Recently we had a guest at our house. This person has developed, later in life (40ish), a seizure disorder.
Now as it turns out this person's dog is quite adept at letting the spouse and family know when a seizure is eminent. He comes over and persistently nudges the elbows of those nearby to let them know. The dog is quite accurate.
Of course stories abound about this sort of thing though until recently there was not much interest in it on the part of medical science (even today the actions of the dog are usually put down with the same force as alien abduction stories). However, there is now a growing list of scientifically known "smells" associated with diseases.
For example with lung cancer your breath odor can have the order of ammonia or fish caused by methyl hydrazine (from this). These odors are not strong and perhaps only detectable if you have a dog's nose.
Another interesting aspect of this was hot red peppers.
This same house guest apparently has a set of symptoms that alert the family that of a potential seizure: specific speech patterns, specific actions - perhaps not noticeable if you don't know the person but apparently fairly obvious if you do.
At any rate this person was over at the house a while back on a "pre-seizure day."
The activity of the day at the house was "salsa" (as in the eating kind).
Mrs. Wolf makes a mean salsa and acolytes come for instruction and to aid the process in return for gifts of salsa.
Now Mrs. Wolf herself is not a fan of "hot" but our pre-seizing friend was so Mrs. Wolf kindly agreed to allow this person to "cut up the hot peppers" which had just been harvested from the garden. After about 20 minutes of handling the hot peppers the pre-seizure symptoms vanished. This was a surprise to all present and quite obvious.
A little Googling later this link was discovered. From the link: "The co-administered group that received KA and 1mg/kg of capsaicin showed significantly decreased behavioral seizure activity and body temperature for 3h and also remarkably blocked intense and high-frequency seizure discharges in the parietal cortex for 3 days compared with those that received KA alone." [underline my own]
This person has also had an obvious and significant life-long craving for "hot" food of all sorts.
So my guess is that this person emits some odor the dog can smell when about to seize and that capsaicin in hot peppers has some positive effect on this process in that it reduces whatever is causing the seizures in the first place. Interestingly the mood of this individual was significantly effected by the hot peppers as well.
(Certainly these are just random observations and no one should be doing anything but what their doctor tells them to do...)
How have we gotten this far in the wonderful world of modern medicine with these sorts of things (odors for detecting illness and natural substances that have affects on serious problems) being noticed?
I think a large part of the problem here is that capsaicin is freely available at the grocery store. Imagine if it were to be found to be as effective as prescribed medicines. Imagine if folks with seizures were able to process the hot peppers and use them to prevent seizures on their own.
Medical "science" has worked hard during the last century to make sure folks cannot do their own at home medicine.
Perhaps the most famous story about this is "Hoxsey" (see this link and this link but be prepared to accept an "I agree" disclaimer). There are many fascinating books ("When Healing Becomes a Crime" is perhaps the most well known) written about this as well (see this). Basically Hoxsey observed that his cancer-ridden horse went out and ate things from the field he normally never ate - and his (the horses) cancer vanished. Hoxsey's elixir was based on the observations of what the horse ate.
Hoxsey, perhaps more importantly than his treatment for cancer, battled the then newly formed AMA over "practicing medicine without a license." Today this treatment is still available in Mexico - the AMA having "won."
But isn't the job of science, in particular "publicly funded science," to explore the unknown - to prove things are right or wrong? Regardless of who makes them or what the cost?
I find it fascinating that no one at the FDA is worried about proving relationships between freely available things and disease but spends millions or billions of dollars working with "industry" to make up products which are unnatural, have horrific side effects, and, for the most part, only benefit the companies and share holders at the end of the day.
I find any science where the well documented "placebo affect" cures or affects 1 in 3 patients in some positive way a faux science. After all if they don't know why or how 33% of the people cure them selves then how can they know their medicines are having any effect at all. (Even in double blind studies where people do not know they are taking medicine they are still taking a "pill" which may trigger the placebo effect even if it does nothing.)