Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Hirudo officinalis

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H. medicinalis, Sanguisuga officinalis


From latin "sanguisuga":
"sanguis"-blood + "sugere"-to suckle


Traditional name

Italian: sanguisuga
English: Leech

Used parts

Tincture of the living animal.


Animalia; Annelida - Jointed Worms; Clitellata; Oligochaeta; Terricolae; Hirudinea; Hirudinidae



Original proving

Reside, J. R. 1964. Brit. Homoeop. Journal 1, 22.; Zinke, J. 1964. Zschr. Klass. Homoop. 8, 49.; Hui-Bon-Hoa, 1964. Revue de Presse Anglaise Annales Homéopathiques Francaise 9, 72/712-76/716.

Description of the substance

Leeches have the capacity to fill themselves to bursting with blood and a proportional capacity to fast for long periods between meals.This is undoubtedly an adjustment to their normal existence in the wild, where blood meals are only available at long intervals, and then only coincidentally.
The medicinal leech has three sharp teeth, which make a characteristic wound in the shape of a three-point star. The leech's mouth projects into an enormous gizzard in which the blood can be stored. The gizzard can expand to an enormous degree, enabling a large amount of blood to be sucked. The gizzard contains bacteria that seem to play an essential role in digestion; they live symbiotically and digest the blood in the gizzard, after which their digestive products are absorbed by the leech through the intestinal wall. A fully-grown medicinal leech can live for up to a year on one meal of blood. When the gizzard is full, the entire body swells. The creature can drink up to five times its body weight in blood. It is unwise to try and pull loose a sucking leech, but you can force it to let go by holding a lighted match or cigarette to its body.
Most leeches are photophobic, although this reaction is not evident when they are hungry. Some leeches are protected by their camouflage from predators and in daylight they can, albeit slowly, adapt their colour to their surroundings. Leeches that suck blood from warm-blooded creatures often show positive reactions to warmth, particularly when they are hungry. In this way, the medicinal leech can distinguish temperature fluctuations of several degrees.
Leeches are hermaphrodite. Each individual produces both eggs and sperm; however, this does not occur simultaneously, so that self-fertilisation is avoided. As a rule, a leech first functions as a male and then as a female. Remarkably, the bodies of all leeches consist of 34 segments.
In the past almost every physician carried with him a lancet and a leech. To such an extent the physician became identified with these that the physician himself came to be known as the leech. Currently, researchers are investigating the usefulness of proteins in leech saliva in treating cardiovascular disease. The effects on the circulation possibly are related to the histamine-like substance present in the saliva of the leech. [Vermuelen]
Hirudo medicinalis, dell'ordine Gnatobdellidi; detta anche mignatta.
Presente nelle acque europee con numerose varietà, ha una colorazione bruno-verdastra con strisce rossastre. I suoi stadi giovanili predano su invertebrati acquatici, mentre gli adulti si comportano come parassiti di mammiferi oltre che di anfibi e pesci, succhiandone il sangue. Per questo motivo la s. ha avuto un amplissimo impiego in medicina umana.