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Bloodletting is an age-old form of therapy and belongs to the rejection procedures of naturopathy. A certain amount of blood is drawn, which is supposed to relieve the body of both full blood and harmful substances in the blood. Bloodletting has traditionally been seen as a means of retuning chronic diseases.
Bloodletting: A brief overview
All important information about bloodletting can be found in our short overview.
- definition: Bloodletting is part of the rejection procedure. A certain amount of blood is drawn from the body.
- effect: Blood thinning, influencing the hematocrit value, the viscosity, aggregation of erythrocytes, leukocytes and thrombocytes, improving the microcirculation and thereby improving the blood circulation in general. According to empirical medicine, inflammation should also be positively influenced.
- Types of bloodletting: In naturopathy, a distinction is made between volume bloodletting and Hildegard bloodletting.
- General fields of application: Scientific studies confirm the bloodletting positive effects, among other things, in some forms of high blood pressure (for example after a kidney transplant and in metabolic syndrome) as well as hemochromatosis and polycythemia vera. Traditionally, bloodletting is also used against rheumatic and inflammatory diseases, but this is based on observation and experience and has not been scientifically proven.
- Areas of application Volume bloodletting: High blood pressure with headache, cerebral circulatory disorders, hyperlipidemia, tinnitus or polyglobulia; Congestion symptoms such as bleeding from the nose and retina, dizziness, asthma cardiale, dyspnea. Metabolic disorders and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, uric acid diathesis, skin diseases, rheumatism.
- Fields of application Hildegard bloodletting: Change of mind, regulation of metabolic functions, elimination of congestion through blood filling, (chronic) inflammation, lifestyle diseases such as rheumatism, gout, circulatory disorders, acne, neurodermatitis; with high blood pressure and fat metabolism disorders, a preventive effect against heart attack and stroke should be possible. In addition, weakness in the body's defenses, hormonal disorders, for cramping, insomnia and general disease prevention.
- Contraindications to bloodletting: Anemia, weaknesses, febrile infectious diseases, acute heart problems such as angina pectoris, severe consuming illnesses such as cancer or tuberculosis, desiccosis, acute diarrhea. Phlebotomy should not be performed on infants and children or during pregnancy. People who have problems with blood clotting or are taking blood thinning medication should be especially careful with bloodletting and should not do so if in doubt.
- Note: Bloodletting should only be done after prior consultation with the doctor treating you. The therapy should only be carried out by an experienced doctor or an experienced alternative practitioner.
More important: The effect of bloodletting in naturopathy is mainly based on centuries of observations (empirical medicine). Unfortunately, efficacy studies have so far only been available for some diseases against which bloodletting has traditionally been used. Recent scientific studies have shown that an effect in rheumatic diseases cannot be proven. However, according to the study, phlebotomy is an effective remedy for some forms of high blood pressure (for example after a kidney transplant and in the case of a metabolic syndrome) as well as hemochromatosis (iron storage disease) and polycythemia vera.
If you are considering bloodletting as a form of therapy, inform yourself thoroughly beforehand and it is best to consult with your doctor or health care professional to determine whether bloodletting could be useful for your symptoms.
History of bloodletting
The Greek doctor Hippocrates (460 - 370 BC) applied bloodletting. The traditional Indian healing art Ayurveda knows the bloodletting as a draining procedure. In the Middle Ages, bloodletting was a therapy that was used very frequently; but mostly too often and unnecessarily, which is why bloodletting has become rather discredited over the years. However, in recent years, bloodletting has seen an upswing in the treatment of some diseases, for example against some forms of high blood pressure (hypertension).
The elimination procedures or procedures, to which bloodletting belongs, go back to humoral pathology; this is an early Greek natural philosophy, according to which man consists of the four elements earth, water, air and fire. Disease is referred to in humoral pathology as an imbalance of the four juices blood, mucus, yellow and black bile. And in order to bring this back into balance, so-called "diversionary procedures" were and are still used today, which detoxify the body and free it from a variety of "bad" juices.
Effect of bloodletting
A blood thinning occurs due to the blood taken. The lack of blood means a loss of volume for the body. This is immediately compensated for by low-protein liquid flowing in from the interstitium (intercellular tissue) and this then leads to blood thinning. This can improve poor blood values with regard to the hematocrit (percentage of blood cells in the total volume of blood in percent), the viscosity (viscosity) and the aggregation (agglomeration) of the erythrocytes, leukocytes and thrombocytes (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets). Since microcirculation is stimulated by the thinning of the blood, this leads to a general promotion of blood circulation.
