Hops is a bitter-tasting plant that is popularly known for its use in beer. This plant has many other health benefits.
Hops was used traditionally to support relaxation and sleep. Modern research shows that it may be helpful for weight loss, menopausal discomfort, and improving mood.
In this article, we will look at the health benefits of hops, its safety, and history.
Table of Contents
What is Hops?
Hops is a perennial plant that is part of the Cannabaceae family, along with cannabis. The plant has many varieties and is native to Europe, Asia, and the United States.
There are more than 250 different varieties of hops worldwide. Although different in aroma, bitterness, and flavor, each variety imparts similar health benefits.
Common varietals include:
- and Simcoe
Hops has a relaxing effect on the body and is said to relieve nervous tension, promote sleep, and reduce anxiety and depression. As a tincture, hops is commonly used to reduce menopausal symptoms and encourage weight loss.
Modern research shows that hops has sedative, anxiolytic, and estrogenic effects; its thought that these benefits are due to lupulin, an aromatic resin present in hops.
Hops is a well-researched plant. Many of its traditional uses have been scientifically tested and confirmed to be effective.
Health Benefits of Hops:
There are many traditional and modern purported health benefits of hops. These benefits include support with menopausal symptoms, sleep improvement, weight loss increase, and pain relief.
Below we have listed the top research-backed benefits of hops and its active constituents.
1. May Improve Sleep
Research shows that hops may naturally improve sleep quality. Getting adequate amounts of deep sleep is key for mental and physical health.
In a study involving non-alcoholic beer, hops content was found to improve sleep quality in 17 healthy female nurses. Along with its sedative effects, the hops was also found to decrease anxiety levels.
In another study involving 120 individuals, researchers discovered that a herbal compound containing hops, jujube (Ziziphus jujuba), and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) helped to improve sleep quality. After administration, the time spent asleep increased, while sleep onset and nocturnal awakenings decreased. The compound also reduced irritability and fatigue.
In another trial using an herbal compound, 184 participants with mild insomnia were administered hops and valerian tablets for 28 days. Results showed an overall improvement in sleep quality and no recurring symptoms after the tablets were discontinued.
A variety of animal studies have shown that hops and its active constituents have a relaxing effect on the body and will improve sleep quality. The studies also show that hops decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the total time spent asleep. Nighttime awakenings were also reduced.
Additionally, government health organizations such as the Commission E, British Herbal Compendium, ESCOP, and German Standard License recommend hops (taken internally) for supporting restlessness and sleep disorders.
Summary:Traditional knowledge, modern research, and herbal authorities indicate that hops and its active constituents have sleeping-inducing and sleep-improving properties. While there are a number of human and animal clinical trials to support this claim, isolated clinical trials on hops would be helpful in understanding its full potential.
2. May Reduce Menopausal Discomfort
Hops may have the ability to reduce menopausal symptoms. This may be in part due to the estrogen-like compounds present in hops.
In a clinical trial involving 67 menopausal women, researchers found that hops extract reduced the number of hot flashes over a 6-week timeline. It should be noted that the hops extract was enriched with 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN), the phytoestrogen compound found in hops.
In a similar study, a standardized hops extract (enriched with 8-PN) proved to reduce hot flushes and night sweats in 36 menopausal women over the course of 16 weeks. Although menopausal symptoms were reduced, researchers mentioned that the 8-PN enhancement of the hops extract may lead to some variability due to the difference in women’s metabolisms.
Another study observing 120 women with early menopausal symptoms mentions that hops tablets reduced symptoms after 12 weeks of administration. Symptoms included anxiety, depression, hot flushes, and loss of interest in sex.
Summary:Clinical evidence demonstrates that hops and its active constituents have the ability to support various menopausal symptoms ranging. It should be noted that physiological constitution plays a significant role in how effective hops can be.
3. May Encourage Weight Loss
Various lab studies show that hops has the ability to promote weight loss and prevent weight gain.
