It takes a sucker to …
Heard the one about the Hollywood actress and the bloodsucking leech? She took it to a restaurant and said: “Have you met my agent?”
Yes, that’s a poor joke but it must be said that leeches haven’t enjoyed the greatest PR profile in recent years (e.g, What’s the difference between a lawyer and a leech? Answer: A leech stops sucking you dry after you’re dead). But, oh, how things can change in a heartbeat. News this week that Demi Moore uses leeches as her health and beauty cleansers is big news. Second video after the jump.
Demi appeared on US TV to reveal that leech therapy is her new detox. It’s all quite straightforward. First you shave your body and cover it in turps. Then you get your expert at an Austrian spa (oh, we’ve all got one) to apply leeches to your body and off the little critters go to give your blood a deep-clean.
“They have a little enzyme that, when they are biting down in you, it gets released in your blood and generally you bleed for quite a bit – and your health is optimized,” says our comely leading lady. “You watch the leech swell up on your blood, watching it get fatter and fatter – then when it’s super-drunk on your blood it just kind of rolls over like it’s stumbling out of the bar.”
Doesn’t it sound just wonderful?
I’m off to ring Biopharm Leeches near Swansea, the UK’s only leech farm, to see if I can get a piece of the action for myself. Marion Gower, the nice woman who manages it, initially asks me to call back in five minutes because her hands are full of leeches. When I do, she’s happy to tell me about all the good works that leeches do for hospital patients but sadly she’s never heard of leech detox therapy. “I wouldn’t really want to get involved with that; as far as I know it’s not proven,” says Gowern, whose company provides more than 50,000 leeches a year to the NHS and has been operating here since 1984.
“It’s possible that it works (as a cleansing treatment). Leeches are very, very effective in medicine, but, no, I haven’t heard of it.”
Disappointing, but let’s take this opportunity to dwell on a leech’s plus points. Indispensable in 19th-century medicine for bloodletting, a practice believed to cure anything from headaches to gout, leeches fell out of fashion for a time, rather like flared trousers.
But now they are making a comeback and are recognized as being especially useful for plastic and reconstructive surgery, since they produce a small bleeding wound that “mimics a venous circulation in an area of compromised tissue” – i.e, an artificial circulation.
Last year, doctors at the Royal London Hospital used leeches to save David Isitt from a leg amputation after a lorry accident. They drew blood away from his damaged skin allowing it to survive long enough for the veins to start working normally again.
Many are repulsed by the small, squiggly invertebrates, but more fool them, we say. They even produce their own anesthetic. What more do you want, really?
Let’s take our lead from Demi who says she’ll be returning to Austria for more leech love, ASAP. Who could claim not to be envious?