Just in time for Easter...
Jaseja H. (2008). Scientific basis behind traditional practice of application of "shoe-smell" in controlling epileptic seizures in the eastern countries. Clin Neurol Neurosurg. Mar 17; [Epub ahead of print].
Epilepsy has been known for thousands of years and has been subjected to various forms of conventional and non-conventional therapies including a non-pharmacological conservative treatment known as aromatherapy, ever since. One commonly practiced form of aromatherapy that persists as an immediate first-aid measure even today in some parts of developing countries in the East is the application of “shoe-smell” during an epileptic attack. The questionable remedial role has intrigued neuro-scientists at least in these parts of the world. This brief paper attempts to provide an insight to the basis of persistence of this practice and to explore a possible scientific logic behind its unscientifically reported remedial effectiveness. The neurophysiology of olfactory stimulation from “shoe-smell” reveals a sound and scientific reasoning for its remedial efficacy in epilepsy; olfactory stimuli in this study have been found to possess significantly effective anti-epileptic influence which could have formed the basis for the use of application of “shoe-smell” in earlier times and also for its persistence even today in those parts of developing regions.
NOTE: this is actually a serious article, and the author lays out some possible mechanisms of the effect.
Although today, this age-old practice of “shoe-smell” may sound ridiculous apart from being most unscientific, its persistence as a remedy does tempt researchers to provide an insight to the reasons and basis for this continuing practice.... . .In earlier times, at least in case of temporal seizures with secondary generalization, strong olfaction (in the form of an old shoe) is likely to have succeeded in halting the progress of the seizure and aborting its generalization. People may have learnt this remedial effect from the above fortuitous observation. In those days, shoes were commonly made from leather and the other contaminants like sweat, dust, mud, etc., may have contributed to the strong smell emanating from the shoes; further, the easy availability of the shoes as a first and handy aid coupled with difficult accessibility to medical aids (both the physician and the drugs) aided in the evolution and development of the application of “shoe-smell” as an important first-aid treatment for epileptic seizures.Existence of an inherent relation between smell and TLE especially uncinate seizures has been known for a long time, uncus being phylogenetically a part of olfactory brain. Olfactory hallucinations and auras often accompany temporal lobe seizures (Chen et al., 2003; West & Doty, 1995). Olfactory areas are in close proximity as well as directly connected to regions where seizures develop in TLE and neuronal activity generated by olfaction can thus prevent the spread of synchronous activity responsible for the epileptic attack.So the question on everyone's mind today is...
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