Maintaining a healthy weight is key to optimal health and longevity. Excess body weight significantly increases the risk of numerous diseases and clinical disorders, including:
- All-cause mortality
- Heart diseases,
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- and others
A group study using matured hop extract (MHE) (aged hops infused in water) in healthy overweight humans showed that continual ingestion for 12 weeks reduced overall body fat. There was a significant decrease in BMI with emphasis on fat loss of the abdominal visceral fat. Researchers believe the MHE may be responsible for the prevention of fat absorption (which leads to the storing of fat) and controlling appetite.
In a recent study, administration of a bitter hops-based appetite suppressant proved to regulate appetite and suppress hunger. In a group of 30 men who were fasting for 24 hours, those that were given the hops-based appetite suppressant experienced a statistically significant reduction (>10%) in hunger. Both the high dose (250mg) and low dose (100mg) of the suppressant exhibited these results.
A lab-based study found that an active constituent in hops, xanthohumol, has the ability to break down fat molecules. This process encourages the body to use fat for energy instead of carbohydrates and stimulates fat loss.
Various animal studies have demonstrated xanthohumol’s anti-obesity effect. These effects were displayed through the inhibition of fat absorption and the regulation of fat metabolism.
Summary:Modern human and animal research provides evidence that hops and its active constituents can reduce hunger, prevent the accumulation of fat, and encourage weight loss.
4. May Reduce Anxiety & Depression
Hops is an herb known to support mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Both anxiety and depression affect mood and behavior and are classified as mental health disorders.
In a study with healthy young adults experiencing mild anxiety, depression, and stress, administration of a hops dry extract reduced symptoms after a 4-week period. Researchers saw significant decreases in depression and anxiety scores of all the participants taking hops. The researchers noted that although morning cortisol levels were measured throughout the study, no significant changes were observed. Cortisol levels are a marker for stress.
An animal study using Matured Hop Bitter Acids (MBHAs) in pellet form found that administration reduced depression-like behavior in mice. Researchers mention that this may be due to MBHA’s effect on neurotransmitters and inflammation in the brain.
Both Germany and the US use hops for its anxiolytic properties. The British Herbal Compendium shares that hops is also a spasmolytic which may reduce anxiety symptoms.
Summary:Although there are only a few studies at present, research and herbal authorities suggest that hops has the ability to support mental health. More significant studies and information are needed to confirm these effects.
5. May Provide Pain Relief
Research shows that hops may be helpful in supporting pain relief. Pain is a significant issue and is considered a global health problem.
In a study involving 17 adults with chronic joint pain, an active constituent (nTHIAAs – Tetrahydro iso-α acids) isolated from Humulus lupulus was able to reduce pain after 12 weeks. Some participants noted relief as early as 2 weeks after the start of the study. 13 of the 17 participants were taking additional analgesics (traditional OTC pain-relievers) at the start of the study, while only 4 were taking them at the 12-week mark.
An animal study using hops extract demonstrated that the extract reduced the onset of the body’s pain response. This outcome happened when the mice were given 100mg of the extract either 30 or 60 mins before the test, but not 120 mins before the test. It appears that hops may have a short-term pain-relieving effect.
Another trial using mice proved that a hops extract is useful in targeting inflammatory pain and disorders. The extract was shown to reduce the activity of inflammatory agents.
Summary:Clinical evidence indicates that hops and its active constituents may have pain-relieving properties. While there are a significant amount of animal studies on this claim, more human trials are needed to validate hops’ analgesic effects.
6. Antimicrobial Properties
Hops has proven to have the ability to combat bacteria through its antimicrobial properties.
In a small study, the antibacterial efficacy of hops extract was evaluated on armpit swabs. The extract was able to reduce the number of bacteria and the level of odor. Effects were noticed at both 8, 12, and 24 hours.
An in vitro study demonstrated hops extract’s antimicrobial effect on food-borne bacteria. The extract was able to significantly reduce the number of gram-positive bacteria after 2 weeks. It should be noted both α- and β-acids, as well as xanthohumol, were included in the study.
Summary:With limited studies available for hops’ antimicrobial effects, more human and animal trials would be helpful in supporting this claim.
7. Other Benefits
Other purported hops benefits include:
- May have Antispasmodic Activities: An in vitro study demonstrated the antispasmodic effects of Humulus lupulus extract on isolated rat organs. There was an overall reduction of contractions in the organ after being injected with the extract. This effect could contribute to hops’ ability to improve sleep and promote relaxation.
