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On Navroz, leech therapists were back in business today

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Srinagar: Every year on this day, hundreds of patients make a beeline to leech therapy centres here in the hope of getting rid of their long-time ailments.

They undergo a procedure wherein leeches are released on a person’s body and the tiny predatory worms piercing his or her skin with their teeth and inserting anticoagulants through their saliva, thus thinning the patient’s blood.

The leech therapists, usually medical practitioners from the Unani system, claim that this procedure is very helpful in treating many ailments ranging from fatty liver to hypertension to blood clotting, which often causes strokes.

Dr Hakeem Naseer Ahmad, a Unani practitioner, said that leech therapy is used in case of infarction, or when there is altered or impaired blood circulation.

“The leech acts as a wonder medicine. What is basically the mechanism of leech therapy? Our aim is not sucking out the blood but to inject the enzymes found in saliva of the leech into the bloodstream. These improve the micro-circulation of blood and we achieve our pharmacological actions,” he said.

Asked about the significance of holding the camps on March 21 on ‘Navroz’ every year, he said the body needs to be detoxified twice a year.

“According to the Unani system of medicine, there are two seasons when the body needs only one stimulant for detoxification — spring and autumn. And even among the two, spring is considered to be the best. This tradition has been going on for hundreds of years,” Ahmad said.

There is a popular belief in the Valley that leech therapy is more effective on ‘Navroz’ and those undergoing the procedure on the day will be cured of the ailments.

Ahmad, who has been holding leech therapy camps for the past 24 years, said he has found that the therapy is useful in treating both hypertension (high blood pressure) as well as hypotension (low blood pressure).

“We have seen that in hypertension cases, the blood pressure becomes normal within 15 minutes of leech therapy. In hypotension cases, we again found that the blood pressure was coming to normal levels,” he said.

Ahmad said the enzymes in the leech help in dissolving clots in the bloodstream, allowing for the free flow of blood.

“What we have observed is that there are small clots in vessels which we might not find (in diagnostics). The body responds by increasing the pressure to overcome the obstruction made by the clots. The enzymes from the leech saliva dissolve the clot which results in normalisation of blood pressure,” he added.

Ahmad claims that leech therapy can be helpful in managing glaucoma too.

Abdul Salam Baba, a resident of the city, said he had been suffering from fatty liver and high blood pressure for many years.

“I went to many hospitals for treatment but in vain. Then I came here last year for leech therapy and my condition has improved significantly,” Baba said.

Mehrajuddin is accompanying his elderly mother for the leech therapy session as he found it useful in treating her problem of perennial coughs.

“My mother has benefited from leech therapy. She has had frequent coughs for the past 30 years. We tried all types of treatment but there was no lasting solution as the cough would return after 10 to 15 days. However, the leech therapy has been successful and it has not returned,” he added.

The popularity of leech therapy has drawn many youngsters as well.

Muqaddas Naseer and Moazzam Ahmad are two youngsters transitioning from adolescence to adulthood and they are facing the usual skin problems associated with this process.

“I have dermatological problems for which I have come here. I tried many things including the allopathic treatment but there was no benefit,” Muqaddas said.

Photo/Javed Khan

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