Everyone at some point will experience headaches and minor muscle aches and pains. One option to deal with these issues is heat. According to Spine Health, applying heat dilates blood vessels allowing ease of blood flow to the affected area. It also allows the tendons and muscles of the area to relax, which will ease the pain. Heating pads are available commercially but for DIY fans and those in need of immediate relief, it's easy to make your own.
Make a Basic Herbal Heating Pad
Making your own herbal heating pad may seem like a daunting experience, but it is actually quite simple.
You Will Need
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
- A cotton sport or tube sock
- Cotton string or crafters cotton
- 1 tablespoon of herbs or 3 drops essential oil of choice
It is important you use only cotton socks. Synthetics can melt and cause burns.
- Combine the rice and 1 tablespoon herbs or 3 drops of the essential oils. Keep in mind the scent will be stronger when heated, so start out with this basic amount of herbs and/or oils. Like any recipe, you may want to adjust the amount of oils or herbs for your own preferences.
- Spoon the rice mixture into the sock you have selected. Make sure you are able to flatten the sock. Tie it closed with the string.
- Place the flattened sock in the microwave on high for one minute. All microwaves are different, so make sure you keep a close eye on it while heating. One minute later, test the bag to see if it is hot. It should be hot but not burn your fingers. You may even want to use two socks and place the filled one inside an empty one prior to heating. If it isn't hot enough, heat it in three second intervals until it is. Remember, you are applying heat not cooking.
- You can also heat the rice in a microwaveable bowl and use a funnel to pour it into the sock when heated.
- Place the warmed sock on your forehead or neck for headaches. You can also place it on knees or wrists or even on the back for relief of muscle pain. Leave it in place for 20 minutes or until it begins to lose heat.
The sock you use will depend on what you have available.
- You can use any sort of cotton sock. Tube socks work well, as do most cotton sport socks.
- The size of sock depends on the area you wish to cover. It also depends on the size of your socks. If you have big feet or want to cover a large area, use a large sock. For those that live alone and only have a single size of sock, you can always make two bags. This may work particularly well, especially for shoulder pain. Each shoulder can have its own heating pad.
- The sock should be either new or clean.
While the instructions above call for rice, you can use other fillings, as well.
- Rice is most commonly used because most people have it in their pantry. It heats well and retains the warmth. It also flows nicely and will mold to wherever it is placed
- Cherry pits are a nice filling. When you are eating cherries, just save the pits. Once you have a cup and a half, wash them and allow them to dry. They will emit a cherry scent when heated.
- You can buy flax seeds in the bulk section of your supermarket. They retain heat longer than other fillers and give off a pleasant aroma when heated. They mold well to wherever they are placed
Different herbs do different things, so make sure you choose the ones that are best for your situation.
- Lavender - This is one of the most popular herbs to use for heating pads. It is a relaxing herb. Lavender assists in relieving stress and tension. Great for headaches and anxiety, you can use it at work with or without heat. Lavender is an excellent choice for sleep issues. Lavender flowers that are food grade or sachet grade are fine. Organic or high quality natural lavender essential oil is an excellent choice for your heating pad, as well. Do not use lavender perfume oil. Although labs can recreate the scent, they are unable to recreate the healing properties.
- Peppermint - This is used as an effective headache remedy. This will work best on headaches if placed on the forehead or neck. Peppermint is also an excellent analgesic or pain reliever. Use it to ease muscle pain. If you are using the dried herbs, make sure they are green. Washed out coloring is a sign of old herbs. Peppermint essential oil is also a good choice for your heating pad.
- Hops - These should be a yellowish color. Hops are great for sleep issues. Place some in your heating pad and slip it into your pillow case to help you sleep. However, many people do not like the smell of hops, so check the aroma for personal preference before you use it.
It is ok to combine herbs. For example, chamomile and lavender is a good combo for stress or menstrual cramps.
Purchased Herbal Heating Pads
A number of sites have herbal heating pads if you choose to purchase one rather than make it.
Nature`s Approach Basic Herb Pack
This herb pack costs around $9 at Amazon. The 6 x 14-inch hot and cold pack offers the aromatherapy benefits of rosemary, lavender, spearmint, as well as other herbs and grains and is available in a variety of colors and patterns. This pad is microwaveable or for a cold application, you can pop it in the freezer. Amazon reviewers give it 4 1/2 out of five stars and note its exceptional durability, ease of use, and scent. They also love that they can use it in both hot and cold applications.
Ultra Premium All Natural Microwavable Aromatherapy Heating Pads
This 7.5 x 13-inch herbal hot and cold pack is filled with cherry pits, flax seed, and organic herbs. SacksyThyme charges around $40, and you have the option of choosing your own herbs. The cover is 100% cotton and has channels so the filler won't clump. Reviewers on the products page give it 4 out of 4 stars for being well-made and smelling great. They were quite happy with the customer service, as well.
Herbal Concepts Neck and Shoulder Wrap
This pack is herb and grain filled. It is somewhat larger in size at 24 x 16.5 inches. It has a high collar for better coverage, and you can use it hot or cold. It is available for around $30 at Herbal Concepts. Reviewers on Amazon seem to like it with a 4 out of 5 star rating. There were a couple of concerns. One noted the seam split and another reviewer, who still loved the pack, mentioned it burst into flame while heating. The company does have a warning to not overheat on each item.
Herbal Concepts Back Wrap
At 16 x 24 x .5 this herbal pack is approximately the same size as the neck wrap. It is grain-filled, but there is no information on what herbs are being used. The back wrap can be used hot and cold and comes in a variety of colors. Reviewers gave it 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon although there seemed to be some concern with the length of the shoulder flaps. This product is available at Herbal Concepts for about $37 and Amazon for $33
Herbal Concepts Lumbar Wrap
The lumbar wrap is the largest wrap by far. It measures 61.5 x 6 x .5 inches. It is designed to tie around the waist. Herb- and grain-filled, there is no indication as to which herbs have been used. It comes in a variety of colors, and the company states it can be used hot or cold. It is less expensive from herbal concepts, selling for $25 rather than the $28 price on Amazon. Amazon reviewers loved it, but one reviewer was not impressed with its ability to be used cold.
Which to Choose
Now comes the hard part. Should you make your own or purchase a ready-made one? Both options have benefits.
- Making your own herbal heating pad allows you to experiment with fillings and scents.
- Doing so is inexpensive, quick, and easy. You can make it into a whimsical creature or just use it without decoration. The choices are limited only by your imagination.
- Purchasing an herbal heating pad is easier than making your own.
- A purchased pad is great for when you are short on time.
- Likewise, purchased pads have often been tested and reviewed by a number of people.
- When you are done with purchased heating pads, you can store them until you needed.
- The downside to a purchased pad is it is likely much more expensive than the DIY variety.
Warm Herbal Relief
Ultimately the choice is yours. Whether you make your own herbal heating pad or buy one, the benefits of heat and scent can help you sleep, ease your anxiety, and relieve pain.