Hops flower (Humulus lupulus)
Also known as: Houblon, Pliny the Elder, Lupulin
Parts Used: Flowers (female), fruit (strobiles), leaves
Systems/Organs affected: brain, stomach, nervous system, heart, liver, digestive, respiratory, gall bladder, hormonal, pancreas, urinary
Properties: febrifuge, nervine, anodyne, bitter tonic, sedative, hypnotic, diuretic, anthelmintic, astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cholagogue, lithotriptic, aperient, anaphrodisiac, stimulant, estrogenic, expectorant, anti-carcinogenic, galactogogue
Hops is a member of the Cannabaceae (Cannabis) family and a distant relative of marijuana. That, in and of itself, is amazing. It is a vigorous plant native to Europe but now cultivated all over the globe. It has stout, hairy stems that allow it to climb up to 26 feet! It is a dioecious perennial (meaning it has both male and female flowers) that has a dark, green, heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges. The female hop flowers form strobiles (a kind of vining axis of bracts and stipules) that zigzag. Each branch has a bract which bears a pair of stipules which holds another 4-6 bracts, each holding a flower. When harvesting, the aerial portion of the plant is cut and the roots left in the ground to produce a new crop the following year. The root stock can live to be up to 50 years old. The best time to harvest in this region is between August and September when the flowers turn a rusty brown and have a yellowish powder on them. Hops should be dried immediately and then refrigerated until used as the bitter components in the plant break down quickly (between 50-70% in 6 months).
The Anglo-Saxons referred to hops as ‘hoppari’ which means ‘to climb’. Humulus comes from the Slavic word ‘chmele’ which the Romans then changed to the Latin ‘lupulus’ which means ‘wolf’ or ‘small wolf’. The Romans believe hops would strangle the plants they climbed, similar to how a wolf kills its prey. Pliny consumed the young shoots in spring much like the country folk of England still do today; apparently it is much like asparagus and the young tops were bundled and brought to market to sell.
Earlier practitioners stated that oil of hops would restore even a bald head to full hair. Mesue the Younger (around 1000-1015), an Arabic practitioner, wrote that hops reduced fevers, purified the blood, purged yellow bile from the body and is responsible for 17 different anti-inflammatory effects. Other Arab physicians also spoke of it being a digestive bitter. In Ayurvedic medicine hops is used to alleviate headaches, nervous tension and indigestion. King Wencelas IV incorporated hops into his coat of arms in recognition of its rejuvenating effects. (He recommended taking a cold brew sludge bath). Our Native Americans have long used hops for a host of conditions. The Fox and Delaware tribes used it as a sleep agent and for relaxation (the Delaware also used it for toothaches and earaches). The Cherokee used it as a sedative, analgesic, for kidney and bladder stone, as an anti-rheumatic and to help with uterine and breast-related issues. The Dakota used it for gastrointestinal problems and for wound healing while the Navajo used it for colds and coughs.
Hops contains a powerful antioxidant called xanthohumol. It has a very high scavenging rate against peroxyl radicals which are one of the most common reactive oxygen species in the body. In vitro tests on this substance have found it to be anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative (prevents the spread of malignant cells into surrounding tissues), decreases plasma glucose and lipid levels, is antimutagenic, anti-carcinogenic and may be important in diabetes.
Hops contains isohumulones, another amazing compound found to reduce insulin resistance. A randomized study of 20 volunteers with mild type 2 diabetes found their hemoglobin AIC’s and blood glucose levels significantly decreased after eight weeks on isohumulones (100 mg twice daily). Another such study on 94 patients found a marked decrease in overall body fat after 12 weeks of supplementation (48 mg). Other research indicates hops may be used for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatism and osteoarthritis. Xanthohumol is under study for its use against both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and the Linus Pauling Institute has shown recently that is is active against ovarian, breast and colon cancers (at least in a lab). They believe it also may help to prevent prostate cancer.
Uses & Effectiveness
Body odor. Early research suggests that applying a deodorant that contains hops and a specific zinc salt to the underarm can reduce body odor.
Insomnia. Some research suggests that taking a combination of hops extract plus valerian extract at bedtime helps some people fall asleep faster. It appears to take 28 days of treatment to see these benefits. However, a combination of valerian extract and hops extract seems to improve sleep quality similarly to bromazepam (Lexotanil) when taken for only 14 days. Sleep quality does not appear to be improved by taking a combination of hops, soya oil, soya lecithin, and Cannabis sativa (Cyclamax) for one month.
Menopausal symptoms. Early research suggests that taking hops extract daily does not improve menopausal symptoms after 8-12 weeks of treatment. However, it might improve the severity of hot flashes after 6 weeks of treatment.
Postmenopausal conditions. Some research suggests that applying 1-2 grams of a vaginal gel that contains hops, hyaluronic acid, liposomes, and vitamin E can reduce vaginal dryness, burning, itching, and rash in postmenopausal women.
Leg ulcers. Early research suggests that applying a cream containing bladderwrack, English ivy, horse chestnut, gotu kola, butcher’s broom, horsetail, and hops (Idrastin), together with compression therapy, might help decrease pain and inflammation in people with leg ulcers and poor blood circulation in the legs.
