HOP, HOPS (lai-et-ts'ao)
The hop plant, Humulus lupulus L., a member of the family Cannabidaceae, is a perennial climbing vine that bears scaly conelike fruits known as hops. These fruits, technically called strobiles, are covered with glandular hairs containing resinous bitter principles that account for the use of hops in brewing and in medicine. Hops are extensively cultivated in the Czech Republic, England, Germany, the United States, South America, and Australia. They are collected in September when ripe and marketed after careful drying. Although hops have been used in beer for over 1,000 years, primarily for their bitter taste and preservative action, their medicinal or tonic properties were apparently also valued from very early times. It was observed that hop pickers tired easily, apparently as a result of the accidental transfer of some hop resin from their hands to their mouths, and the medication gained a reputation as a sedative. Pillows filled with hops have been used for sleeplessness and nervous conditions. A small bag of hops, wetted with alcohol and placed hot on the afflicted area, was said to reduce local inflammation. Aqueous extracts made with boiling water have been used as tonics.
Chemically unstable polyphenolic principles, especially humulone and lupulone, are present in the resin of hops. They, or closely related conversion products, are responsible for the plant's bitter and bacteriostatic properties. Unfortunately, the content of these compounds varies appreciably in different varieties of hops, and in addition, these compounds are quite unstable in the presence of air and light. One study has shown that after nine months' storage, hops retained only about 15 percent of their original activity. Early studies on hops failed to identify specific sedative principles, and their value, particularly when used in the form of a pillow, was thought to be more magical than medicinal. More recently, a volatile alcohol, 2-methyl-3-butene-2-ol (dimethylvinyl carbinol), has been isolated from hops and is believed to account for at least part of the plant's sedative properties. Present in fresh hops in very small amounts, the concentration of the alcohol increases on drying to reach a maximum value of about 0.15 percent within a two-year period.
Mobility tests in rats verified the sedative-hypnotic activity of the alcohol, and pharmacologically active concentrations of it were detected in freshly prepared hop teas. Although studies thus far carried out do not provide an explanation for all of the salutary effects attributed to hops by folklore, they do supply, for the first time, a logical scientific basis for at least part of their tranquilizing action. Continuing investigations will probably eventually supply the rest of the story regarding their benefit to humankind. Based on a reasonable certainty of efficacy and safety, rather than current controlled clinical studies, in Germany, a dose of 0.5 g of dried hops or extract equivalents is allowed to be labeled "for discomfort due to restlessness or anxiety and sleep disturbances". Hops are closely related botanically to marijuana, and some writers advocate smoking the plant material to obtain a mild euphoria. This practice cannot be recommended since unpleasant side effects are common, and the safety of smoking hops remains in doubt.
Alcoholic extracts of hops in various dosage forms have been used clinically in treating numerous forms of leprosy, pulmonary tuberculosis and acute bacterial dysentery with varying degrees of success by doctors throughout the People's Republic of China. This could be due to a couple of antibiotic bitter acids, lupulon and humulon, occurring in the herb. Both kill Gram-positive and acid-fast bacteria such as strains of staphylococcus, for instance. Staph infections are evident in suppurating wounds, runny sores, abscesses, boils and osteomyelitis (inflammation of bone marrow and adjacent bone and cartilage).
To make a strong extract, combine 1-1/4 cups of cut, fresh hop fruit with 2-1/2 cups of good-quality imported Russian vodka or an expensive brandy. Put into a bottle with a tight lid or cork. Shake daily, allowing the herbs to extract for about 2 weeks. Let the herbs settle and pour off the tincture, straining the liquid through a clean muslin cloth or fine filter paper. Two tablespoonfuls each day taken orally on an empty stomach will help fight infection internally. The same amount may also be applied directly with some cotton on bedsores caused by hospital-induced staph. And clean strips of gauze may also be saturated in this tincture and then used to dress wounds so they'll heal more rapidly.
After the hair is scrubbed with a strong detergent and thoroughly rinsed with plain water, some of the above tincture may be rubbed into the scalp to help control dandruff. A quicker and easier way, though, is to rinse your hair well with a can of beer each day. Any brand will do just fine. Hops has been shown clinically to exert a strong sedative action on nervous patients and to help insomniacs get a good night's sleep. Bring 2 pints of water to a boil. Add 1 heaping tbsp. each of hops and valerian root. Cover and reduce heat, simmering for 5 minutes. Remove and steep an additional 45 minutes. Sweeten with a little pure maple syrup and drink 1-1/2 cups at a time to help relax the body. Keep in mind that since hops lose their sedative properties quickly when stored, they should always be used either as fresh as possible or pretty soon after they've been dried and cut up.
Hop pillows are well known for inducing sleep, indicating the sedative action of hops -useful for relieving tension and anxiety, soothing pain, restlessness and agitation. The antispasmodic action reduces tension in muscles throughout the body, relieving spasm and colic in the gut, and makes hops a good remedy for irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, nervous indigestion, peptic ulcers, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and stress-related digestive problems. The bitters in hops aid digestive function, enhancing the action of the liver and the secretion of bile and digestive juices. The tannins aid healing of irritated and inflammatory conditions and stem diarrhea, while the antiseptic action of hops relieves infections. The estrogenic action of hops make them an excellent remedy for any problem around menopause. Hops have also been used for suppressed and painful periods. The asparagin in hops is a soothing diuretic, reducing fluid retention and hastening elimination of toxins from the system. This combined with the action on the liver have given hops a reputation for clearing skin problems. Their relaxant and antihistamine action is also useful here. Hops have been used in creams to keep the skin soft and supple and delay wrinkling. Their antiseptic action is useful for cuts, wounds and ulcers.
Historical uses - Hops feature only occasionally in early herbals, and the health benefits ascribed to them are similar to our understanding today.
Sedative - The herb is used mostly for its sedative effect. A sachet placed inside a bed pillow releases an aroma that calms the mind. Hops help to reduce irritability and restlessness and promote a good night's sleep.
Tension - Blended with other herbs, hops are good for stress, anxiety, tension, and headaches, though they should not be used if depression is a factor. The antispasmodic action also makes them useful for certain types of asthma and for menstrual pain.Aid to digestion - Hops are beneficial for the digestion, increasing stomach secretions and relaxing spasms and colic.Other medical uses - Temporomandibular joint syndrome or disorder / TMJ (TMD).
Culinary uses - Serve young hop shoots as you would asparagus. The shoots, which are best when they are 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) long, should be boiled for 2 to 3 minutes. Then change the water and steam the spears until tender. Serve with melted butter or cheese sauce. In hop-producing areas of Europe, blanched hop spears are sometimes served as a delicacy.Hops are an essential ingredient of beer, whether brewed at home or in commercial breweries, as it is the resin in the cones' lupulin glands that gives beer its bitterness.
Hop extracts and oil are used commercially to flavor yeast, candy, ice cream, puddings, gelatins, baked goods, chewing gum, confectionery, and condiments.