Our next translation in Tillie’s notebook is a scientific description of a leech. Yes, you read that correctly – a leech! This entry was obviously copied from another text or from a teacher’s lesson. You might find it oddly curious (and a little disgusting) that the use of leeches was still considered an important part of medicine in 1902.
I did research into the use of “leech therapy” in modern medicine and found that it has made a resurgence as a simple and inexpensive treatment for a variety of health issues. Today leech therapy is being used to treat hypertension, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, skin problems, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and used to promote healing after cosmetic surgery. No kidding!
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t imagine going to the doctor and asking for “leech therapy”. But I do find it fascinating that a medical practice first used in ancient Egypt is still in practice today – and was obviously used by physicians and those practicing home remedies at the turn of the 20th century in Tyrol.
Translation: Page 21, right side and top of Page 22, left side
The Leech or Bloodsucker
They are born in sweet stagnant waters and in quiet streams. They are from 8 to 13 centimeters long with a curved form and a skin with a ring pattern. On the superior part they are from black to dark green with six yellow lines, on the lower part they are grey with black spots. The head is not separated from the body and around it there are ten small eyes hardly visible.
The leeches can stick to the skin. On the lower part they have a mouth with three little mandibles that have from 60 to 90 small teeth similar to those of a saw. If we put a leech on our skin it opens a three-ray wound and then it starts sucking blood.
The back part serves to adhere tenaciously to the bodies to which it attaches. They swim meandering and crawling and they hold still with their mouths, dragging their body behind them. They feed on the blood they suck from fish, frogs and other animals. The leeches are used to extract blood in case of an inflammatory disease, so they are seen at the chemist’s. If you put salt over a leech after it has sucked, it will vomit blood. A leech can be kept a lot of time if we put it in water changed every day, so the same leech can be used on animals many times.
Most of them are imported from Dalmatia, Hungary and Turkey. These small animals are once again a proof of the great goodness and patience of God who created all things to the advantage of man.
Castelfondo 21 April 1902
Read more about the modern use of leeches here: