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Hops as an Herb

Hops as an herb

Humulus lupulus

The Hop is a native British plant found wild in hedges and copses from York southwards. It is found in most countries of the North temperate zone. Hops are widely grown in the Pacific Northwest, primarily for flavoring beer. They are also cultivated in Germany and the Czech Republic is famous for its high quality hops.

The Romans ate the young shoots in spring, in the same way as we do asparagus, and as country people frequently do in England. The tender first foliage, blanched, is a good potherb. The leaves and flower-heads have been used also to produce a fine brown dye.

Fresh picked hops The prejudice against the use of Hops was at first great. Hops were at first thought to engender melancholy. Henry VIII forbade brewers to put hops and sulphur into ale, Parliament having been petitioned against the Hop as 'a wicked weed that would spoil the taste of the drink and endanger the people.' In the fifth year of Edward VI, privileges were granted to Hop growers.

But the truth is, Hops are an important herb, especially if you're a beer drinker. If you're looking for a vigorous, reach-for-the-sky herbal vine for your garden, consider hops. Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory, the fruit has been used in salves and wound compresses. Hops have a mild sedative action and have been used in teas, as well as sleep pillows.

Fresh Hops possess a bitter aromatic taste and a strong characteristic odor. The latter, however, changes and becomes distinctly unpleasant as the Hops are kept.

Hops as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

The oil and the bitter principle combine to make Hops more useful than Chamomile, Gentian or any other bitter in the manufacture of beer: hence the medicinal value of extra-hopped or bitter beer.

Traditionally, hops were considered soothing to the stomach, an appetite stimulant (due to the bitter taste), slightly sedative, a sleep aid, and diuretic. A popular way of using hops as a sleep aid was to stuff a pillow with the fruiting bodies, moistening them slightly before bed to prevent them from rustling and keeping an insomniac awake! A poultice of hops was used to relieve pain of rheumatic Joints and a tea was taken to relieve muscle spasms and soothe the nerves.

Hops have tonic, nervine, diuretic and anodyne properties. Their volatile oil produces sedative and soporific effects, and the Lupamaric acid or bitter principle is stomachic and tonic. For this reason Hops improve the appetite and promote sleep.

In European phytomedicine, hops preparations are used to relieve mood disturbances, such as unrest and anxiety, and for sleep disturbances. Hops are also prescribed for nervous tension, excitability and restlessness. Laboratory studies show that hops have a wide range of biological activity. The bitter acids in the fruits are antibacterial. Extracts of the fruits strongly reduce smooth-muscle spasms.

Native Americans used hops for toothaches, as a sedative, for digestive pains, and so on. The PDR of Herbal Medicines lists hops as a sedative and sleep inducting (Fleming 2000).

The dried fruits (strobiles), from which a tea can be made, are commonly available, as are tinctures, capsules, and tablets. Hops are often used in combination with other sleep aids or calming herbs such as valerian, passionflower, or skullcap.

An infusion of 1/2 ounce Hops to 1 pint of water will be found the proper quantity for ordinary use.

A pillow of warm hops will often relieve toothache and earache and allay nervous irritation.

As an external remedy, an infusion of Hops is much in demand in combination with chamomile flowers or poppy heads as a fomentation for swelling of a painful nature, inflammation, neuralgic and rheumatic pains, bruises, boils and gatherings. It removes pain and allays inflammation in a very short time. The Hops may also be applied as a poultice.

According to modern research, the ingestion of preparations with hops in some cases has been linked to hepatitis and claims of therapeutic value have not been confirmed (Youngkin and Israel 1996). Hops have also demonstrated some effectiveness in fighting tumors and in serving as a digestive aide (Peirce 1999). Some ancients mentioned the use of hops as a treatment for rheumatism, though there is no modern evidence of its efficacy in treating rheumatism.

Some people put dried or fresh hops in their pillowcase as a remedy for insomnia.

According to some reports, hops has helped curb the desire for alcohol among alcoholics.

Culinary Uses of Hops

Strobiles are used to preserve and flavor beer. The common hops are the commercial form used for beer manufacture.

Used to flavor mineral waters and tobacco products.

In spring the tender young shoots are edible and tasty as are the male flowers later in the season.

Can be steamed and eaten as a vegetable or plain in salads (snap off the top 6 inches of shoot and prepare as for asparagus or boiled in salted, acidic water and served with cream sauce or poached eggs).

A decoction of the flowers helps bread rise.

To make a good Hop beer, put 2 ounces Hops in 2 quarts of water for 15 minutes. Then strain and dissolve 1 pound of sugar in the liquor. To this add 4 quarts of cold water and 2 tablespoonsful of fresh barm. Allow to stand for 12 hours in a warm place and it will then be ready for bottling.

Hops Lemonade Recipe

Amaze everyone with this healthful herbal twist on an old favorite, lemonade. Ginger and mint add a refreshing spicy flair.

Lemonade glass

1/2 ounce fresh or 1/4 ounce dry hops
Small piece of bruised ginger
1 bunch fresh applemint or other mint
1 thinly sliced lemon
2/3 cup brown sugar

In a large pan place 4-1/2 cups cold water and add hops, ginger, mint and lemon. Bring to boil and simmer fast for 30 minutes; liquid should be reduced by half. Strain and stir in sugar; stir to dissolve and boil 5 minutes. Pour into jug and cool.

Cautions

No side effects, contraindications, or adverse drug interactions from the use of hops are generally reported, though some individuals have experienced a rare allergic reaction or contact dermatitis from the pollen or the yellow powder-like crystals in the fruits.

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