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What are Buckwheat Pillows?

By KN
Updated May 23, 2024
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Asian cultures have been sleeping on buckwheat pillows for hundreds of years, but it wasn't until the 1980s that western cultures began to appreciate the benefits of these pillows.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is commonly mistaken for a grain, but it is actually a fruit. It is related to the rhubarb family. Buckwheat pillows are stuffed with hulls of the fruit, the husks that protect the kernels. These hulls are roasted to remove dust from the growing fields before before being placed into the pillowslips.

These hulls are a natural, inexpensive and renewable resource, unlike the petroleum-based foam used in many pillows. In addition to environmental bonuses, buckwheat pillows provide excellent support for the head, neck and back because the filling contours to the weight and shape of the body during sleep. The pillows also provide natural air circulation between individual hulls, resulting in ideal temperatures for peaceful sleeping.

Buckwheat pillows have become a staple cushion for yoga students, but they are found mainstream as well. Some of the swankiest hotels worldwide have begun offering them to their guests as an alternative because of their increased popularity.

Many manufacturers have expanded their lines to provide options in addition to the standard bed pillow. Buckwheat pillows are available in full-body sizes similar to a futon. They are also offered as keyboard wrist rests, eye pillows, travel pillows, and neck-rolls. There are even tubular pillows with straps, used for lumbar support while driving, working, or sitting at a desk. Some manufacturers have taken to adding herbs, such as lavender and chamomile, to the hulls to add a touch of aromatherapy.

Many healthcare professionals have started recommending a buckwheat pillow to patients suffering from such conditions as migraines, snoring, insomnia and menopausal night sweats.

Some people are allergic to the filling in these pillows, but this is usually a result of dust-covered hulls. To eliminate that possibility, consumers should buy only top quality pillows produced by manufacturers that roast the hulls. Many cheaper pillows are filled with hulls that have been vacuumed, not roasted, which could leave dust residue that might trigger an allergy.

A good quality buckwheat pillow can last for 7-10 years with proper care. The outside cotton cover should be washed regularly, but the pillow itself should not be washed. Instead, it should be set in direct sunlight for a few hours once every two months or so.

PillowGuide is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon973482 — On Oct 11, 2014

Buckwheat pillows are great for side-sleepers, not so great for tummy sleepers. IIRC, Japanese stores even had slightly different shaped pillows that mainly go under the neck--probably meant for back sleepers who prefer firm support.

By anon358931 — On Dec 13, 2013

I can't sleep on anything but buckwheat now. To save a little extra money (they're not as cheap as other pillows), I just made my own using hulls I got online.

By hullo — On May 23, 2013

Buckwheat pillows are fantastic! It took me a couple of months to adjust to using one. Once I had gotten used to it, I absolutely loved it.

By anon258629 — On Apr 02, 2012

I have used a buckwheat pillow for a few years now. It has helped my back pain and allergies so much. Everyone should get one if they suffer from the same problems!

By anon252408 — On Mar 05, 2012

Thank you for this information. @amwald: I was having horrible neck problems and my doctor suggested getting a buckwheat pillow and it has helped me out a lot. My neck doesn't hurt near as much as it used to, and it's comfortable. Good luck getting neck pains away!

By anon165005 — On Apr 03, 2011

Can anyone tell me where I can buy buckwheat grain in wholesale.

By anon129633 — On Nov 24, 2010

Buckwheat pillows weigh more than I do.

By anon74295 — On Apr 01, 2010

Buckwheat is a wonderful pillow for a side sleeper. I sleep on my side and the nice thing about BW is that once you adjust the pillow, it pretty much holds its shape and does not squash down with the weight of your head.

By anon59172 — On Jan 06, 2010

Our buckwheat pillows have gotten very darkly stained on the "ticking", despite the presence of a pillowcase. I believe it is from facial oils being absorbed into the buckwheat. Any suggestions? Can this be cleaned; can it be avoided?

By leilani — On May 04, 2009

Buckwheat can cause problems for some people. In some cultures where buckwheat pillows are the norm, such as Japan, just be aware of the potential allergic reaction.

If you start having problems with breathing, it just might be the pillow. It happened to a relative of mine, and when the pillow was removed so was the difficulty with breathing.

By amwald — On Mar 22, 2009

Would a buckwheat pillow be good for a side sleeper and a person with a neck problem?

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