This creeper with its cone-like flower clusters is familiar to us as the prime ingredient in beer-brewing. And it’s mainly for this reason that these native Asian, North American and European plants are cultivated throughout the world. Hops themselves are bitter and have a long history of use as a diuretic, a sedative and a tonic. Today they continue to be used as a calmative and sedative and are prescribed to help with sleep, as a mood lifter and to soothe anxiety and restlessness. The German Federal Health Agency’s Commission E has approved hops for sleep problems, restlessness and anxiety, and as a possible aid to digestion. In China, healers also value hops for their antibiotic effect.
The dried flower clusters or hops are used, as are the individual grains, which are obtained by sieving the flowers.
The main active ingredients in hops are bitter compounds such as lupulone and humulone, which have an antibacterial effect and are thought to be oestrogenic (which is why men who drink lots of beer tend to get belly fat and man boobs), and phenolic acids, which are reported to have powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Preparations containing Humulus lupulus are used to:
- Ease the physical and emotional disturbances linked with PMS
- Support the female hormonal and urogenital systems
- Provide relief from menopausal symptoms
- Help treat irregular menstrual cycles and excessive bleeding
- Treat insomnia
Flora Force Products containing Humulus lupulus
Domestic & culinary uses
Although hops are used primarily for brewing beer, in parts of the Mediterranean the edible young leaves and shoots are picked in spring and prepared like asparagus. The hops are also boiled in a little water until tender and served in omelettes or with butter. They are delicious cooked with chopped onions and a little olive oil. Hops are rarely used in cuisine elsewhere.
Plant hop seeds in full sun or part shade in temperate regions with fertile soil. When the seedlings reach 50 centimetres, train three or four main bines (vines) onto a wire and cut back the rest. When the plant reaches two metres, trim away the bottom foliage up to one metre from the soil to prevent diseases. No flowers will emerge during the first year as the plant develops rootstock. However, once the flowers do appear, they’ll be ready to pick once they have turned from moist and silky to papery dry with brownish edges. Male and female flowers grow on separate plants (the smaller male flowers are not cultivated).
Acknowledgements & credits
Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer
- Milligan, S.R. et al. Identification of a potent phytoestrogen in hops (Humulus lupulus L.) and beer.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999 June: 84(6):2249–52 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10372741
- Van Wyk, B-E. and Wink, M. Medicinal Plants of the World. 2004. Briza Books, Pretoria, South Africa.
- Photo of Hops by John Murphy (Humulus lupulus)