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H. medicinalis has stimulated human imagination for centuries. Its intimate contact with humans have provoked a somewhat symbiotic relationship in which the leech feeds off humans and humans use the leech for medicine, stories and imagery in popular culture. (Grzimek, 1974; Sawyer 1986
The medicinal leech, as its name suggests, has historically been used for medicinal purposes, mainly to remove "bad blood" from the diseased. Around 1850 this practice fell into disrepute, but H. medicinalis is again becoming of value in medicinal practices. Today this species is used to relieve pressure and restore circulation in tissue grafts where blood accumulation is likely such as severed fingers and ears. The anticoagulant of leeches is also a fertile ground of research for surgeries in which an incision must be kept open. In addition, leech saliva is found to contain powerful antibiotics and anaesthetics which no doubt will prove useful in future medicinal practice (Sawyer, 1986).