Best Buckwheat Pillows
People have rested their heads on some form of pillow since prehistoric times, some made of feathers, others from straw, others more recently from materials such as polyester or memory foam.
Each material comes with advantages and disadvantages, but one type of pillow promises excellent support and comfort for users: the buckwheat pillow.
These pillows have been popular for centuries in East Asia, especially in Japan, since they have historically been simple to make.
These pillows simply use processed buckwheat hulls as a filler, all stuffed inside a pillow case.
Let’s take a look at the best buckwheat pillows on the market today.
Read Our Buckwheat Pillow Reviews
The Beans72 Organic Buckwheat Pillow is our first entry on this list. It’s pretty large compared to many others, coming in at 30 x 20 x 3.5 inches. It weighs around 10 pounds, though buckwheat pillows do not have a standardized weight, as they are filled by volume and individual buckwheat crops may have slight variances in their weights. It should be noted here that buckwheat pillows are not fluffy like traditional pillows. They truly are meant more for support, pain relief, and proper airflow than for pure fluffiness. Since it’s so large, this pillow is ideally suited for home use where you do not expect to travel with it any time soon. If you really want to have more loft in your pillow, note that buckwheat does not fluff up like down feathers do. Instead, try stacking two of these pillows on top of one another to give yourself more loft. Made in the United States along traditional Japanese designs, this pillow comes with a nice unbleached cotton cover to promote breathability and comfort. The buckwheat hulls inside are organic and grown in the United States, then meticulously cleaned to ensure that they are free of dust and other debris. Beans72 offers a generous thirty-day trial and return period with full refund, which should give you ample time to test this pillow. Overall, Beans72 is an excellent, high-quality option.
Next on our list is a buckwheat pillow made by Zen Chi. So what makes these pillows stand out against the crowd? Obviously they give you great neck and head support and keep you cool at night. But all buckwheat pillows offer you that. So what’s different here? Zen Chi offers their pillows in a myriad of different sizes, meaning that unlike with other buckwheat pillow brands, you have ample choice of dimensions. Made of 100% organic buckwheat hulls, the Zen Chi pillows are available in in 14 x 20, 20 x 26, 20 x 30, and 20 x 36 inch sizes. The smallest of these is closest to the traditional Japanese style pillow if that is what you’re looking for. Since there is so much size variation between these pillow models, the weights of these pillows range wildly between five and ten pounds. Looking for something more portable? Go with the smallest option. Want to live in luxury with a mega buckwheat pillow? Zen Chi has an option for that too. Of course, these pillows come with a standard cotton cover to make sure that you get the maximum breathability that buckwheat allows. As for drawbacks, some users have noted that the Zen Chi pillows do not contain enough buckwheat hulls, and that they are of generally lower quality (as might be expected from the lower price point).
The Sobakawa Buckwheat pillow is the last on our list, but far from the least. This pillow measures 20 x 15 inches, making it quite small, even by buckwheat pillow standards. However, this diminutive size means that the pillow is also quite light, weighing only about three pounds. That makes this by far the most portable pillow on this list, though since buckwheat hulls don’t easily compress, it still would not be an ideal travel pillow option. Like all buckwheat pillows, the Sobakawa Pillow offers great neck and head support, which can help reduce pain in those areas. Since it is quite a small pillow, this option most likely will not give you quite as much support as will one of the larger options. But despite this, it is still certainly a worthy contender against the others here. Another fantastic feature of the Sobakawa Pillow is its lifetime guarantee: here’s a company standing behind its product with confidence. So if you are in search for a well-made buckwheat pillow that is light enough to be portable while still giving decent neck support, the Sobakawa Pillow may be right for you.
What are the benefits of buckwheat pillows?
Buckwheat pillows offer several key advantages over other more traditional pillow designs. We’ll discuss all of these benefits in more detail below:
- Firm support that conforms to your head and neck shape
- Excellent air flow
- Made of natural materials
First, these pillows offer excellent head and neck support, as buckwheat hulls are firm and keep their shape even under pressure. Furthermore, because buckwheat hulls have an irregular, seed-like shape, a buckwheat pillow can conform to many different shapes, not unlike a memory foam pillow. Since these pillows offer strong yet moldable support, they can seriously help reduce neck and back pain. For people who need more support than a soft down or shredded foam pillow, the buckwheat pillow is a fantastic option.
Buckwheat pillows have another advantage over other designs. Since buckwheat hulls are not very dense and don’t compact very much inside the pillow, they allow excellent airflow, meaning that your head will remain remarkably cool while sleeping on a buckwheat pillow. Other materials such as memory foam are notorious for trapping heat against the sleeper, leading to uncomfortable heat build-up and a lot of tossing and turning. Buckwheat pillows do not suffer from this downside, as they encourage good airflow throughout the night. This airflow is one of the reasons the pillow remains so popular in East Asia, where it is traditionally considered healthy to keep a cool head and warm feet. Since a buckwheat pillow keeps your head cool, it fits neatly into traditional medicinal practices. If you tend to sleep “hot” or live in a warm climate, a buckwheat pillow can keep you sweat-free all night.
Additionally, buckwheat hulls are very durable, and these pillows can even last up to ten years! That is truly exceptional—and environmentally friendly—in a world where people often throw out their pillows after less than a year.
