Definition of medicinal leech in US English:

medicinal leech


  • A large European leech, introduced to North America, used in medicine for bloodletting. After biting, it secretes an anticoagulant to ensure the flow of blood.

    Hirudo medicinalis, family Hirudidae

    • ‘In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Europeans considered leeches a panacea, and used billions of European medicinal leeches for everything from obesity to headaches.’
    • ‘In the early 1980s, the application of medicinal leeches was found to be useful to patients after reconstructive surgery in cases where the blood circulation was poor.’
    • ‘The medicinal leech, for example, which is coming back into fashion with plastic surgeons, has all but vanished from the countryside.’
    • ‘The medicinal leech almost became extinct in Europe due to the extremely high demand for them.’
    • ‘There are many similar records of incredible numbers of medicinal leeches being used across Europe.’