- May have Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties: Another in vitro study using hops extract (with additional humulone and lupulone) on acne proved that the extract decreased the concentration of bacteria and reduced the inflammatory response. The extract also showed antioxidant activity by reducing the formation of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). High ROS is seen in acne.
Summary:A variety of in vitro studies support claims that hops has a wide variety of health benefits. The above research is a good starting point for future clinical trials.
Safety Class: 1
Interaction Class: A
Hops is generally considered to be a safe herb to consume. Allergic reactions to hops are rare but do occur occasionally.
Hops is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) as a food and/or dietary supplement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Traditionally, herbalist David Hoffman notes that hops is not recommended for patients with depression as the sedative effects may exacerbate the symptoms.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
Although there is a lack of data on hops and pregnancy and breastfeeding, some mention that hops should be avoided due to its phytoestrogen content.
Standard dosing for hops is as follows:
Infusion (tea): Add 1 cup of boiling water to 1 tsp of dried herb and allow to infuse for 10 to 15 mins in a covered cup (in order to capture the beneficial essential oils). Drink 1 cup at night to support sleep.
Tincture (1:5): 1-4 ml, 3x/day
Fluid extract (1:1): 0.5-1 ml, 3x/day, and before bed
Dry extract (4-5:1): 125mg, 2-3x/day
Powdered: Adults – 400mg, 2x/day. Adolescents – 200mg, 2x/day
Hops is not on the United Plant Saver’s “at-risk” list (sensitive to the impact of human activities).
Hops (the female plants) are cultivated across the globe for medicinal and culinary purposes. Primary cultivation stems from the US, Germany, China, Great Britain, and the Czech Republic.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Hops scientific name is Humulus lupulus. It belongs to the Cannabaceae family and is considered a climbing perennial.
Hops’ name comes from the Latin word ‘humus’, meaning ‘earth’, and the Latin word ‘lupus’, which means “wolf”. Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, mentioned the name ‘wolf’ comes from the plant’s nature to strangle willow trees as it climbs.
Other common names include hops strobile, common hops, and European hops.
A very hardy plant, hops love well-drained soil and is typically cultivated in temperate zones across the world. There are over 120 varieties of hops; some like dry, warmer areas while others like mild, wet areas. In general, this herb requires lots of water.
Hops love to climb, so providing a trellis or structure will encourage growth. The vine has small prickly hairs that provide a firm grasp on whatever is nearby.
This herb is considered a dioecious plant, which means the male and female flowers are on different plants. The female strobiles are the parts used in herbal medicine and in beer making.
During the first year of growth, the energy goes into the roots and aerial parts, but cones or strobiles will not appear during the first year. With the second year of maturity, strobiles will start to appear and will increase heavily throughout the following years. Pruning is recommended to make sure energy is being properly allocated to the strobiles.
The cone-like strobiles are ready to harvest when the tips look a bit papery. Harvest of hops begins around mid-August and goes all the way through September.
History & Traditional Use:
Hops has been considered a valuable and versatile plant throughout its history, although there is limited documentation in regards to its cultivation.
Native to North America, Europe, and Asia, the first report of hops was in 860 CE. In the 19th century, Germany was responsible for spreading hops to China, Korea, and Japan.
Before its traditional medicinal use, hops was used for beers, bread, and as a salad vegetable. In the 9th century, hops was traditionally used by Native Americans as a sedative, analgesic, as a support for inflamed kidneys, and as an aid for womb health.
In traditional Chinese medicine, hops is used for insomnia, lack of appetite, restlessness, and intestinal cramps. Ayurvedic medicine employs hops for headaches, nervous tension, and indigestion.
Hops benefits the body in many ways. It has been known to cover a range of health ailments, being especially supportive for sleep and menopausal issues.
It also appears to have a strong potential for encouraging weight loss and reducing anxiety and depression.
This herb is safe to consume as tea and is also commonly taken in tincture form for a stronger effect on the body.
It is worth checking into hops if you have been experiencing any of the above indications. As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.
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