A flavoring and preservative in beer since the ninth century, hops has a longer history as an herbal remedy. The plant is a perennial vine that grows to 20 feet; the medicinal part is found in tiny glandular hairs on the scaly, cone-shaped fruit. Chinese and European healers have valued the herb's sedative action and its ability to relieve muscle cramps. Today hops is still prescribed primarily as a sedative; the active ingredient is lupulinic acid, which depresses the central nervous system and induces sleep. Because of its bitterness, which stimulates gastric juices and decreases gas, hops is also prescribed as a digestive aid. And along with other ingredients in the hops fruit, zinc has astringent or binding effects on the body.
Taken internally for:
Apply externally for:
Over the counter:
Available in commercial herbal remedies, as dried or fresh herbs, and in the form of capsules, powder, and tincture.
Tea: 2 tsp. dried herb used per cup of boiling water, then steeped 15 minutes.
Poultice: Boiling water poured over 1 to 2 cups dried herbs to moisten, steeped five minutes and wrapped in a cloth. Applied warm to the affected area for facial pain, neuralgia or tension headache.
Hops pillows: Freshly dried herbs placed in a pillowcase; case dampened with water to keep herbs from rustling.
Combinations: Used with valerian for stress, tension headache or panic attacks. Used with passionflower or valerian for insomnia.