We speak to Birmingham's leech therapist who uses leeches to treat baldness & heart disease

We spoke with Bridget Croft who runs the Birmingham Leech Clinic about the therapy can be used to treat diseases

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It's the spa treatment not for the faint-hearted and some may fear feeling a little drained by the end of a session.

Yet more and more people are turning to blood sucking leeches for a body boost. The skin crawling sessions do the immune system a power of good, too, says Bridget Croft, boss of the Birmingham Leech Clinic.

“Sometimes people contact me for the well being side,” said Bridget, who believes she is the country’s only registered nurse to carry out private hirudotherapy – that’s leech therapy, to the layman. “In some areas of Eastern Europe, it’s looked on in the same way as going to a spa.”

Bridget’s establishment is not linked to the NHS and Bridget, who learned her leech skills in Germany, is not claiming the ancient art is a cure-all. Recently, a client suffering thrombosis was immediately directed to a GP.

But hospitals endorse the healing powers of leeches and still use them. Bridget, who opened her business six years ago, predominately provides pain relief for those suffering osteoarthritis. The clinic website claims leeches can also help a range of conditions, including gout, skin disease and localised infections.

They’ll even combat baldness, the website states, explaining: “Leech therapy increases blood circulation. Therefore, when leeches are applied to thinning or bald areas of the scalp, the increase in blood circulation helps to deliver and to concentrate the nutrients that assist in making the hair follicles strong.”

Those using the clinic’s service range from mid-20s to old age.

Birmingham leech therapy to treat baldnessBirmingham leech therapy to treat baldness
Birmingham leech therapy to treat baldness

“I would say 96 per cent of my clients come from other parts of the world originally or their ancestors did,” said Bridget. “Those that come to me really look forward to it, they like it very much. Some people who come through my door for the first time are apprehensive and for that reason I only have one client a day. I’m here to help people, I hope I do help people.”

An initial three hour session cost £195, although leeches are on the skin for only just over an hour. A follow-up visit is two-and-a-half hours. Bridget, who trained as a nurse in New Zealand, has knocked back five requests for TV interviews – and that because she’s tired of the media turning hirudotherapy into a horror story or weird science.

“If people go on youtube they will probably find gory stories. That’s something I’ve never known or experienced,” she said. "Leeches are very good for a whole range of things. They suck a bit of blood – it’s not pints – and will be injecting you with all the goodness in their saliva.

“It’s a bit like a mosquito bite, like getting a needle and tapping your leg with it. After a minute that finishes and you don’t feel anything.” The relief from pain can last for months, Bridget insisted. “Leeches have a natural anaesthetic property in their saliva and that helps in a number of ways.

Leeches used to trea varicose veinsLeeches used to trea varicose veins
Leeches used to trea varicose veins

“I always issue a caveat that individuals will react differently to any intervention, as is the case with any form of medicine. It’s not a case of ‘if it doesn’t work, don’t blame me’. It happens to be true.”

In nine out of 10 cases it works, Bridget stressed. The leeches, provided by a bio-farm in Wales, do their job.

The clinic says: “In the last 20 years leeches have been rediscovered and are scientifically better understood. Leech therapy has never gone out of use to treat a myriad of disorders and enhance wellbeing in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe, for example Poland, Germany, Russia and the Ukraine.”

Bridget’s growing number of satisfied clients add weight to the claim that those who dismiss the therapy out-of-hand are the real suckers.