Herb Basics

Hops: A Calming Herb for Beer and Tea

| March/April 2006

The characteristic bitter flavor of beer as we know it comes from the pleasantly bitter flavor of hops, which are the strobiles or conelike fruits of the climbing hop vine (Humulus lupulus). Sometime around the ninth century, German beer makers began putting hops in their brews to add flavor and as a natural preservative. By the 14th century, almost all European breweries followed suit. Along with this contribution to beer making, hops also have a long history of medicinal use. Early hop growers noticed that workers who harvested the golden strobiles in the fall tended to fall asleep in the fields, which triggered interest in using the herb as a sedative.

Hops were a common ingredient in many patented 19th-century herbal tonics and was listed as a sedative in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1831 until 1916. Herbalists today continue to recommend hops as a sedative and tranquilizer. Because the herb also has antispasmodic and muscle-relaxant properties, hops can be helpful for muscle tension that interferes with sleep. In evaluating the research on hops, the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy indicates the herb for treating tenseness, restlessness and sleep disturbances.

Hops make a bitter but not unpleasant-tasting tea. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried hop strobiles; cover and steep for 10 minutes; then strain the tea, sweeten if desired and drink 30 minutes before bedtime.

Source: Vukovic, Laurel. Overcoming Sleep Disorders Naturally. Laguna Beach, California: Basic Health Publications, 2005.

Indulge in an Herbal Detoxifying Bath

Undertaking a spring cleanse? Aid your body’s detoxification process with this relaxing bath. (See Page 32 for more information on spring cleansing.)


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