Can You Eat Leeches in a Survival Situation? The Facts Explained

Hopefully, you will never be in a true survival situation that have you questioning what to eat to survive. However, should you ever find yourself in a pinch, many creatures are easily digestible, nutritious, and widely available in nature. One of these is the leech.

Leeches are prevalent in most parts of the world and can be eaten as a source of nutrition in survival situations. Leeches can be eaten raw and cooked but posed some threats to the human body. They can serve as a food option in extreme emergencies if done correctly.

While you may not be running to your nearest waterway in search of a leech, learning about leeches and their nutritional value is helpful. We will discuss how you could eat leeches if need be and the nutrition the leech offers. If you would like to learn more, keep reading!

Eating Leeches for Survival

The idea of eating leeches may make you a bit squeamish! However, it is not unheard of for leeches to be used in some countries as nutrition. While they are not the prettiest thing to look at, they can be a great way to stay alive in a crisis.

Leeches are a member of the worm family and are easily found in nature. They are not recommended for routine consumption but rather when in an actual survival situation. Leeches are not ideal for eating, but they can be a source of much-needed calories.

When eating a leech, you have two main options: raw and alive or cooked. Cooking these little guys is a much better option. However, if you are in a pinch, you can eat them raw by keeping these factors in mind:

  • If you are eating a live leech, you must keep it in your mouth and chew it thoroughly.
  • By chewing the leech, it should be killed, and this will make the process a bit easier.
  • You want the leech to be dead before swallowing. A live leech going down your throat can quickly become a significant issue.
  • Chewing quickly will kill the leech and can make the entire process go a little bit faster.

As you can see, eating a raw leech isn’t very pleasant. So even though it is possible, it isn’t highly recommended. Next, we’ll jump into ways you can cook leeches to make eating them a little more palatable.

Can You Eat Leeches

How to Cook Leeches

If you are in a situation where you may need to eat a leech, you may not have the means necessary to cook it. However, it can be much easier to digest if you cook the leech before eating. A plate of leeches will never taste great, but cooked leeches are much better than just eating them raw.

There are several ways that you can cook a leech if need be. Some ways that you can do so are:

  • Crushed and Cooked Over Fire – If you do not have options for cooking your leech, doing so over a fire is one of the easiest ways. You can crush the leech and then basically fry it. This will make sure it’s dead and make it easier to prepare.
  • Flavor the Leech – While you may not have an adequate amount of spices should you be eating leeches for survival, adding flavor can help make things more digestible. You can forage for wild greens, spices, or other ways to add to the leech for an easier taste.
  • Try a Recipe – This may sound silly, considering we are talking about a leech. However, if you want to try the leech out of curiosity, you can find recipes online. These will go over ways you can use the leech in a dish and make them palatable.

Eating a leech will always be eating a leech. However, cooking it and adding some extra ingredients can be much easier to eat.

Are Leeches Nutritious?

Of course, this leads to the question of if leeches are even nutritious. While the leech itself is not something you will want to eat for an extended period, it can keep you alive if there are no other food options. The main nutritional value that comes from leeches is protein.

While this may be a gross fact, if the leech has recently eaten, blood will be present. This blood can serve as a source of iron and other minerals. Some things to keep in mind about the nutrition from eating leeches are:

  • Leeches have very little carbohydrates. This means you will not get much energy from the leech.
  • The protein from a leech will keep you alive for short periods of time. This is not something to eat long term.
  • In most situations, there are better sources of nutrition out there. You will also want to forage for other sources of nutrition if you are in a survival situation.

Eating a leech will not provide all the nutrition needed for long-term survival. However, it will be a good source of some nutrition for limited periods.

Risks that Come With Eating Leeches

The most significant risk of eating a leech is if you do so when they are raw and alive. Leeches will try to grab onto the mouth; even the throat is at risk if not killed. This can become an issue as it can become a choking hazard or even block the airway.

Some signs and symptoms of having a leech in your throat that you need to be aware of are:

  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • A Sore Throat
  • Bloody Vomiting / Coughing
  • Melena – A black sticky feces. This is a sign of blood consumption.
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Feeling of Suffocation
  • Harsh or Raspy Breathing

If you think you have a leech in your throat or know that a leech you were eating did not go down properly, this is not an immediate issue. Unless you cannot breathe, you have time to right this issue. In most cases, a doctor can quickly fix this issue by removing the leech.

Always chew the leech fully or cook it before eating if you are in the wilderness or in a survival situation. It can be challenging to see a doctor if you are in this situation and the wilderness. However, being proactive is the best way to avoid this.


Leeches may not be the most delicious food option, but they can provide the nutrition for survival. While raw leeches can be eaten, it is recommended to cook them to make them more digestible. Leeches offer protein and can provide iron and other minerals if they have recently eaten.

However, it is essential to be cautious when consuming leeches as they can threaten the human body. It is always best to try to find other food sources before resorting to eating leeches.

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