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Hops – To Relieve Tension, Promote Sleep, and Alleviate Pain

Hops (Humulus lupulus) is best known for its use in the brewing of beer. When a pleasant aroma wafts over my small town, one knows that Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is hard at work. The female inflorescences, or hop cones, are used to preserve beer and provide the characteristic aroma and flavor. About 98% of hops production is used for brewing beer. Another historic, non-alcoholic use of hops has been to fill a muslin pillow with the herb to aid in non-drug-induced sleep. Hops pillows are said to calm the nerves and prevent nightmares.

A recent clinical trial conducted in France (See HC 081013-413) found the hops formula that was used in the study ineffective in promoting sleep. However, a fixed combination of valerian-hops extract has been shown to be effective in other studies (See HCs 030563-314, 070574-340, and 110283-373). Hops has also been combined with California poppy in sleep aid formulations.

Chiefly used as a nerve tonic, it is good for relaxing excited cerebral conditions. It is thought to be fast acting and aid in sleeping and hyperactivity. Hops has also been used to relieve muscle spasms and has been found to alleviate menopausal discomfort after 16 weeks of treatment. It relieves pain and reduces fever as well.

Hops has also been used for jaundice since it is considered to increase bile secretion and also helps to tone the liver and gallbladder. Hops can also tone the muscles of the stomach, thereby controlling the hyper-excitability of the gastric nerves. A poultice of hops can soothe inflammations, including boils, relieve the pain of facial neuralgias, sciatica, and other rheumatic pains, and help reduce toothache pain. Hops contains lupulon and humulon which help prevent infections. Other conditions where hops has been thought to be useful include asthma, menstrual symptoms, headaches, bronchitis, and dysentery.

Hops is a good source of niacin, a B vitamin that helps reduce cholesterol and certain fatty substances in the blood.

If you want to create your own "sleep aid", you can fill a muslin bag with 2 parts hops flowers, 1 part chamomile flowers, and 1 part lavender flowers. Place under your pillow and sweet dreams.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor