Srinagar, Mar 21 : Despite being abandoned as a medical cure by modern science long ago, many people in the Kashmir Valley still let leeches suck their blood in hopes of curing everything from swollen joints and headaches to frostbite and acne.
As per the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), a number of people visited practitioners of ‘leech therapy’ on the occasion of Novroz on Tuesday as the therapy is believed to be more effective on this particular day.
Scores of people were seen standing in queues, waiting for their turn to go through the procedure, at many places in the valley, especially at Dargah Hazratbal and other places.
It is believed that leeches can cure frostbite, skin diseases and other blood infections, as they suck out the impure blood from the body.
Leech therapy on Novruz has been a common practice in many parts of the valley as people believe being treated on that day is more effective.
Mohammad Salim, a practitioner of leech therapy said he has been doing this practice for the last 40 years and people are getting relief with leech therapy.
“As per my experience, people are getting cured with this therapy. People understand that this therapy is the best cure for their illness which they don’t get from other medications.” he said.
“I tried medicines of almost 10 to 20 thousand rupees but couldn’t find any relief in my pain with any medication. But later when I tried this leech therapy, I am now feeling relief in my pain,” said Shakeel Ahmad, a patient from Srinagar.
When the leeches feed on blood, chemical substances like hirudin, proteins and bio-active molecules from the leeches’ saliva mix with the patient’s blood,” said Sameer Ahmad, a Unani Doctor.
“As this thins the blood, hirudin is helpful in cardiac diseases. These substances have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant and anti-microbial functions,” He said.
The practice of leech therapy is very old and the tradition is still kept alive in Kashmir, particularly on Novroz.
Practitioners earlier used to collect leeches from local water streams and rivers but now those connected with this trade get them from outside of Kashmir.
Leech therapy is said to be a long-practiced procedure in the Perso-Arabic traditional medicine of Unani, which is practiced in Muslim culture in South Asia as well as modern day Central Asia