Troubled by varicose veins, cellulite, high blood pressure or angina? You may cringe at the thought of it, but the bite of a little blood-sucking creature with 100 razor-sharp teeth may be the answer to your medical worries.
As in the West, leech therapy in Georgia exists on the periphery of mainstream medicine, but strong local enthusiasm for this age-old treatment means that the country’s leeches are kept busily biting.
“They are little computers,” enthused Tbilisi leech therapist Rusudan Mermanishvili, director of the medical day spa Aura Plus. “They are so smart, so cute.”
The secret to the parasite’s powers lies in a substance within its saliva called hirudin, an anticoagulant that improves circulation. Some Georgian leech therapists maintain that a leech can “diagnose” the problem a patient’s blood contains once it gets a taste of the blood, and adjust its saliva discharge accordingly.
The hirudin, they claim, can provide relief for complaints ranging from sprained ankles to high cholesterol and, yes, even infertility and hemorrhoids.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi. Temo Bardzimashvili is a photojournalist also based in Tbilisi.