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Herbal Monograph

Herb:   Hops    (Humulus lupulus; Moraceae)

Other Names:

Character/Energetics:   bitter, cool (6); cool, dry, bitter, slightly pungent (15)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  heart, liver (6); nerves, stomach, blood, liver and gall bladder.    (14)

Part(s) used:    Glandular hairs separated from the infructescence;  whole dried female flowers;  fresh, pitted cones collected before seeds ripen, and fresh or dried female inflorescences.    (2)

Strobiles (female flowers, leafy cone‑like catkins)      (6)

Identification & Harvesting:    Male flowers are yellowish greenish, inconspicuous, 1/4″ diam.  Female flowers are in richly blossomed, heavily branched inflorescences.  A yellowish fruit cone grows from the female flower.  The inside of the bracts are covered with small, glossy, light yellow glandular scales, which contain hop bitter (lupulin).  Plant is perennial.  Annual shoots reach a height of 20 ft (40 ft when cultivated).  Stems are pencil-thick, green, and do not turn woody.  They are covered in 6 rows of climbing barbs.  Leaves have 3-5 lobes, are serrated and opposite.  Cultivated almost everywhere.    (2)

Hops cones are gathered before fully ripe in August and September.  Dry carefully in shade.    (8)

A member of the cannabis family, native to Europe, Asia and North America.  Widely grown in the Pacific Northwest, Germany and Czech Republic.    (61)

Active Constituents:   Lupulin has an intense fragrance and extremely bitter taste.  Contains acylphloroglucinols 10%;  alpha-bitter acids incl. humulone, cohumulone, adhumulone;  beta-bitter acids incl. lupulone, colupulone, adlupulone;  complex volatile oils, chiefly myrcene, humulene, beta-caryophyllene, undecane-2-on, 2-methyl-but-3-en-ol (particularly after storage, as a by-product of acylphloroglucinols);  resins;  phenolic acids incl. ferulic acid, caffeic acid and derivatives i.e. chlorogenic acid;  tannins incl. oligomeric proanthocyanidins;  flavonoids incl. xanthohumole.    (2)

lupuline, humulone, lupulone, resin with picric acids, essential oil, tannins, estrogenic substances, choline and  asparagine.   (6)

lupulin, bitters, resin, volatile oil, tannins, estrogenic substances.    (8)

volatile oils, valerianic acid, estrogenic substances, tannins, bitter principles, flavonoids.    (15)

Actions:   Sedative;  bitter stomachic to stimulate appetite and increase secretion of gastric juices.    (2)

Nervine, sedative, hypnotic, bitter tonic, antiseptic     (6)

sedative, hypnotic, antiseptic, astringent.  Relaxes central nervous system.    (8)

Primarily nervine, stomachic;  also anodyne, antibiotic, carminative, cholagogue, tonic.  Three cups of the infusion daily will tone up the liver and digestive tract.  Increases bile and urine flow.  Hops placed inside a pillow case will aid sleep.    (14)

sedative, anaphrodisiac, restorative nervine, bitter digestive, diuretic.    (15)

Traditionally considered soothing to the stomach, an appetite stimulant, slightly sedative, a sleep aid, and a diuretic.  Studies show a wide range of biological activity:  bitter acids with antibacterial, as well as strong antispasmodic, action.  However,  research on sedative and estrogenic effects are conflicting.  Use as a sedative is relatively recent.  However hop-picker’s fatigue, presumably due to skin contact with the resins or inhalation of the essential oils, is a documented fact.  Sedative action has been attributed to a volatile compound that is present in the fresh strobiles but absent in extracts, which provides a possible explanation for the failure of research on sedative effects to corroborate.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:   Used to treat insomnia, nervous tension, anxiety, restlessness, headache, indigestion, and mucous colitis.  Much used as an aromatic bitter in alcoholic beverages such as beer.(6)

Treats insomnia, tension, anxiety, restlessness, tension headache, nervous indigestion.  As an astringent, can be used to treat mucous colitis.  The antiseptic action makes it useful as an external application for ulcers.    (8)

Internal — coughs, fever, jaundice, ulcers:  infusion*, tincture*.  Headaches, indigestion, insomnia, morning sickness, weak nerves, stomach tonic:  infusion, tincture.  Throat, bronchial tubes, chest ailments:  infusion*.  Toothache:  tincture, fluid extract.  Will reduce excessive sexual desires.  Tea is good for nervous stomach, poor appetite, gas and intestinal cramps.  The cold tea taken before meals will increase digestion.

External — boils, bruises, inflammations, skin ailments, ulcers, tumors, swellings:  fomentation, poultice.  Earaches:  poultice.  Rheumatic pains:  fomentation*.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.    (14)

Character changes significantly with age as the constituents oxidize.  Strobiles are best used fresh for insomnia, but old dried strobiles can be stimulating.    (15)

A poultice was used to relieve rheumatic pain, and a tea was taken to relieve muscle spasms and soothe nerves.  In Europe, currently used to relieve mood disturbances such as anxiety, and for sleep disturbances.  Also prescribed for nervous tension, excitability, restlessness and to stimulate appetite.    (61)

Combinations:    Combine with valerian and passion flower for insomnia.    (8)

Combine with other digestive herbs such as marshmallow, plantain, chamomile, and peppermint for irritable bowel syndrome.  Add 1-2 ml valerian as an additional sedative, or up to 5 ml tinctured passionflower;  or 10 drops bistort if there is diarrhea.    (15)

Used in combination with valerian, passionflower and skullcap.    (61)

Precautions:    No known hazards or side effects with designated dosages;  nonetheless, fresh plant has a sensitizing effect (hop-pickers’ disease) which may occur more rarely with the dust as well.    (2)

herb can exacerbate depression.    (8)

Contain a high proportion of estrogen;  too much beer can lead to loss of libido in men.  They act as a mild depressant on the higher nerve centers and should be avoided in depression.  The growing plant can cause contact dermatitis.    (15)

Rare allergic reactions or contact dermatitis from the pollen or the strobiles.    (61)

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    Infusion —  pour boiling water over ground hop cones and leave to draw 10-15 min.  1 tsp. = .4 g herb.    (2)

tincture — 1-4 ml 3 x daily.    (8)

Infusion:  steep 5-15 min;  6 oz. 3 x daily, hot or cold.  Tincture:  15-30 drops (1/2-1 tsp), 3 x daily.  Fluid extract:  10-15 drops, 3 x daily.  Powder:  5-10 #0 capsules (30-60 grains), 3 x daily.    (14)


Dosage:    Single dose is .5 g dried herb.    (2)

Standard infusion or 3‑9 gms.; tincture, 10‑30 drops. It is a delicate herb and should be used fresh or freshly tinctured.    (6)

Steep 1 heaping tsp whole dried hops in 1 cup hot water for 10-15 min. and take before bed.  Tincture 10-40 drops 3 x daily.    (61)

General Notes:    “Hops… preserves the drink, but repays the pleasure in tormenting diseases and a shorter life.” — John Evelyn, 1670.  Used in brewing in Europe since at least the 11th c.    (15)

Used primarily for flavoring beer.    (61)



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 900

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 355

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 206

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 130-31

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 66, 154-55, 165

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 112-13