Abstract The discovery that compounds lacking a recognizable vanillyl-like motif might act as vanilloids has given new impetus to a search for novel vanilloid receptor agonists and antagonists in compound libraries. The availability of cell lines transfected with a cloned human vanilloid receptor will further expedite this search. In this article, the pharmacological properties of unsaturated dialdehydes and triprenyl phenols that represent two newly discovered chemical classes of vanilloids will be discussed. The existence of vanilloid receptors in several brain nuclei as well as in non-neuronal tissues predicts novel, innovative therapeutic indications for vanilloids. However, these findings also suggest that vanilloids might cause side-effects. An exploration of the uses of unsaturated dialdehydes in indigenous medicine might help identify new therapeutic targets for vanilloids and avoid unwanted actions.