Buckwheat-husk pillows more commonly called buckwheat pillows are common in the Far East. Recently their popularity is growing in Western countries too. But are buckwheat pillows just a fad or even worse is this some kind of scam to hoodwink consumers into purchasing overpriced "genuine oriental" pillows? The fact that they have been used in the Far East for centuries would indicate that it is much more than just a fad. So the question becomes, are there real health benefits? And are there any negative health consequences from using oriental buckwheat pillows? I hope to answer these questions and more.

Many people who use these kinds of pillows come to prefer them over the standard synthetic or feather pillows we may be more familiar with. Buckwheat pillows conform to your head, neck and spine when you rest on them. This provides extra comfort which optimizes the sleeping position and is thought to be beneficial. Buckwheat pillows allow the air to circulate which means the pillows are cooler. This is great news for the hot summer months.

Buckwheat husk pillows have been used for centuries in the Far East. Japanese guest houses often provide these kinds of pillows. The Japanese and Koreans claim that all kinds of complaints can be relieved by the use of buckwheat pillows. Health benefits are said to include relief from headaches as well as migraine headaches, a reduction in back pain, reduced snoring, an easing of neck pain, muscle pain in the neck and shoulder area and even the back, being able to cope better with stress, and a good night's sleep.

For the environmentally concious, the buckwheat husks or buckwheat hulls as they are sometimes called are a natural product rather than a manufactured one. This makes them more environmentally friendly. This natural pillow filling has some advantages over they typical pillow fillings of foam and feathers. The most important feature of buckwheat pillows is that they conform to the exact contours of your body. This means that the level of support is the best. As this provides the same amount of support for all areas, it reduces the stress on all areas supported by the pillow. Another advantage of buckwheat hull filled pillows is that they are the cooler in the summer months and warmer in winter. With many buckwheat pillows you have the ability to adjust the quantity of the hulls in the pillow itself to your individual requirements by adding or removing hulls as required until you get the perfect fit. The pillow filling is durable and can last for many years. This makes buckwheat pillows economically more viable. They may well be more expensive than standard pillows but taking their lifespan into account, they become a much more attractive proposition as far as your wallet is concerned.

This all seems to suggest that buckwheat hull pillows are fantastic and we should rush out to buy pillows made from buckwheat as soon as possible.

There is one possible drawback that I discovered while researching the topic. As I live in Japan myself I have used these pillows many times myself. I definitely enjoy the fact that they have a cool feel about them in the summer. Personally I prefer a bit of a softer feeling pillow myself though so don't use a buckwheat one every day.

One drawback that has been reported in Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors is that the use of buckwheat pillows has been seen to cause an allergic reaction in some users. The scientists were keen to find out what exactly the sufferers were allergic to. Was it the buckwheat husks themselves or something else.

It turned out to be dust mites living within the buckwheat hulls caused an allergic reaction in some people. This is good news in one respect. It was not the buckwheat directly that was to blame. However it is worrying that dustmites can live in your pillow! That kind of puts me off going to bed. There is plenty of good news even if this study suggests buckwheat pillows are not healthy. In Korea about a third of the population use buckwheat husk pillows but there are very few reported cases of allergic reactions. This suggests that while dust mites can live inside the pillows it is not necessarily the case. Or it could just be that most people aren't allergic to them.

The scientists also report that people who are allergic to eating foods like buckwheat (soba) noodles are also likely to be allergic to buckwheat pillows. So this is something else to watch out for.

I hope that this has provided a balanced account of the benefits and potential costs of using Japanese buckwheat pillows.