows stagnant and this stagnant blood must be released. In this way it gets purpose by renewing oneself releasing toxins, reducing sugars and so many other benefits to the being. Wow when I came to realiaze this...I was enthusiastic to release some blood...I actually feel good..ancients through rituals done so regularly...I understand now why.I give a thumbs up to the idea of bloodletting...obviously done judiciously.

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