Dosage and Administration
In tablets and capsules form the usual dosages of hops is 500mg. As an infusion, drink one cup in the evening to aid sleep.
Tincture, take 20 drops in a glass of water 3 times daily for anxiety or 10 drops with water up to 5 times daily for digestion.
Commercial preparations of hops can vary from product to product so the manufacturer’s directions should be followed whenever available.
Cautions & Interactions
WebMD states that hops are considered likely to be safe for most people. However, they caution pregnant and nursing women against using it. They also state if you are depressed, have hormone sensitive cancers (such as breast cancer or endometriosis) or are due for surgery to avoid hops as it can worsen depression and may cause too much sleepiness when combined with anesthesia. Stop taking hops at least two weeks before any surgical procedure.
Hops also is contraindicated if you are taking the following medications:
anti-anxiety drugs anti-seizure medications antihistamines
muscle relaxants antibiotics anti-fungal drugs
antidepressants anti-psychotics sedatives
tranquilizers narcotic pain medications gastrointestinal drugs
Some people may experience an allergy to hops, which would manifest as itching, dizziness, swelling, rashes, dry cough, blood sugar fluctuations, respiratory issues, delayed thinking, etc. As always consult a physician before starting any herbal product or regimen.
Benefits of Hops Tea
Hops is a plant rich in nutrients, making each cup you drink a healthy and nutritious beverage.
It contains vitamins A, B-complex, and B3; minerals such as calcium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium and zinc. Hops also contains volatile oils, valerianic acid, tannins, flavonoids, estrogenic substances, resin, lupulone and humulene.
All these components are blended in yoru cup of tea to bring you the following benefits.
Hops tea is best known for its positive effects of the nerves. A cup of this tea is said to calm nerves and reduce anxiety feelings. It is said to strengthen and tone the nervous system, helping to bring relief from nervous non-psychiatric disorders, such as hysteria.
It has also been used to promote restful sleep, calming the mind and thus fighting insomnia. Hops herbal tea should be helpful for those who tend to wake several times during the night and are light sleepers.
Tip: take a cup of this tea at night and then prepare a comfortable bed in a room that is neither too hot nor too cold and then avoid watching TV or any device and just let yourself relax. Some people even put pouches with hops under their pillow to induce sleep. Give it a try!
This calming tea may also help to soothe pain, reducing muscle spasms and painful cramps. Its sedative properties help to treat headaches and migraines relieving tension in the brain and nervous system.
It is said to help reduce sexual excitation, calming and balancing excessive sexual drive and reducing libido. Hops herbal tea may also help to inhibit cravings, helping smokers to remain calm while quitting their habit.
Taking hops tea may help improve your digestion. Its bitter properties help stimulate stomach juices and boost your metabolic rate. This could help you when you suffer from indigestion or heartburn. Its calming features also soothe digestive problems due to nerves and stress.
Hops tea may even help improve your appetite, relieving burping, soothing peptic ulcers and helping your stomach to remain calm as you enjoy your meals.
This herbal tea may also treat intestinal issues such as constipation, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome, calming spasmodic action in the colon. It may get rid of the harmful elements and parasites that could be causing flatulence or even diarrhea.
Infection Fighter and Detox Tea
Hops tea may prove to be a great tea when you are suffering from a bladder infection. It is said to help relieve the pain caused by this infection. It may help fight the infection in the sense that it is said to help eliminate toxins in the body and get rid of harmful bacteria.
You may take this tea as a detoxifying agent, helping the body to eliminate wasteful elements, clearing away causes of inflammation. It is said to cleanse the blood, lowering levels of sugar in the blood, and it may also act as a diuretic reducing fluid retention.
Its bacterial action may also be useful when you need to soothe a sore throat or treat other chest problems. Its antioxidant properties may help boost your immune system, preventing these diseases from occurring as well as possibly fighting the onset of tumors.
Female Tonic Tea
Hops tea is ideal for women who are going through menopause. This female tonic may help calm nerves and mind, while at the same time relieving symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and insomnia. This herbal infusion contains the natural estrogens you may need at this time.
Tip: blend this herb with black cohosh for fighting these symptoms.
For nursing mothers, this tea is said to help boost the supply of breast milk. However, it is not advisable to take this tea while breastfeeding unless recommended by your doctor. Monitor your baby’s reactions carefully.
The presence of estrogens in this herbal infusion may also prove to be helpful for when who suffer from constant menstrual problems. If your checkup has not revealed any serious problems, then ask your doctor about drinking this tea to help soothe PMS and bring balance to your hormones.
Applied topically, hops tea may be good for your skin, keeping it healthy and clean. It may be used for its antiseptic action to clear and heal sores, wounds and other skin injuries.
Soak a towel in warm hops tea and apply to the inflamed area for a calming and healing action that could even help relieve pain associated with arthritis.
After a long day, soak your feet in a foot bath infused with hops to clear away any possible harmful agents while helping to rest our tired feet and improving the skin.