Botanical: Humulus lupulus
Family: Urticaceae (nettle) - Cannabaceae (marijuana)
Other common names: Hop Bine, Strobile
Hops have an extremely calming effect on the body. Use of Hops is an old-fashioned (and effective) way to relieve insomnia and anxiety when nervous tension takes its toll. Hops can also stimulate gastric juices to soothe the digestive tract and ease cramps and pain. Hops' phytohormones may be helpful for menopausal symptoms related to reduced estrogen, and its rich silicon content may help improve bone health.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Hops have been found growing wild in the copses and hedges of Europe, Asia, North America and Australia and have been cultivated throughout the north temperate regions of the whole world. The plant is a hardy, deciduous, perennial climber that thrives in moist, fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade in open positions, and it may rise to a height of twenty-three feet. Male and female flowers are borne on different plants (dioecious), and the female plants, which produce the scaly, cone-like fruits called "strobiles," are used in herbal medicine and brewing beer. The origin of its botanical genus, Humulus, is somewhat cloudy. Historians have assumed that the name came from humus, the rich moist ground in which the plant grows. The plant's botanical specific, Lupulus, is derived from the Latin, lupus, meaning "wolf," because (as Pliny explains in the first century), Hops will choke and strangle osiers (willows) when growing near and climbing atop them. Finally, its English name, Hops, appears to come from the breweries of the Netherlands in the beginning of the fourteenth century, where Hops were used for flavoring and preserving beer, and preventing bacterial growth. Hops have been used for two thousand years as a treatment for insomnia and anxiety and as a popular food. The Roman, Pliny, described Hops as a popular garden vegetable, somewhat like asparagus. Curiously, several of the plant's medicinal qualities were first discovered by observing the pickers of Hops, who were said to tire quickly, demonstrating the plant's sedative activity. Moreover, its hormonal properties were noted in the elderly female pickers, who said they experienced the return of their menstrual cycles and other youthful characteristics. By the ninth century, Hops were an important ingredient in beer brewing (a use continued to this day). It is interesting to note that although Hops were used for flavoring and preserving beer throughout Europe, the plant was not adopted for traditional English ale, because they believed that Hops would engender melancholy. In fact, the esteemed Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179) observed in the text, Physica, that Hops had little use for humans, noting that it “increases melancholy in men.” However, she also observed that “its bitterness fends off decomposition of beverages and increases shelf life.” In 1653, the English herbalist, Culpeper, recommended Hops for skin infections, jaundice, headaches and "heat of the liver and stomach." Several native North American tribes discovered Hops as a treatment for insomnia, pain, kidney and urinary tract ailments, and the herb was well established in European medicine by the seventeenth century. Today, Hops are included in many European herbal medicines designed to promote sleep or relieve anxiety and stress. Hops were listed in the United States Pharmacopœia from 1831 through 1916, and the herb has had some interesting non-medicinal applications. For example, in Sweden, the bine was used in making a durable, coarse, white cloth. It has also been used in the manufacture of paper, and the leaves have been made into a brown dye and included in Hops pillows (said to induce sleep), as well as basket-weaving and wickerwork. Today, the main use of Hops continues in both herbal medicine and as the very important commercial component in the beer industry. Some of the constituents included in Hops are silicon, several polyphenols, tannins, flavonoids (quercetin, rutin, xanthohumol, quercitrin, isoquercitrin), humulene, humulone (the most important ingredient in brewing beer), a bitter principle (lupulone), volatile oil, fibers, glucose, glycoside, catechin, epicatechin, phytoestrogens, amino acids, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, arginine, astragalin, asparagine, phenylalanine, gamma-linolenic acid, geraniol, lignin, protein, tannic acids, limonene, linalool,beta-carotene, B-vitamins and vitamin C, calcium, selenium, choline, iron, chromium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, silicon and zinc.
Hops are used as an effective sedative and considered remarkable in cases of insomnia. Ageing the strobiles for two years allows two of the herb's chemical compounds, humulone and lupulone, to create a substance that is chemically similar to chlordiazepoxide, substances that are included in both Librium and Valium.
