2. Leeching: The application of a living leech to the skin to initiate blood flow or deplete blood from a localized area of the body.

Historically, the leech has been used to treat a variety of ailments -- everything from headaches and stomach aches, fevers, and more.

Leeching was widely practiced in World War I to prevent coagulation of war wounds.

Leeching has been in use since the time of the ancient Egyptians.

Modern Applications

Leech therapy is making a big comeback in modern medicine. Leeches have been found to relieve pain and inflammation. It seems their saliva contains compounds that have an anesthetic effect.

Plastic and reconstructive surgeons currently depend on leeches to drain excess blood and prevent clotting after operations to re-attach severed fingers.

Formal Clearance by FDA

Despite its wide and growing use in modern medicine, it wasn't until the first week in July, 2004, that the Food and Drug Administration, for the first time, cleared the commercial marketing of leeches as medical devices.