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Medicinal leeches were used as a natural “cure – all” for a wide variety of illnesses until the early 20th century. Today, leeches are used in more specific ways, such as to prevent gangrene and to treat black eyes. Leeches are useful to doctors because their saliva contains an anticoagulant (a substance that prevents blood clots), a vasodilator (a substance that widens blood vessels) and a local anesthetic. Leeches have these qualities because they are sanguivorous, meaning that they get their nourishment from sucking blood. In the 1800s, doctors, barbers, and others who were responsible for treating people with leeches kept their live leeches in ornate jars like this one. This jar may have originally had a lid that could be put on top to keep the leeches inside. The bottom of the jar has a maker’s mark that reads “Rosema[n].”
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