Plant Feature | Hops | Humulus lupulus

Hops is one of the most commonly consumed medicinal herbs. As an important ingredient in beloved beer, hops is utilized for it flavouring, preserving, and relaxing medicinal qualities by brewers and herbalists alike. As the first of many plant features on the Pacific Rim blog, continue reading to learn about hops and how you can include it in your personal herbal apothecary. 

What is Hops?

Hops or Humulus lupulus belongs to the Cannabaceae family and is a climbing perennial vine that produces green cones or “hops” surrounding the female flowers. Contained in hops are glands that hold resins and volatile oils, responsible for the flavour and medicinal offerings of the plant. Hops are ready to be harvested in the late summer or early fall when they begin to look dry and papery.

Hops growing at Ravenhill Herb Farm, campus farm of the Permaculture Design and Resilient Ecosystems Diploma program.

Hops Medicinal Benefits and Uses  

Hops has long been regarded as a herbal remedy for stress, insomnia, and digestive upset. The herb is best known as a nervous system relaxant but also has pain relieving, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and diuretic properties. Along with the resins and essential oils in hops, phytoestrogens are also present. These are plant-derived compounds that may influence the human endocrine system when consumed. Phytoestrogens have simultaneously been associated with positive health benefits and negative health effects. However, as the role of these compounds continues to be studied, research suggests it is safe and even beneficial to consume hops in moderate doses.

Hops was valued as a relaxing herb before it was introduced as an ingredient in beer during the Middle Ages. Brewers found that adding hops provided a unique bitter flavour and significantly increased the shelf life of beer. Hops was essential for preserving beer for long nautical journeys from Europe to be exported all over the world. Presently, this style of heavily hopped, bitter beer is more popular than ever and when consumed, the relaxing effect of hops is undeniable.

Hops can be consumed as a simple tea infusion, made into a tincture, or bound into a hops pillow. You will receive the strongest relaxing effects from an alcohol extracted tincture. Are you interested in harnessing the relaxing effects of hops? You can make a hops tincture at home in a few simple steps.  

Hops Tincture

You will need:

  • 1 glass jar and lid, size depends on how much tincture you want to make or how much plant material you have available
  • Unflavoured vodka of at least 40% alcohol
  • Fresh or dried hops

Directions (folk method):

  1. Roughly chop hops and fill ¾ of the jar with the plant material.
  2. Fill the jar to the top with vodka to cover the plant material and seal the lid.
  3. Store the mixture in a cool, dark place and shake several times a week.
  4. The hops medicine will be infused into the alcohol after 6-8 weeks. At this point, strain out the plant material and re-bottle the liquid in a dark glass container labelled with the plant name, alcohol %, date, and dosage.

Dose:

2-4ml up to three times per day. Hops is usually taken at night but can also be taken throughout the day in periods of high stress.

Contraindications:

Hops should not be used for people with depression or in combination with sleeping medications.

Herb Pairings:

Pairs well with valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) as part of a relaxation and sleep support formula.

References

Hoffman, David. Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies. Thorsons, 2002.

https://thenaturopathicherbalist.com/herbs/g-h/humulus-lupulus/

http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2009/sewalish_andr/Humulus%20Lupulus%20-%20Common%20Hops/Hop%20Anatomy%20and%20Chemistry%20101.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10372741

http://zythophile.co.uk/2009/11/20/a-short-history-of-hops/

Text and photographs by Liza Couse