How To

    Switching to Buckwheat Pillows (And Why I Wanted To)

    Over the last few months, I’ve made a lot of changes to my flat. I’ve switched to natural cleaners, replaced disposable items with biodegradable options and I’m trying to learn how to cook everything from scratch. There has been a lot of trial and error – especially in the cooking department – but one of the changes I’ve made the most recently and which I’m still over the moon about was switching our pillow (and mattress, but I’ll talk about that later) to a buckwheat alternative. The main thing which spurred this decision was when I came across this post, and then did some more research to confirm was in my mattress and pillows. Long story short, there was a tone of pretty toxic stuff in them, so I decided to look for non-toxic and biodegradable alternatives in the UK.

    Since my husband and I want to eventually own our own land, our intention is to avoid – as much as possible – having anything in the house which we couldn’t just throw into the compost pile. We don’t have our land yet, but our thinking is that the more we change our lifestyle and mindset now, the better. Better for us, and better for the land which we will be living on.

    Unfortunately, the whole process was a complete minefield of outrageously expensive brands, brands which claimed to be “organic” and they weren’t, and a lot of brands which were based in the US with eye-watering import tax fees. Just looking at the shipping costs made my wallet hyperventilate. I considered trying to find a traditional Japanese shikibuton, but even those were a struggle to find one which would completely biodegrade. In general, my rule is that I don’t mind paying for something well made, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay a couple of hundred pounds for shipping on top of an already £500-£700 mattress. My bargain hunter side would never let me get away with it and neither would my wallet.

    I eventually found a UK based company which made buckwheat pillows and mattress. The mattress especially reminded me of a shikibuton, and it’s made with buckwheat hull filling and a tough cotton casing,  but I’ll talk about the mattress another day. For today, let’s just talk about how I got on with the pillows.


    Why I Liked The Idea of Buckwheat

    I’d originally considered getting a pure wool pillow, but I was intrigued by the idea of buckwheat since it was a lot more affordable, less likely to collect dust, and it’s mite resistant. Not to mention I could fill it up or empty it of Buckwheat depending on how soft or firm I wanted the pillow to be. Hey, I like having options.

    It did occur to me that it would also be really simple to make my own, but since I don’t have a sewing machine for the moment – and my hand stitching is the stuff of nightmares – I wanted to buy one and try it out.

    How it Went

    I love it! The first thing I noticed is that for the first time in years I would wake up and not feel congested, and my face wouldn’t be puffy. Normally it would take me about an hour in the morning before my face would de-puff, looking back at it I can’t believe I didn’t see that as a warning sign that my skin was not happy. I can also mold the pillow exactly how I want to before I go to sleep, it’s basically a natural bean bag.

    Normal Pillow vs. Buckwheat Pillow?

    They are very different to normal pillows, heavier, with a slight rustle each time you move them and, at first, the faint smell of buckwheat. If you’re a very, very light sleeper I think you might find the rustling a little distracting. Personally, it doesn’t bother me at all, but it might for some people.

    My husband is the type who will normally sleep with two pillows, but since switching to these, one is more than enough since they’re quite thick. Like I said before, you can take the buckwheat out if you want (it has a zip down the side so that you can access the stuffing) and you have complete control over how firm or soft you want it.

    Now that I’ve bought it I think I’ll make any future pillows, but I’m not expecting to have to throw these out for a good decade, and hopefully, by then I’ll have a sewing matching and can have a go at making my own.

    I bought mine here

    How To

    Something That Helped My Morning Sickness

    Turns out I’m lucky. Nobody in my family really suffers from morning sickness, but me, when I got pregnant I had three months of puking my guts out. I couldn’t stand up and I couldn’t keep food down. If I was lucky I’d manage to get one full meal in before it all became too much. Yay me.

    Between nausea and the vomiting it was nausea that I just couldn’t handle, and after a month and a half of this, I was ready to try anything! Nearly everyone I talked to recommended ginger, but ginger makes me throw up even when I’m not pregnant, I really, really hate the stuff! So it really wasn’t an option. In the end, I found essential oil recommended on a pregnancy forum and figured I’d give it a shot since it was getting really quite unbearable. I already have a pretty insane collection of essential oils as it is, so I had all the oils to hand and the mix I tried was just what I needed to take the edge off. It wasn’t a cure, but it seriously helped!

