Used in brewing in Europe since the 11 century, hops were never included in the traditional English ale. Initially they were thought to encourage the melancholic humour, and too many hops in German-style beers was, as Gerard records – “ill for the head”. 

Hops were believed, however, to purge excess choleric and sanguine humours, and beer was regarded as a more ‘physicall drinke to keep the body in health’ than English ale.  Hops contain a high proportion of oestrogen and, as a result, too much beer can lead to a loss of libido in men.

Botanical Name: Humulus lupulus

Common name: Hops

Family: Cannabaceae

Parts Used: Strobile (female flower) – male flowers don’t yield the active lupulone (bitter principle)

Active Constituents:

  • Resinous bitter principles 15-30% (mostly alpha-bitter and beta- bitter acids)
  • Volatile oils 0.3–1.0%.
  • Polyphenolic condensed tannins 2–4%. Xanthohumol (estrogenic) freshly harvested (degrades rapidly)
  • Flavonoids – Astragalin, kaempferol, quercetin, quercitrin and rutin
  • Chalcones


Bitter, cooling, grounding, dry & slightly pungent

The longer the hops flowers are dried, the more Valerianic acid there is (Hall).


The person who could do with Hops is those who are the ‘planners’. They have trouble balancing their lives and ‘switching off’. They tend to lay awake at night, when they should be sleeping, tense with work still on their minds. 

There is often irritability – due to thinking about all that they DIDN’T get done in a day. 

These people like to plan out everything – even conversations that haven’t happened yet – they will have ‘imaginary conversations’ in their minds.

“Pre-worriers”, “Pre-planners”, “Co-ordinators of projects”. There is a tendency to pre-live their stressors before they happen. Causes constant irritability & criticism. Muscular tension. Fluid retention… depression…. ADRENAL FATIGUE & NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

May lean on uppers (stimulants like coffee/sugar) to perk them up and downers to get them to sleep.

“Hops… preserves the drink, but repays the pleasure in tormenting diseases and a shorter life” – John Evelyn, 1670


  • Hypnotic
  • Mild sedative
  • Spasmolytic
  • Anodyne
  • Anxiolytic – modern research has found that Hops anxiolytic activity may be due to one of the substances responsible for its bitter flavour, namely ß-acids, which are a mixture of homologues and analogues of lupulone. In vivo studies these ß-acids affect GABA neurotransmission in experimental models
  • Bitter tonic
  • Appetite stimulant
  • Nervine
  • Estrogenic?
  • Anaphrodisiac
  • Diuretic
  • Nervous system restorative tonic
  • Galactagogue
  • BALANCER – helps ease better to and from active — to calm states. Relaxes muscles.


Nervous System:

  • Insomnia (+ valerian)  – lying awake @ bedtime, tense with work still on mind
  • Sleep latency (time to fall asleep) + quality
  • Anxiety / restlessness
  • Nervous tension
  • Muscle aches and pains – increased muscular tension/muscle fatigue – Hoffman noted that Hops will ‘ease tension and anxiety, and may be used where this tension leads to restlessness, headache and possibly indigestion’.
  • Those headed for a ‘Nervous breakdown’
  • Fluid retention
  • Irritability — not getting enough done in a day
  • Reliance on adrenal crutches — alcohol, sugar, smoking, coffee etc.


  • Neuralgia / headache
  • GIT – Dyspepsia / nervous dyspepsia
  • IBS
  • Menopausal Sx – esp. Insomnia
  • Hot flushes
  • Sexual problems – incl- premature ejaculation


Traditionally –

  • Depression
  • Oestrogen dependent tumours


  • Respiratory allergy caused by the handling of hop cones (case reported)
  • Caution in pregnancy – possible hormonal effects
  • Caution with antioestrogenic drugs
  • Additive effects possible with sedatives


Liquid Extract: 10-20 1:2 / week
Dried Herb Equivalent: 0.5 – 1.5g / day dried herb (infusion)

Bath: 4 g hops in a concentrated extract
Hops pillow – Should be replaced every few months because old dried strobes can be stimulating. Place hops pillow underneath actual pillow.


  • Insomnia – Valerian, passionflower
  • Menopause – cimicifuga, dioscorea, hypericum, zizyphus
  • Insomnia when trouble getting BACK to sleep due to busy mind – Combine with vervain
  • Vervain, skullcap, valerian


  • COMPRESS:Use a pad soaked in infusion or dilute tincture on varicose ulcers
  • WASH: Use infusion of fresh or freshly dried hops for chronic ulcers, skin eruptions and wounds

References & Links to Articles:

Ody, Penelope (1998). The Herb Society’s Complete Medicinal Herbal. Milan: Dorling Kindersley

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