Cold Compresses That Are Better for the Environment

These DIY Pine Compresses will have you re-evaluating how you treat strains, sprains, and headaches

Most people think critically about the kind of painkillers they ingest and the topical ointments they put on their skin, but did you know that the liquid inside a standard first-aid cold compress contains Ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical also used in toxic fertilizers?

Ammonium nitrate works by first dissolving in water (the action initiated by breaking inner packet to “activate” a standard cold compress) which in turn makes it capable of absorbing heat, which makes the compress cold. However, ammonium nitrate is toxic and can be harmful to the body if it leaks from the cold pack (and it eventually ends up in a landfill).

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Graphic: Jessy Scarpone

These DIY cold compresses use anti-inflammatory pine oil to achieve the same effect as commercial-grade cold packs. Pine oil is smells amazing and is good for soothing injuries and headaches while easing muscle pains. Juniper oil also decreases inflammation, which makes it ideally suited for soothing joint pain and achy muscles.


  • Pine oil
  • Juniper oil (optional)
  • Cloth strips, cut into roughly 4-inch by 8-inch rectangles
  • Mixing bowl


Fill bowl with a heaping teaspoon of pine oil and disperse with hand. If desired, add a few drops of juniper oil. Dip 3-4 cotton clothes into water and wring out. Flatten, fold in half, and place each cloth into separate plastic bags. Place in freezer. Apply cold cloth to effected areas as needed.

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