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What is leech therapy and does it work? Science shows the blood-sucking bugs can boost circulation and heal tissue damage – after rapper Machine Gun Kelly was mocked for using them

  • The Grammy nominee showed himself on Instagram with leeches on his stomach
  • Leech therapy is credited with aiding in blood circulation and blood clotting
  • The treatment dates back to ancient Egypt a history of ‘bloodletting’ therapies

Grammy-award nominee Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) posted a video of leeches sitting on his tattooed stomach in a ritual with many purported health benefits for the skin and circulatory system.

Leech therapy dates back to 1500 BC when ancient Egyptians used it for remedial purposes well before people had any concept of disease. The purported benefits range from heart health to improving digestion.

Saliva from the parasitic worms has anti-blood clotting properties that some surgeons still use in the recovery from reconstructive plastic surgery and other procedures where that is a risk.

The MGK’s post, born Colson Baker, voltaren gel reviews 2010 with the worm-like creatures did not include a reason for using them, such as digestive relief. 

Rapper MGK (pictured) posted a video of leeches sitting on his stomach, sucking his blood, to his Instagram story – calling the worms his ‘best friends’

The star posted the video to Instagram in which he referred to the slimy creatures on his stomach as ‘my best friends,’ though he did not say why he used leeches. 

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Leech therapy, or Hirudotherapy, has become common for healing after facial surgery and for its ability to preserve soft tissue.

The therapy consists of placing leeches on a certain area, allowing them to stick their three jaws with tiny rows of teeth into the skin, infusing it with coagulants in their saliva. 

Leech saliva contains an enzyme called Hirudin, which thins the blood and prevents clotting.

It is often used in the recovery process for operations like skin grafts and reconstructive plastic surgeries, as sometimes complications emerge that cause clotting at the site of the operation.

This is not the first time MGK has professed his love of leech therapy. In 2021, he posted a video showing leeches sucking on his tattoos, and fans were disgusted. 

One tweeted: ‘Out of all the things Machine Gun Kelly has done.. this is by far THE WORST!’

Another said: ‘I’m going to have nightmares about them after seeing that story as I’m about to sleep.’ 

Hirudin keeps the blood flowing and reduces this potentially life-threatening clotting. 

Its ability to keep blood circulating can also assist in the process of healing tissue damage – as it keeps circulation going through the damaged area.

Some hospitals even still use leech therapy on rare occasions.

Dr Rod Rezaee, director of head and neck surgical oncology at University Hospitals in Shaker Heights, Ohio, said: ‘Despite all the technical advances in modern medicine, in certain post-surgical situations, we do still rely on one of nature’s most primitive organisms – the leech – to assist us in achieving a good outcome.’

 

Leech therapy has been around for thousands of years for reported benefits to skin and circulatory system health. The bloodsuckers’ saliva contains an anticoagulant called Hirudin

The bloodsuckers were popular thousands of years ago in procedures called ‘bloodletting’ that persisted until the 19th century. 

The practice was based on the classical ideas of Hippocrates and Galen, an ancient Greek physician, that humoral imbalance was the cause of disease. 

Therefore, leeches were used to treat a wide range of conditions as people believed an excess of blood was the culprit.

Why MGK was using leech therapy, and what his goal is with the therapy is not clear. 

The Cleveland native is not the only celebrity adherent of Hirudotherapy, as model Miranda Kerr and actress Demi Moore swear by the treatment’s anti-aging effects. 

Ms Moore said in 2008 she uses the ‘high-level blood suckers’ to detoxify her blood. 

The post comes on the heels of MGK’s fiancée Megan Fox’s admission that the couple drink each other’s blood for ritualistic reasons.

Fox, 36, elaborated more about the ritual during an interview with Glamour UK a few months ago.

‘So, I guess to drink each other’s blood might mislead people or people are imagining us with goblets and we’re like Game of Thrones, drinking each other’s blood,’ she shared. 

‘It’s just a few drops, but yes, we do consume each other’s blood on occasion for ritual purposes only.’

Leech therapy carries the risk of bacterial infection and people with compromised immune systems are discouraged from trying it.

WHAT ARE LEECHES?

Leeches are a blood-sucking species of worms that live in water or land 

They can be found almost anywhere in Australia, but especially damp habitats 

They feed by sucking the blood from fish, frogs, lizards, birds and humans

The length of a leech can range from 7mm to 30mm 

Blood is an important food source for leeches to survive and reproduce  

Because of this leeches like to bite without causing pain or being removed

Leeches can swell five to ten times their body weight when full of blood 

Their bite is usually not dangerous to humans but can make us itch 

Federation University Australia

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