Hops: Beyond Beer

By Staff
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Hops (Humulus Lupulus), is a vining, perennial plant native to most Northern temperate regions, with three varieties native to  North America. I was surprised when I recently discovered that it is related to stinging nettle, though I had already heard that hops and cannabis (including hemp and marijuana) are cousins, both being in the family called Cannabacaceae.

As a gardener, I have observed the remarkable speed at which this plant grows, which is said to be up to a foot a day. In my experience, that seems pretty accurate, so if you plan to grow hops, plan the spot where you plant it carefully.

While the most well known use of hops flowers is as a flavoring and preservative for beer, hops have been used medicinally for centuries, for relaxation and to induce sleep,  as a “bitter” for digestion, for hair loss and menopausal symptoms, most notably, reducing hot flashes, when taken as an extract. Studies have also shown hops to be helpful in bone health, including preventing osteoporosis. Hops can reduce libido, and are considered an anaphrodisiac. Historically, they were given to young men in an attempt to keep them chaste.

Hops flowers ripen in the Northern Hemisphere in August or September. They can be prepared as a tea,  made into an extract or tincture with water and alcohol, or infused in oil.

If you’d like to try hops for relaxation and/or at bedtime, and are looking for something non-alcoholic or just an alternative to beer, try out either one of these recipes:

Hops Relaxation Tea

A pleasant, relaxing tea can be made using hops, in combination with other calming herbs.

Use 1 teaspoon of any combination of the following, and pour 1 cup of very hot or boiling water over the herbs. Some suggested herbs are:

hops flowers

chamomile flowers

lemon balm

mint

St. John’s wort

Sleep/Dream Pillow

Traditionally, small pillows filled with relaxing herbs were used by people to help them fall asleep and have pleasant dreams. You can make a very simple sleep pillow by simply filling a small, cloth drawstring bag with hops and other relaxing herbs. Make sure the bag is tied securely so the herbs don’t fall out.

Try any of these calming herbs in your pillow:

hops flowers

lavender buds

chamomile flowers

lemon verbena leaves

catnip

mint

rosebuds

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