Hops (Humulus Lupulus) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Hops (Humulus Lupulus) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Hops (Humulus Lupulus) Overview

Hops (Humulus Lupulus) other names: Asperge Sauvage, Common Hops, Couleuvrée, Couleuvrée Septentrionale, European Hops, Hop, Hop Strobile, Hopfenzapfen, Houblon, Humulus lupulus, Lupuli Strobulus, Lupulin, Lúpulo, Pi Jiu Hua, Salsepareille Indigène, Vigne du Nord.

The hops or the hop plant bears the name Humulus lupulus L. in botanical circles. This perennial plant belongs to the plant family Cannabidaceae. The plant is a climbing vine, which gives out scaly and cone shaped fruits called hops from which the name for the whole plant is drawn. The hops or the fruit of the hops is botanically termed a strobile, the fruit of the hops bears numerous glandular hairs on the surface, these hairs possess a resinous bitter principle, the reason for the extensive utilization of the hops in processes such as brewing and in herbal medicine.

Primarily a temperate European plant, extensive and large scale cultivation of the hops takes place in places like the Czech Republic, Poland, England and Germany in Europe, as well as in the United States and South America, and in places such as Australia. Harvesting and collection of the hops is normally carried out during the month of September when the fruits ripen and following a drying process, these are marketed and used mainly in the brewing industry. 

Hops (Humulus Lupulus) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Hops (Humulus Lupulus) picture

The medicinal and tonic properties of the hops was also apparently known to traditional herbalist even if the primary use of the hops has been in the manufacture of beer, with which it has been associated for close to a 1,000 years now - the hops has been valued for its bitter taste and preservative action. Early on in Europe, tradition holds that people who plucked the hops fruit seemed to tire out easily, this was probably due to the accidental transfer of some of the hop resin in the hands to the mouths of the workers - this sedative action of the herb was the reason for its use in herbal medication, and a sedative action has traditionally been associated with the hops. Traditionally, herbalist treated sleeplessness and other nervous conditions in patients by making them use pillows stuffed with the dried hops. The hops was also associated with an ability to reduce inflammation in the body, thus a small bag of hops soaked in alcohol and placed after heating on an afflicted area, is said to lead to a reduction in the localized inflammation affecting the area. At the same time, herbal tonics made from the aqueous extracts of hops using boiling water have also been traditionally used in Europe.

The resin in the hops has been found to contain chemically unstable polyphenolic principles, particularly the compounds known as humulone and lupulone. The presence of these compounds or the presence of their closely related chemical conversion products in the hops is the reason for the plant's bitter and bacteriostatic properties - these agents are also responsible for the distinct flavor and aroma of the hops. Different types and varieties of the hops plant tend to differ in the content of these chemical compounds, at the same time, these chemical compounds are not stable in the presence of air and light and are thus difficult to extract. This can be seen in real time, as demonstrated during a study only about 15 percent of the original chemical activity in the hops was seen in a batch of hops following nine months of storage. 

The so called sedative action of hops seem to be merely imaginative and superstitious as the earlier studies on the hops specific to this property failed to identify any particular sedative principles in the plant - thus the use of the hops in the form of a pillow seemed to be mere superstition held during medieval times. The presence of a volatile alcoholic compound, known as 2-methyl-3-butene-2-ol (dimethylvinyl carbinol), has recently been isolated from the hops - this compound is believed to form some part of the plant's sedative properties - though requiring further studies. Fresh hops has very little of the alcohol and only small amounts can be detected in any single fruit, however the concentration of this alcohol seems to increase when the hops is subjected to drying and this volume reaches a maximum value within a two-year period at about 0.15 percent of the total volume - thus the sedative action of the hops may not be superstition at all.

The hops plant is native to Europe and is also found indigenously in some parts of western Asia. In places where hops grows in the wild, the hops tend to flourish along waste dumps and on the roadside wastelands. The hops are cultivated along much of northern Europe on a large commercial basis for use in the brewing industry. The main product are the flowers from the female plant, called strobiles, which are harvested in the early autumn and then subjected to drying at a low temperature for later use in the brewing industry.

The hops are very vulnerable to many destructive plant viruses as well as several fungal plant diseases. The downy mildew in particular. Hops is also susceptible to attacks from plant eating spider mites and other insects like the flea beetles, the vine borers, and plant juice sucking aphid species. Insecticides and pesticides may need to be sprayed to control the disease and insects whenever necessary. If the infection from some types of fungus and viruses is too severe, the entire batch of plants may need to be destroyed and it may be necessary to start all over again in another location with different batch of plants.

The hop plants are resistant to cold temperatures and plants can survive through cold weather, a dormant period initiated by frost may be needed by some plants in order for them to resume full growth during the winter season. Winterkill is avoided in the very cold regions of northern Europe by a good snow cover on the plants.

Hops (Humulus Lupulus) Health Benefits

Hops is a plant. The dried, flowering part of the hops is used to make medicine.

Hops is used for anxiety, inability to sleep (insomnia) and other sleep disorders, restlessness, tension, excitability, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nervousness, and irritability. Hops is also used to improve appetite, increase urine flow, start the flow of breast milk, as a bitter tonic, and for indigestion. Other uses include prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, high cholesterol, tuberculosis, bladder infections, intestinal cramps, an intestinal disorder called mucous colitis, nerve pain, and prolonged painful erection of the penis (priapism).

