I‘m pretty sure we all have met a few leeches in our lives — the parasitic mean girls from girls’ schools, bloodsucking ex-boyfriends, Ramola Sikand-ish mother-in-laws — you get the type.
But did you know these little hermaphroditic slugs (not the metaphorical ones, but real blood-suckers) can be beneficial for your skin as they help detoxify your blood? No kidding, such Hollywood beauties as Demi Moore and Miranda Kerr swear by the anti-ageing results of leech facial treatment. And we know their skin can make any 20-something turn green with envy.
A wacky beauty fad for the strong-hearted
Leech therapy is exactly what it sounds like. A handful of medicinal leeches are placed on your skin under the guidance of a trained medical professional to let these slimy blood-suckers do their magic by drawing out the skin abnormalitycausing bacteria from your body and gift you blemish-free, softer and younger looking skin.
Still, why leeches?
I know the thought of creepy bloodsucking creatures crawling on your cheeks and feasting on your blood makes your stomach crunch. But their saliva is known to be the magic potion for your skin, if you can get past the initial revulsion. For example, 60 different proteins are found in the saliva that the leeches secrete. The most important of these is hirudin — a protein anti-coagulant that helps the blood from clotting. These proteins also induce vasodilation and stop platelet-forming scabs for wounds. The leeches also help promote blood flow and release the tension created by toxic blood in your system.
Leech therapy is really old news
You would be surprised to know that leech therapy’s first known use harks back to Egypt about 2,500 years ago. Leeches were used to restore bodily fluids and heal the skin of various ailments in ancient Eastern cultures for centuries. In Indian Ayurveda, leech therapy is known as Raktamokshan (one of the Panchakarmas) or blood purification therapy to treat skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, acne, abscesses, swelling, alopecia, leucoderma and chronic itching. The process begins with nearly painless bites as the leeches start working on your skin with their 300 micro-teeth. The sensation is similar to having tattoo needles jab on your skin. During this process, the leeches suck out the impure blood from your system and release certain enzymes in your blood that heal your skin and fill it with radiance afterwards.
A Medicinal facial session
All said and done, leech facial treatment is surely not going to be like one of your pampering spa-day sessions. ‘But it has multiple benefits,’ says Dr Namrata Pawar of Dhanwantri Kerala Ayurved, Mumbai.
‘Other than skin problems, leech therapy is also used to treat enlarged liver, gout, varicose veins, filariasis and spleen.’ But what about the side effects? ‘There’s none, as such. We do full analysis of the patient’s medical history and run the necessary tests before the session”, she says. Only medical leeches are used for the therapy and they are discarded after the use. One session can cost you Rs 1,500 and above, depending upon the number of sittings and leeches you would require as per your case requirement. Although the therapy requires you clutching onto your brave heart to get rejuvenated skin, the pre-therapy requirements are pretty simple. ‘Just have some light food before the session, wear no perfume, deodorant, oil, moisture or anything with a strong odour. That’s it,’ says Dr Pawar.