An article in Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery
examines whether "shoe-smell" is an effective treatment for epilepsy. The authors note
Some Eastern parts of the world like India have witnessed since time immemorial, a practice of application of “shoe-smelling” in an attempt to arrest the seizures. The practice consisted of bringing the sole of shoe near the nostrils of the patient during the epileptic attack by near-by attendants or passers-by in the event of the attack occurring in a public place. The practice has continued and still remains a form of first-aid treatment in developing countries especially in countryside and rural areas. 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.
I wondered what kind of shoe-smell they were talking about. Apparently it's stinky shoe smell. The stinkier the better. The authors were skeptical that shoe-smell could work, but they end up concluding that it probably did help:
strong olfaction can aid in halting the progress of an epileptic seizure and/or abort the generalization of a partial seizure especially of temporal origin although more prospective studies are required to establish a clear and firm relation between the two, i.e. strong odor and seizure control. It may not therefore be incorrect to believe that in olden days too, strong olfaction applied in the form of “shoe-smell” did definitely play a suppressive role and thus exerted an inhibitory influence on epilepsy.