    Most people burned the oils in an oil burner, but I needed something I could keep in my pocket and carry around with me when I went out, so I did this instead. The oils listed below are the ones which personally worked for me, but other oils which are recommended are: clove bud, ginger, lavender, mint (spearmint and peppermint), black pepper, rosewood, and sandalwood.

    What I Used: 

    • 3 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
    • 3 drops of Chamomile Essential Oil
    • 3 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
    • Small Glass Cork Topped Bottle
    • Half a cotton ball

    I wanted to be able to carry the mixture around with me in my pocket without having to worry that the bottle would turn upside down and leak oils all over my clothes, so I added half a cotton ball inside to absorb the oils. I found when I did this that I could smell the oils a lot better than when it has just been loose liquid inside the bottle. I don’t know why that was the case, but the oils definitely diffused better.

    Once the cotton was in the bottle I added the oils, let them soak into the cotton and then put the cork in until I needed to open it. That’s it really.

    Each time I felt like I needed to make a dash for the bathroom a sniff of this would usually do the trick enough for me not to throw up. I wouldn’t call it a cure for morning sickness, but it took the edge off and knocked my nausea levels from a constant nine out of ten to a very manageable three.

    How To

    DIY Natural Furniture Polish

    My favorite piece of furniture in our flat is this beautiful rosewood table which we found on Gumtree a few months ago. You should have seen my face when I found it, I looked like a kid in a sweet shop! My husband and I were moving from my old small flat to a bigger place where I could finally fit a table, but I didn’t want to buy anything new if I could find it second hand. I also didn’t want to buy a temporary piece of furniture that ‘would do’ for now. I hate that. When I buy something, especially furniture, I like to know that I’ve bought something well made that will last as long as I will. Maybe I just get too attached to things around me, but I like permanent features in my home. It makes me feel a lot more relaxed, and I love finding a bargain.

    This table will probably end up being a family heirloom, and if it doesn’t, I’ll haunt the first person who tries to throw it away. But in the meantime, I want to maintain it as well as possible.

    Since it’s second hand it was a little battered with a few scratches here and there, but all it really needed was a little bit of a polish, and since I’m gradually clearing out all my shop-bought products I thought I’d make my furniture polish instead of buying it.


    • Walnut oil 1/3
    • Olive oil 1/3
    • Beeswax 1/3
    • Five drops Sweet Orange essential oil
    • Five drops of Lemon Essential Oil

    The first thing you need to figure out is how much you’ll need. I have a tin jar I’m re-using which used to be a travel candle, so the first thing I needed to do is figure out how much it could hold (2.9 oz) and divide that into three. One-third of walnut oil, one-third of olive oil and one-third of beeswax.

    As for the essential oils you use, that’s really up to you. I prefer a citrusy smell for something like this, but you could try so many different variations. How about lavender and rose? Sandalwood and rosemary? Or chamomile and peppermint?

    Now for the mix: 

    I have a little stainless steel mixing pot which I can heat my ingredients in and melt them over a pot of boiling water. I’m not a massive fan of heating ingredients in a pot which directly on the hob. I’ve burned and overheated too many ingredients that way. If a stainless steel pot is all you have, then feel free to use that, but be very, very careful with the heat! It’s better to have it too low than too high. I would recommend though that you don’t use a pot which you intend to use for food. While it’s not impossible, beeswax – especially the taste of it – can be very hard to get off your cookware, so maybe don’t use your favorite cooking pot.

    First thing I melted down was the beeswax. It’s the thickest of the ingredients I used, so I wanted to make sure there were no lumps in the final product. I used a wooden lolly stick to mix the beeswax until it had melted completely, then I added the olive oil, walnut oil and, finally, the essential oils. Mix it thoroughly, pour it into the pot you want to use and then wait for it to cool. That’s it! Lovely, homemade, non-toxic furniture polish!

    How To

    Why I Use Tooth Powder Instead of Toothpaste (and How to Make it)

    When I say that I make my own toothpaste I guess a more accurate description would be tooth clay or powder. Now, I know that it probably looks a little weird, especially if you’re used to buying ‘normal’ toothpaste. For me the first time I made my own toothpaste it was more out of desperation than a health decision. You see, I’d been using a brand called Sensodyne for years because I had really, really sensitive teeth. I’m not talking about can’t drink cold water type of sensitive, I’m saying that I couldn’t open my mouth on a cold day to breath without my teeth feeling like they were going to shatter in my mouth. It hurt!

