Make rice bags easily and customize with herbs for various ailments


Instead of buying a hot water bottle and ice packs of varying sizes to fit different areas of the body, make your own natural rice bags and customize them for hot or cold uses. You don’t even need to know how to sew. You probably already have everything you need in your home to put together bags for use on joint pain, headaches, and muscle tension. Even better, add herbs from tea bags or your spice cabinet to enhance the healing properties of the rice bags. Herbs add an aromatherapy benefit that could help to combat insomnia, stress, PMS, and related symptoms. Use rice or other basics like beans as filler, and find socks or pillowcases to hold them.


How to Make Rice Bags


Making the rice bags is very simple. Take a clean sock, perhaps one of the many who lost its match overtime, and fill the bottom half with rice or the filler (e.g. oatmeal, cherry pits, flax seeds, feed corn, or beans) of your choice. Then, tie the top part in a knot and you have a rice bag! A piece of string or a shoelace (no metal) can be tied around the bottom of the knot to make the filler extra secure. This size rice bag is ideal for the neck, forehead, soles of the feet, and even the inguinal crease, which is the line where the top for the thighs meets the pelvis. This area can be sore on pregnant ladies and athletes.


For a larger rice bag, fill an old pillowcase with at least 3 to 5 pounds of rice and then tie off the end. The rice will settle on the bottom and make a long line that fits well against the lower back. You can instead tie it closed with a shoelace, sort of like Santa’s sack of presents. A smaller pillowcase like the ones used for decorative square pillows makes a rice bag perfectly sized for use against the abdomen or upper back. You’d need to sew this type shut though.


If you have a bit of sewing skill and want a rice bag that is sized just right, an old towel or cotton T-shirt could be cut up to make a rice bag too. Cut a square or rectangular shape in a size small enough to still fit into a microwave. Simply leave ½ an inch extra on one edge of a side for a seam. Sew most of the bag shut, fill with rice, and then sew that last bit closed.


The main idea is to make a bag to fit each problem. If you often have lower back pain, sinus headaches, and foot cramps, you’re not going to want to use the same rice bag for all three. Use a pillowcase to make a lower back bag and a sock bag or two for your feet. These can be stored in a cupboard when not in use. Make another sock bag for your head, but leave it in the freezer so it’s always cold when you need to numb the pain.


Adding the Herbs


In addition to making bags for each specific purpose (hot or cold, and large, medium, or small), putting herbs in the rice bags that correspond to the specific pain or discomfort you wish to remedy just makes sense. Mixing dried herbs with rice or a different filler enhances the ability of the rice bag to do its job. First, mix the herbs and filler in a container, and then stir them up. Seal them together and let sit for a few days, occasionally shaking them up. Then, pour the mixture into sock, pillowcase, or other bag.


Essential oils can also enhance rice bags, but you don’t want to put them inside. Instead, make a simple cover, such as a larger sock or another pillowcase, to put over your rice bag after it comes out of the microwave or freezer. Add a few drops of essential oil, and you’re all set.


Heating and Cooling the Rice Bags

Heating a rice bag is a quick process, taking only 1 to 3 minutes, usually. More rice requires more time, and it depends on the power of the microwave. It makes sense to start with 1 minute and then check the temperature. Do not leave bags unattended whilst in the microwave. They don’t often catch fire, but it is a possibility. Placing a small cup of water in the microwave with the rice bag can decrease risks and add moisture that is particularly beneficial for rice bags containing herbs.


Rice Bags for Headaches

If you suffer from headaches, putting certain herbs in a rice bag specifically for head pain could help. Lavender is a soothing herb that many find pleasant when their heads hurt, but some other good herbs to include are rose petals, cloves, eucalyptus, and marjoram. Blending several herbs together can be most beneficial for some people, but simply adding equal parts of two preferred herbs, like lavender and eucalyptus, may be best for you. Selecting the right combination is a benefit of making your own rice bags. Certain smells might aggravate some people when their heads hurt.


Stress Relief

A warm, pleasantly smelling rice bag around your neck could help you relax. Some of the herbs most associated with stress relief include favorites such as chamomile, lavender, orange, lemon, and bergamot. You might even find some of these in your cupboard, especially if you’re a tea drinker. The dried herbs in tea are perfect for adding to rice bags. Marjoram, sandalwood, and ylang ylang are other stress relief favorites. You may need to hit up a natural food store for essential oils though.


Eye Strain Herbs

When your eyes hurt from staring at a computer screen or printed pages all day, a warm rice bag across the eyes can feel wonderful. Lavender and chamomile can help soothe strained eyes. A cold pack may be better if there is inflammation.


Herbs for Insomnia

If you’re having difficulty sleeping, a warm rice bag on your stomach or your forehead that is filled with sleep promoting smells could help send you to dreamland. Lavender, jasmine, chamomile, rose, and bergamot are useful for relaxation. Adding some drops of frankincense, clary sage, or ylang ylang to a cover could ease you into sleep.


PMS and Rice Bags

A warm rice bag on your stomach could soothe cramps associated with PMS. But take the treatment one step further by adding some drops of jasmine, neroli, or rose oils to the rice bag’s cover, and help reduce irritability and depression too.


Rice Bags and Muscle Tension

Simply using a hot rice bag on tense muscles can combat muscle tension but using the herbs meant for relaxation and stress could increase the benefits.


Joint Pain and Rice Bags

Instead of hard ice packs, use more pliable rice bags that have been in the freezer. Herbs in the bags won’t give much additional benefit for this purpose, but a nice smelling rice bag beats a boring ice pack any day.

Helpful Tips


  • If you want a softer, more bendable rice bag, add less filler. This might be nice for a sock meant to go around the neck. However, a bag you want to put under the arches of your feet or you are planning to lie on might be better with a firmer texture, so add more fillers.
  • Do not use minute rice or cooked rice.
  • Use thick socks with rice so that ends don’t stick through and jab you.
  • Flax seeds take longer to heat up but retain their heat longer.
  • If you don’t want to leave a rice bag in the freezer to use as an ice pack, allow it to sit in there for 45 minutes before using.
  • If you’re out of clean socks or not at home, and you need a rice bag asap, pour uncooked rice into a Ziploc freezer bag and heat it up. Cover with a dish towel or paper towels to keep from burning your skin.


Sarka Jonae
Sarka-Jonae is a novelist, personal trainer, massage therapist, and fitness writer. Her debut novel, BETWEEN BOYFRIENDS, will be published in October 2013. SJ writes for,,, and her own blog,