Demi moore’s leech detox therapy - a scambuster report
Thu, 03/27/2008 - 21:33
While on the talk show circuit to promote her new diamond-heist film, “Flawless,” Demi Moore has also taken to promoting her recent experience with leech therapy, which she underwent in Austria as part of a so-called “cleanse.” The 46-year-old actress told Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa on “Live With Regis & Kelly,” that with leeches, “They apply them to your body, and they suck your blood. They detoxify your blood.” But while it’s clear that the leeches do suck out some blood, it is equally clear, at least to me, that they don’t “detoxify” it. How could they? How could the removal of a small amount of blood, even if it were full of “toxins” serve to detoxify the remainder?
Ms. Moore told David Letterman on “The Late Show with David Letterman” that “…they have a little enzyme that when they’re biting down on you, gets released into your blood and generally you bleed for quite a bit. And your health is optimized. It detoxified the blood, and I’m feeling detoxified right now.” Again, she’s party right. Leeches do release a variety of enzymes that inhibit blood-clotting, which enables them to suck until they are full and which actually makes it a bit difficult to staunch the bleeding even after they are done (at least until the enzyme’s effects have dissipated). But the enzymes only act at the immediate bite site and are not absorbed into the bloodstream (think about it - if the anti-coagulant effects were systemic throughout the body, the bite would quickly bleed to death internally). So if a leech uses a bit of local anti-coagulant to help it suck out some blood, and doesn’t either return that blood or inject any other material into the body, how does it produce detoxification let alone optimal health? The obvious answer is that it doesn’t - regardless of what the actress believes or was told to believe.
There is, however, a legitimate use of leeches in modern medicine. And, presumably, Ms. Moore and the other devotees of blood-letting, are misinterpreting this use and adorning it with magical properties they wish were true (not uncommon with many alternative therapies). Since leeches are effective blood suckers, they are employed, primarily by plastic surgeons, in situations where there is reduced ability of blood to drain from a wound. This is a particular problem when surgeons reattach severed fingers or toes or do other skin graft surgery where they can sew up the arteries that supply blood but can’t do the same for the tiny veins that drain the blood. This results in blood build up called congestion, which causes swelling and pain and can lead to tissue death and loss of the graft.
In fact, in 2004 the FDA officially approved the use of leeches as medical devices. In an FDA talk paper issued at the time of leech approval, Rod J. Rohrich, M.D., president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said: “The idea behind the leeches is to cause blood to ooze so that the body’s own blood supply will eventually take over and the limb can go on and survive.” Today, a number of companies routinely supply specially raised leeches (to ensure quality control, sanitation and especially to keep them hungry!) to hospitals across the country and around the world.
Leech therapy is not without some risks, even under the best of conditions. In addition to possible excessive bleeding and blood loss, there is also the possibility of allergic reactions, foreign body reactions, ulceration and infection. Even farm-raised medical leeches can harbor bacteria and other microorganisms that can be transmitted into the patient. It is therefore recommended that all patients undergoing leech therapy receive broad-spectrum antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection.
One can only hope that leech therapy will remain under the purview of licensed medical practitioners who use it for legitimate therapeutic or research purposes under controlled conditions and that its use in so-called detoxification will be limited to a small cadre of true believers at the extreme fringes of alternative medicine. What’s your opinion? Have you heard of or had any experience with leech therapy? Do you believe that Demi Moore was actually detoxified by her treatment and that this is a legitimate use of leeches? Or do you agree with me and believe that leech therapy for detoxification is simply another in a long line of medical scams? Please post your comments below and let us know what you think. We look forward to your comments.
Resources for further exploration:
Demi Moore on Regis & Kelly
Demi Moore on Letterman
FDA on leech approval
Background on leech therapy
Medicinal leech suppliers (Source: Dr. Z's Medical Report)