Used as a nervine and tonic, Hops has a calming effect on the entire body. It is said to have a soothing effect on the nervous system that is helpful in managing restlessness, anxiety, stress, nervous diarrhea, hyperactivity, fits, delirium tremens and, of course, insomnia.
Hops are considered to have anodyne qualities and have been used both internally and externally for centuries to alleviate aches, pains, cramps and spasms. As an an herbal pain reliever, Hops are often used to relieve
stomach cramps, earache, neuralgia and toothache.
As a further demonstration of soothing the body, Hops are considered excellent for the digestive system, calming the smooth muscle and easing muscle spasms (supporting the herb's historical use to treat cramps and menstrual pain). The 'bitter' principle in Hops is regarded as a digestive aid, fine stomachic and tonic that stimulates gastric juice secretion. This activity promotes good digestion, relieves and expels flatulence, eases colic, nervous stomach, intestinal cramps, indigestion and nervous intestinal complaints, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In addition, Hops are used to pep up the appetite.
Very important and ongoing research has proven the hormonal properties that Hops were thought to possess historically. Hops are believed to have estrogenic activity, and laboratory studies have indicated that some chemicals in it bind to estrogen receptors, helping to manage symptoms of menopause and other problems related to lack of estrogen production in women.
According to Dr. Qi Dai, assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, a ten-year study found that the particularly strong antioxidant effects of the polyphenols, which may be found in Hops, may help to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's disease.
Hops possess antiseptic qualities that can counteract bacteria. As such, the herb has been used to kill intestinal parasites (worms) and manage gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases. When used externally, Hops are included in poultices that are effective against inflammation, boils, tumors, old chronic ulcers, herpes, eczema, wounds, leg ulcers and painful swellings.
Pursuant to Hops' antiseptic and antioxidant qualities, 2014 research discovered that the bracts from Hops' leaves (normally disgarded during the brewing process) possess antixodant polyphenols that
may help battle cavities and gum disease by inhibiting the bacteria responsible for these dental conditions from being able to stick to surfaces and prevent the release of some bacterial toxins.
As a tonic for the liver, Hops are thought to increase the flow of bile, and the herb was used historically for liver afflictions, such as jaundice.
Hops are used as a diuretic and believed to relieve water retention and excess uric acid.
In December, 2009, researchers from the Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany, found that xanthohumol, a flavonoid found in Hops, may someday help inhibit prostate cancer. In animal models, the bitter compound was shown to block the male hormone, testosterone, which plays a role in the development of prostate cancer. Since it is known that estrogen and testosterone receptors react in similar ways, and studies have shown that xanthohumol blocks the way estrogen works by binding to its receptor, the new research could also potentially lead to lowering incidence of breast cancer. Stressing that the studies are only preliminary, the researchers hope that one day they will be able to definitively demonstrate that the Hops compound may prevent prostate cancer development in humans.
According to 2010 research from the University of California, Hops are believed to strengthen bones and generally promote better bone health, potentially helping to fight off osteoporosis (the common disease that increases risk of fractures), thanks to their rich dietary silicon content.
In 2012, interesting preliminary research conducted by the Netherlands’ Leiden University Medical Center demonstrated that compounds extracted from Hops may not only have therapeutic value for managing obesity, but may also have value as an anti-diabetic agent. Further research will follow for potential clinical use.
Pregnant women should not take Hops, nor should people who suffer from depression, since the herb is thought to be a mild depressant on the higher nerve centers. Do not exceed recommended doses, and Hops should not be taken for more than a few days in succession. Since there appears to be photoestrogenic activity in Hops, it is recommended that the herb not be taken in combination with medicines such as oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy; and children who have not reached puberty should not take Hops. Women with estrogen-sensitive disorders, especially estrogen dependent breast cancer should avoid this herb. Use of Hops increases the potency of anesthetics, anxiety drugs, anticonvulsives and insomnia medications and should not be taken without first consulting a physician. Do not use Hops if you drink alcohol or use medicines containing alcohol.