But won’t a ten-year-old pillow harbour allergens like dust mites and mold? Nope! Buckwheat pillows can stay allergen-free for a long time, especially if they are well-maintained. We’ll explain below how to care for your pillow, but rest assured that you won’t be sleeping on a mold and dust farm after a few years. As with any type of pillow, the best way to avoid dust mite build-up is to keep your pillow clean and reduce humidity in your home. In sum, buckwheat pillows are an attractive option, especially for people who value long-term durability, firmness and support, and good ventilation.
What are the downsides of buckwheat pillows?
These pillows have a couple drawbacks that may make them less ideal for some people, depending on personal needs and preferences:
First, buckwheat hulls are not particularly quiet. If you are used to the near silence of a down or memory foam pillow, buckwheat pillows will seem very loud to you, especially when new. This is because, unlike many other pillows, buckwheat pillows have a break in period as the hulls settle into your particular sleeping position. During this early period, the pillows can be rather loud, especially for side sleepers. Once broken in, the pillows do quiet down, but they will never be as quiet as some others.
Second, many buckwheat pillows are very heavy, often weighing in around ten pounds. You could almost use one for a workout routine! Make sure to consider the drawbacks of noise and weight when thinking about your pillow purchase. A buckwheat pillow won’t be great for travel, or for someone who needs total silence in order to sleep well. However, if you experience neck or upper back pain, a strong, supportive pillow like a buckwheat pillow can really ease the strain on your neck while you sleep. On the other hand, if you prefer a soft, plush pillow, buckwheat probably won’t be the best choice for you.
Once you’ve bought a buckwheat pillow, how do you clean it?
Right off the bat, never ever put buckwheat hulls in water. They will soak it up and this will destroy them. If you get them wet or try to wash them, they will lose a lot of their support and rigidity, and the water will make mold grow. Now if you go to bed right after your shower and the pillow gets a tiny bit damp that’s fine. But please don’t soak the hulls.
Instead, empty the buckwheat hulls into a container; a standard plastic box or large cooking tray would work fine. All of the pillows here have a method to open them easily to access the buckwheat hulls inside, so emptying the pillow is not an issue. Once you have gotten the hulls out, place them in a warm, sunny spot and let them air dry for a few hour. That is all the cleaning they need, and it should be done at least once or twice per year. It may be tempting, but do not try to clean the hulls by placing them in the oven, microwave, or dryer, as there is a high risk of burning or toasting them and ending up with a strong-smelling pillow. The empty pillowcase itself can of course be machine-washed as needed. Since many cotton cases tend to shrink in the wash, you should use cold water and hang them up to dry.
If you accidentally spill a great deal of water, coffee, or other liquid on your pillow however, this is an issue. Dampness is the perfect environment for mold, and the hulls themselves cannot be cleaned once saturated. If the buckwheat hulls get soaked, you need to discard them. This is not as big an issue as it may seem; as we discuss in the next section, you can purchase new hulls to replace old ones. Buckwheat pillows, when taken care of properly, can last an incredibly long time, even as long as a decade.
How to make your own buckwheat pillow
What to do if you get your pillow soaked? Or what if you just don’t want to buy a factory-made pillow in the first place? It’s simple: You can make your own buckwheat pillow at home! Plain buckwheat hulls are readily available online, and all the major makers of buckwheat pillows sell their own plain buckwheat hulls. So if you really fall in love with a certain brand of buckwheat pillow, you can buy a few pounds of their buckwheat hulls, put them in an empty pillow body, and voila! You have your own homemade buckwheat pillow. The same goes if you accidentally get your pillow wet. You can easily and cost-effectively replace your buckwheat pillow in just a few minutes at home. If you’re looking to save some money on a fantastic pillow that will last for years, this is really the perfect option for you.
Selecting the best buckwheat pillow
Buckwheat pillows offer great support for your head and neck, while also promoting excellent airflow while you sleep. This keeps your head cool, in accordance with traditional East Asian medicinal beliefs, and helps you stay asleep all night without waking up in a puddle of sweat. You can buy a buckwheat pillow new from a company, or you can even make your own at home, so if you’re looking for a better night’s sleep than you’re getting now, look no further than buckwheat.
Your most important consideration in selecting a buckwheat pillow or a few pounds of buckwheat hulls is quality. After all, buckwheat hulls are a natural material, and lower-quality products may contain dust, plant debris, mold spores, and other detritus. Low-quality hulls may also arrive already totally crushed or covered in powdery buckwheat meal. Whether you’re buying a ready-made pillow or your own hulls, make sure that the hulls are organic and additive-free, and that they have been thoroughly cleaned. By investing in high-quality materials, you’ll enjoy your buckwheat pillow for years to come.
A few final tips to get the most out of your buckwheat pillow
- Remember that buckwheat pillows are moldable and adjustable. Hulls can be added and removed as needed, and moved in various configurations. Whether you sleep on your back or your side, you want your neck to remain in a neutral position, rather than curving up, down, or to one side. Adjust the buckwheat filling as needed to reach the proper loft. If you sleep on your side, you may need to shift the hulls around so that more of them are under your neck. If you feel uncomfortable pressure anywhere, simply push the buckwheat away from that spot.
- Pillow too firm? Try fluffing it to add loft.
- You can add dried herbs such as lavender to your pillow for an aromatic sleep experience.
- Be patient as you adjust to your new buckwheat pillow. As mentioned above, the gentle rustling sound of the buckwheat hulls diminishes over time, and you’ll want to give yourself at least a week or two to get used to the slight sound. It may also take several days to grow accustomed to the firmness of a buckwheat pillow if you’re previously slept on plusher materials.