Klostermedizin - rediscovered leeches

Already in the 6th century, Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine rule, stated in his Order's rule that caring for the body is as important as caring for the soul. Since that time, medical knowledge has been developed and applied in monasteries. The monastery gardens became famous with their medicinal herbs and culinary herbs, which continued in the lush cottage gardens.

Healing effect scientifically proven today

What religious brothers and sisters knew centuries ago can now be scientifically verified. The specific healing properties of many plants have been sufficiently documented and proven. The natural effect of fennel against flatulence, for example, has long been translated into teas and tablets.

Another good example is fenugreek. Even the healing of holly recommended fenugreek seeds for external use in hair problems such as hair loss. The special feature of the active ingredients of this plant: They can regenerate the hair roots and have no side effects. Responsible for this is among other things the alkaloid Trigonellin from the Fenugreek seeds, which can lead to an expansion of the blood vessels. As a result, it promotes the supply of hair follicles with nutrients and builders. Mostly there is an extension, thickening and increased pigmentation of the new hair.

Renaissance of the monastery medicine

The influence of natural medicine, which is becoming more and more prevalent not only in medicine but also in cosmetics and wellness, is also the reason why monastery medicine is currently experiencing a renaissance. Old medical writings and documents from monasteries are true treasures for medical historians and pharmacists, which are only now being rediscovered. Because the emerging universities gradually took over the medical care of the population, many monastic writings were lost.

What is still being discovered today will be thoroughly investigated and analyzed. Above all, the identification of the ancient herbs and their modern equivalent is a challenge. Once the herbs are known, they can be tested for their pharmaceutical ingredients and modes of action. This, for example, also results in the discovery of black currant seed oil as an itching suppressant in atopic dermatitis. The high content of linoleic acid in it provides relief.

Treatment with leeches

The therapy with leeches has also made its entry into medicine. What seems like a treatment from the deepest Middle Ages, is a treatment procedure, which is mainly used in plastic surgery. After the implantation of limbs or skin flaps, although the arterial supply is restored microsurgically, ie the blood vessels are sewn together. The outflow of venous blood on the other hand causes difficulties. It takes a good week before the capillaries sprout again by themselves.

During this time, as a result of congestion, an insufficient supply of blood to the capillaries may occur, as a result of which tissue necrosis may occur. By using the medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis, the venous stasis can be sucked off and the surrounding tissue can be rescued. The leech "bites" the wound and sucks blood.

Effect of treatment with leeches

The effect of the leech treatment is based mainly on two crucial factors: It secretes a substance (hirudin), which acts anticoagulant and accelerates the flow of lymph. The suction of the blood is purifying and detoxifying, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. A fine stabbing pain and rhythmic suction movements indicate that the bite has taken place and the actual suction act begins. The average intake time, depending on the size of the leech, its state of hunger and the blood circulation of the suction point, is 15 to 30 minutes and can last up to 3 hours. When the leech has fully sucked, it dissolves by itself.

Breeding of leeches

The number of leeches to be applied depends on the age of the patient, his nutritional status and the clinical picture, as well as the frequency of the intended use and the size of the leeches. In children, at most 1 leech may be used per year of life. Medical leeches used in trauma surgery or plastic surgery come from breeds. In the wild, leeches are found only in extremely clean waters - and these have become rare.

Like any other medical device, they must only be used once and must be killed after use by placing it in 70% alcohol. While the use of leeches was a popular remedy in the Middle Ages, in the 19th century, leech therapy became so prevalent that "vampirism" was mentioned. Official bans and severe punishment until the end of the First World War made the healing effects of leeches almost forgotten. Today, they are used not only by surgeons, but also in naturopathic practice.

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