In patients who suffer from high blood pressure, who are also obese and who belong to the group of plethorics (people with full blood, reddish head, obesity), according to humoral pathology, bloodletting should create a so-called decongestion. The thinning of the blood improves the cerebral blood flow, the blood pressure is lowered somewhat and any symptoms such as headaches or ringing in the ears (tinnitus) improve.
Two types of bloodletting
There are basically two types of bloodletting: Hildegard bloodletting and volume bloodletting. We briefly introduce both of them below.
This bloodletting is named after the abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098 - 1179). The Hildegard bloodletting depends on the phases of the moon. It is only used in the first five days after the full moon. According to Hildegard von Bingen, after the bloodletting, a special diet must be followed.
With the blood taken, Hildegard von Bingen was also able to create a so-called phenomenon analysis for diagnosis. The Hildegard bloodletting should only be carried out when it is sober, since according to Hildegard von Bingen the juices mix with each other during food and liquid intake and there is no longer any separation.
The Hildegard bloodletting has a gentle but profound effect. It is used for a wide variety of diseases. This form of bloodletting is used for defensive defenses, rheumatism, gout and skin diseases, hormonal disorders, inflammation, for releasing spasms, for high blood pressure, for risk of stroke, insomnia and for general disease prevention.
According to Hildegard von Bingen, there are precise records of the bloodletting she uses, which describes, among other things, the age from which the bloodletting can be performed in men and women and the amount of blood to be taken, at what time and with which illness.
Volume bloodletting is mainly used in overweight people with high blood pressure (hypertension) with a plethoric appearance (see above) and symptoms such as headache, dizziness, poor circulation, and hyperlipidemia (excessively high blood lipid levels).
Since bloodletting entails so-called blood thinning, the general blood circulation is improved according to the teaching of humoral pathology, which can alleviate the symptoms of those affected and also lower the blood pressure somewhat. Volume bleeding is also used for diabetes, rheumatism and other diseases. It is used both in naturopathic practices and in conventional medicine.
Depending on the patient's history, symptoms and blood count, up to 500 milliliters of blood are drawn once a month with a volume bloodletting. This is done with special vacuum glass bottles that are used to collect the blood. It is important that the blood pressure and then the hematocrit value of the blood are constantly checked during the blood draw.
The Hildegard bloodletting is a little gentler. The amount of blood drawn here is between 150 and 180 milliliters, and this in the first days after the full moon. Blood is drawn on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning.
The color intensity of the blood is very important here. Regardless of the amount that has already been removed, the bloodletting is stopped immediately when the blood is no longer dark red. According to the traditional view of Hildegard von Bingen, the blood that emerges first has a so-called mixed color because it contains pollutants. If the color changes to light red, relaxation occurs, the poison is removed and the bloodletting can be stopped.
The blood drawn may be used for a special diagnostic test. This diagnosis is also based on the traditional knowledge of Hildegard von Bingen. After bloodletting, a special diet is prescribed here.
Basically, phlebotomy should never be used in people who are weakened, suffer from (febrile) infectious diseases or anemia, or have acute heart problems such as angina pectoris. Even in the case of desiccation and acute diarrhea, no bloodletting is allowed. Bloodletting is contraindicated in patients with serious consuming illnesses (e.g. cancer or tuberculosis).
Even in children who are still growing and in pregnant women, blood withdrawal should not be carried out. People who have problems with blood coagulation or who are taking blood-thinning medication should also be particularly careful with bloodletting or, if in doubt, better avoid it.
The therapy should only be carried out by an experienced doctor or an experienced alternative practitioner. (sw, kh)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Susanne Waschke, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Bierbach, Elvira (ed.): Naturopathic practice today. Textbook and atlas. Elsevier GmbH, Urban & Fischer Verlag, Munich, 4th edition 2009
- gvg: Does bloodletting help with arterial hypertension ?; in: CME, Vol. 13, Issue 1-2, page 8, 2016, Springer Link
- Kaiser, H .: Phlebotomy and "Rheumatism": a review; in: Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 70, Issue 3, 2011, ResearchGate
- Kamhieh-Milz, Julian et al .: Blood donation - treatment option for hypertension ?; in: Journal of Complementary Medicine, Vol. 10, Issue 5, page 56-61, 2018, Thieme Connect