    It was only once I got into oil pulling a few years ago and noticed a massive difference to my teeth that I decided to experiment with making my own toothpaste, after all, if I was going to swish coconut oil around my mouth for 15 minutes then using clay to clean my teeth was not that much stranger.

    I’m not exaggerating when I say that my tooth sensitivity went away in a week. A week! Fine, that might just be my very lucky experience, but that was massive to me. Also, my teeth got significantly whiter and they were so much cleaner.  When I went to the dentist shortly after, she told me to keep doing what I was doing because my teeth were, in her words, in perfect condition, minus the cavities I’d managed to get when I was a kid. Though even those are improving between oil-pulling and the change in toothpaste/powder.

    How I Make It:

    • Small glass or plastic jar: If you’re going to use green clay avoid using a metal pot, or even a metal lid unless it has a card buffer between it and the powder. The reason for this is because it’s thought that the metal reacts with green clay and will reduce how effective it is, so if you can, avoid metal.
    • Green clay: I bought mine on Amazon years ago (I got a big bag) but you can sometimes find it in pharmacies or some natural health shops. If you live in France you’ll almost definitely find some in a pharmacy.
    • Activated Charcoal: You can just crush up medicinal charcoal tablets if that’s all you have, but be careful as some brands put a sugar coating on their tablets to make them taste nicer.
    • Sea Salt: I use the regular sea salt you can buy in Aldi, crush it into a powder and mix it all in. If you can always go for unrefined sea salt. There are a few reasons I used salt in my mix. It tastes better with it. It is a natural disinfectant, and it briefly encourages an alkaline environment in your mouth, which is much better for the enamel on your teeth, and makes it hard for bad bacteria to survive in your mouth.

    Why those ingredients?

    I wanted to use these ingredients for the following reasons: Green clay is an incredibly powerful detoxer and acts like a sponge drawing out rubbish under the surface it’s on. If you’ve ever tried a face mask which is primarily green clay you know what I mean when I talk about it pulling the rubbish out. It’s also minerally very rich, which can hardly be a bad thing since the gums are highly absorbent.

    As for the charcoal, while it might seem counterintuitive to use a pure black powder to whiten teeth, I noticed the difference after the first try. Some people debate how effective it is and say it’s just a marketing myth, but even if it is, I also like it because it’s anti-fungal, anti-odor, anti-viral, and antibacterial properties. They’re all properties I’d quite like my tooth powder to have. Especially if I’ve overdosed on garlic bread.

    The Mix:

    Depending on the size of the jarl you’re using the ratio I normally use is 2/5’s charcoal, 2/5’s green clay and 1/5 sea salt. Mix it together (it’s generally advised to avoid using anything metal like a spoon if you’re using green clay), and that’s it. Simple.

    What To Consider:

    If you haven’t used a clay-based toothpaste before it can be a little strange and drying. What I do is dampen the toothbrush, dip it into the pot and then brush my teeth. Yes, you will briefly look like patient zero while doing this, and I did get a strange look from my husband when he first saw me brushing my teeth, but once you’ve rinsed your teeth will be back to normal. One thing you have to be careful with is to always give your sink a good rinse afterward because the charcoal can stain the ceramic. Same goes for clothes.

    Other Mixes:

    Some people like to add bicarbonate soda to their toothpaste for its tooth whitening effects, but personally, I find that charcoal is just as effective, and using bicarbonate every day can make my teeth sensitive again. If I’m going to use it, I’ll use it on its own as a one-off, not every day mixed into my toothpowder.

    Coconut oil is also another popular ingredient in homemade toothpowder, but I don’t like to add it because I really hate the texture. I’ll be fine if I’m using it for oil pulling, but I hate it mixed in with all the other ingredients.

    You can also add essential oils, but a word of warning, check that the oil is suitable to ingest and never put too much of it in. If you’re thinking of dabbling in essential oils I would recommend you get a good aromatherapy book like the Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. It’s not massively expensive and you can check things such as the active ingredients and safety data.