Hops will conjure up an age-old image of beer making for even the staunchest teetotaler. Luckily for those who shy away from the foaming mug of brew, hops can be enjoyed as a tea or tincture. Taxonomic nomenclature places hops (Humulus lupulus) in the Cannabaceae family.

The famous herbalist and abbess, Hildegaard von Bingen, wrote of its medicinal uses in the 12th century, though Pliny the Elder first published accounts of its use around 79 AD, without the mention of beer. Herbal brews using other plants such as mugwort, dandelion, or horehound were all but abandoned when brewers discovered that using hops extended the shelf life of their draught due to the superior antibacterial and antifungal effects of hops.

These days, the most common claim to fame for hops is its ability to help soothe frazzled nerves — something most of us need in our frantic world of busyness that takes its toll on both body and mind. The female plant part used is sometimes called the flower, though botanical correctness would refer to it as the strobile, or seed cone.  The yellow-brown powder that collects at the bottom of a jar of dried hops is an important therapeutic component of its relaxing properties – it’s called lupulin.

From flavonoids to phytoestrogens, terpene hydrocarbons and acids, the unique blend of aromatic and herbal compounds produce a unique flavor and aroma that has been described as grassy, floral, citrus, piney and earthy. Historically, a pillow filled with dried hops was used to help encourage sleep.

Herbally speaking, hops is known as a tonic, nervine, aromatic bitter, stomachic, diuretic, and to calm and relax, and support healthy inflammation response. Herbal therapies translate that to soothing indigestion, menstrual discomforts, supporting healthy cholesterol levels, promoting healthy liver function, and soothing nerve related discomfort; but it is mainly known as a wonderful nervine tonic offering benefits for anxiety, restlessness, sleep disturbances, and nervousness.  Hops is often combined with other calming nervines to synergize the calming effects and provide more resiliency to stressful life events.

A strong tea added to bath water, as well as the oral use of the tincture (follow label guidelines), can greatly benefit any condition related to stress, help promote relaxation, and encourage restful sleep and recovery.

There are no well documented interactions or contraindications, though information regarding safety in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.  It is historically a food ingredient, enjoying GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status by the FDA.

Writer Mindy Green is a founding and professional member of the American Herbalists Guild and an advisory board member to the American Botanical Council, publisher of Herbal Gram Magazine. Ms. Green served on the faculty of the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies (1995-2003). The California School of Herbal Studies is among Mindy’s business ventures as co-owner and a faculty member (1985-1995). She is a nationally certified Registered Aromatherapist and has served on the education committees of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists and the Aromatherapy Registration Council. She now runs her own consulting company, Green Scentsations, LLC.

 A prolific writer and lecturer, Ms. Green has authored over 60 published articles on herbs, aromatherapy, skin care, holistic health and integrative care.  She is co-author of Aromatherapy, A Complete Guide to the Healing Art; author of Calendula and Natural Perfumes, and has contributed to numerous books on herbs and healing.  As a botanical-therapies expert, she has been interviewed more than 400 times by leading magazines and newspapers.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.