In the earliest herbal medical system, the hops was only an occasional ingredient, and all the health benefits traditionally alluded to the plant is very similar to how we understand and use them at this present time.

Hops (Humulus Lupulus) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Hops (Humulus Lupulus) image

Remedies made from the hops plant is very effective in the treatment of tension especially when it is blended with other healing herbs, such blends are also used for treating headaches. Such herbal blends containing hops must not be used if depression is a symptom. The treatment of certain types of asthma conditions and even painful menstrual symptoms can be carried out using hops as its anti-spasmodic action is very effective in such cases.

Clinical use of the alcoholic hop extracts in different dosage forms has also been used by doctors in the People's Republic of China, in treating different forms of diseases such as leprosy, problems like pulmonary tuberculosis as well as acute bacterial dysentery with varying results. The presence of a couple of antibiotic bitter acids, called lupulon and humulon in the herb may be the reason for the partial effectiveness of such treatments. These two compounds are known to kill certain strains of Gram positive and acid-fast bacteria, example, the staphylococcus strain. The infections from staphylococcus is evident in cases of suppurating wounds, in cases of runny sores, and all manners of abscesses, some types of boils as well as osteomyelitis - which is the presence of inflammation in the bone marrow of people.

Traditionally, hop filled pillows were used for inducing sleep; this indicates an old knowledge of the supposed sedative action of hops in the herbal lore. In traditional herbal practice, the hops was believed to be helpful in relieving muscle tension as well as anxiety, it was believed to be helpful in soothing pain, and in quieting restlessness as well as mental agitation of patients. Hops also aids in reducing tension along affected muscles in the body due to its strong anti-spasmodic actions, this effectively relieves muscular spasms and cases of colic in the gut. This action also ensures hops is an excellent remedy for cases of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, problems like diverticulitis, problems like nervous indigestion, along with problems such as peptic ulcers, problems like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and other kinds of stress related digestive problems affecting patients. 

In addition, digestive action in the body is aided by the bitter principles present in the hops, these enhance the action of the liver and aid in the secretion of bile as well as other digestive juices in the body of the patient. Hops based compounds called tannins also aid in the quick healing of irritated inflammatory conditions of many types and can treat diarrhea. The strong antiseptic action of the hops also relieves infections in the body. Hops also possess very strong estrogenic action, which makes it an excellent remedy for all sorts of problems in the body connected with menopause in women. Painful and suppressed menstrual periods can also be treated using the hops based medications. The elimination of toxins from the system is effected by the asparagin content in hops and this compound is a soothing diuretic, aiding in the reduction of fluid retention. The combination of this property of affecting the liver and its ability to cleanse toxins has ensured hops have a reputation as a cleanser of skin problems of all kinds. 

Hops is sometimes applied to the skin for leg ulcers and as an antibacterial agent.

In manufacturing, the extract is used in skin creams and lotions.

The anti-histamine action and relaxant functions of the hops is also very useful in cases of skin problems. Creams containing the hops are used to keep the skin soft and supple and are used in the role of wrinkle delaying lotions. Hops also have a strong antiseptic action and this is effective in treating cuts, all sorts of skin wounds and ulcers on the body.

In foods and beverages, the extracts and oil are used as flavor components. Hops are also used in brewing beer.

Hops can be used in the same way as asparagus - the young shoots can be served and prepared for different types of meals. Hops shoots must be prepared by boiling for two to three minutes in some water; ideal length of shoots for the table is five to ten cm long - two to four inches in length. After boiling for two to three minutes, the water is normally changed and the spears are then steamed till they become tender. These cooked hops shoots can be served with some melted butter or a cheese sauce as dinner or lunch. The blanched hop spears (young shoots) are served as a delicacy in many of the hop growing European countries.

Beer is seasoned with hops and the plant is an essential ingredient in the brewing of beer. Hops are always added to beer, regardless of it being brewed at home or in any commercial breweries. The bitterness in beer is in fact, the resin in the hops cone's lupulin glands.

Oil and other organic compounds extracted from the hops are used in many commercial products, it is used to flavor yeast, to flavor candy, to spice up ice creams and puddings, as well as to flavor gelatins, baked goods, different types of chewing gums, different kinds of confectionery items as well as condiments of all kinds.

Wreaths and garlands in Europe often include the dried cones in the decorative motif.

Hops (Humulus Lupulus) Side effects

Hops (Humulus Lupulus) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Hops (Humulus Lupulus) plant

Hops are considered likely safe when consumed in amounts commonly found in foods. Hops are possibly safe when taken by mouth for medicinal uses.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking hops if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Depression: Hops may make depression worse. Avoid use.

Hormone sensitive cancers and conditions: Some chemicals in hops act like estrogen. People who have conditions that are sensitive to hormones should avoid hops. Some of these conditions including breast cancer and endometriosis.

Surgery: Hops might cause too much sleepiness when combined with anesthesia and other medications during and after surgical procedures. Stop taking hops at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.