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French pewter leeches container, dating from around the year 1820. Leeches (a type of worm) were used in medicine during this period as a method of bloodletting, leeches can suck several times their original body weight in blood when applied to the skin. Bloodletting was believed to 'treat' patients with a wide range of ailments by removing surplus bodily 'humours' (liquids within the body) which were thought to cause disease.
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