No one knows exactly when leeches began to occupy an important role in medicine. Varying sources date the leech to 2500 years ago, when it was used for bloodletting in ancient Egypt. Leeching is also mentioned in medical encyclopedia from India written in Sanskrit completed between 500 BC and 200 AD.Hirudotherapy has been mentioned in Ayurveda by the name of “Jalaukavacharan” („Jalauka‟ meaning leeches and „Avacharan‟ meaning application). As per Ayurveda Jalaukavacharan is one of the procedures of Raktamokshana. Raktamokshana is one of the biopurification methods mentioned in Ayurveda, in which humours vitiated in blood are expelled from the body. Ayurveda mentioned various kind of leeches out of which 6 varieties of non-poisonous leeches are used for Hirudotherapy. Avicenna in the canon of medicine emphasize on the use of leeches even for skin diseases.
Later in the 12th century Abdul Latif Baghdadi wrote that leech could also be used for cleaning the tissues after surgical operations. Leeching reached the height of its popularity in the middle 19th century, when it was exposed by the French physicians Francois Broussais (1722-1838). Broussis was the head of French physician of the Val De Grace Hospital in Paris and a surgeon in Napoleon‟s grant army. Broussais treated diseases such as typhoid fever, Syphilis, T.B, and even mental illness by applying leeches to abdomen. Broussais was in fact the biggest consumer in France, ordering 2-3 millions leeches in 1824 and his requisition rose to 42 millions in 1833. A record of 57 millions leeches was used in 1854. Between the years of 1829 and 1836, five to six millions leeches were used annually in the hospitals of Paris.
In early 19th century American physician from Georgia wrote bloodletting is the most important treatment, whenever there appears mark of local congestion, inflammation or that sluggish or torpid action which makes incapacity in the circulation vessels. He continue to discuss the use of leeches as treatment for myocarditis, peritonitis, pleuritis, hepatitis, gastritis, tonsillitis, nephritis, pneumonia, whopping cough, dysentery, hemorrhoids, acne and pimples. The use of leeches was discontinued when this practice was rumored to transmit some diseases.