Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Parts used and where grown: The hops plant, Humulus lupulus, is a climbing plant native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Hops are the cone-like, fruiting bodies (strobiles) of the plant and are typically harvested from cultivated female plants. Hops are most commonly used as a flavoring agent in beer.
In what conditions might hops be supportive?
Historical or traditional use: Soothing the stomach and promoting healthy digestion has been the strongest historical use of this herb. Hops tea was also recommended as a mild sedative and remedy for insomnia, particularly for those with insomnia resulting from an upset stomach.1 It was also common for a pillow to be filled with hops to encourage sleep. Traditionally, hops were also thought to have a diuretic effect and to treat sexual neuroses. A poultice of hops was used topically to treat sores and skin injuries and to relieve muscle spasms and nerve pain.2
Active constituents: Hops are high in bitter substances. The two primary bitter principles are known as humulone and lupulone.3 These bitter principles are thought to be responsible for the appetite-stimulating properties of hops. Hops also contain about 1-3% volatile oils. Hops have been shown to have mild sedative properties. Many herbal preparations for insomnia combine hops with more potent sedative herbs, such as valerian.
How much should I take? The dried fruits can be made into a tea by pouring 150 ml of boiling water over 1-2 U.S. teaspoons (5-10 grams) of the fruit. Steep for ten to fifteen minutes before drinking. Tinctures can be taken in amounts of 1-2 ml two or three times per day. Dried hops in tablet or capsule form can also be taken at a dose of 500&endash;1,000 mg two or three times per day. As mentioned above, many herbal preparations use hops in combination with herbal sedatives, including valerian, passion flower, and scullcap.
Are there any side effects or interactions? Use of hops is generally safe, and there are no known contraindications or potential interactions with other medications. There are some reports of persons experiencing an allergic skin rash after handling the dried flowers; this is most likely due to a pollen sensitivity.
1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 285&endash;6. 2. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 56&endash;7. 3. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 305&endash;8.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.