Image Credit Hagen Graebner
Hops is a flowering, perennial bine (as opposed to a vine) that uses its own shoots to act as support for new growth. They are said to be native to Europe, west Asia and North America. Hops is the main ingredient (flavouring and stabilising) in many beers and has many medicinal uses as a relaxant, sedative etc.
Hops prefer rich well draining soil with lots of manure or organic matter and will thrive in full sun. Plant them next to a fence or use trellis, stakes, poles or wires. Each plant should have about 1 metre space and can grow up to 7 meters high, depending on the variety.
How to Plant
Depending on the source of your seeds they may need stratification (6 weeks in the refrigerator). Plant the seeds in small containers, cover lightly with soil and keep them in a warm moist spot. Germination is in about 4 weeks but can take longer.
How to Water
Hops enjoy plenty of water so water regularly, do not let the soil dry out. You can use mulch of organic matter to keep the moisture in and you can add organic fertiliser seasonally.
Hops will outgrow most things around it and they are heavy feeders (water and nutrients) so do not plant anything too close to them. You can also grown hops in containers.
How to Propagate
You can propagate hops from the rhizomes or softwood cuttings.
Usually 2 – 3 year old plants are divided.
How to Harvest
The flowers will be ready when they begin to feel dry, sticky and papery with a visible yellow substance. The stems and leaves can be irritating to the skin so wear gloves. It is easiest to cut down the bine for harvesting, the plants will regrow next season. Dry the flowers and store in airtight containers in the freezer.
Information & Research
Oleo-resins containing bitter substances (acylphloroglucides, humulone, lupulone, valerianic acid), volatile oil (humulene), tannins, estrogenic substance, flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin, rutin), chalcones, aspargin.
Nervine, strong sedative, hypnotic, tonic, diuretic, analgesic, aromatic bitter, anti-bacterial (topically), astringent, anti-pyretic, antispasmodic, anaphrodisiac (3).
There are quite a few studies that have confirmed the use of hops for insomnia / sleeplessness, some studies also combine hops with other herbs such as Valerian. A 2012 study found that hop extract has better sedation, pre-anesthetic and anti-anxiety effects than diazepam (a prescription medication) (26).
Preparations & Uses
The dried flowers are used.
You can make an infusion (1 teaspoon per cup of water), a powder and a tincture (dosage is around 2 to 4ml a day with max 40ml a week) (3). You can also make creams and lotions.
Hops are generally used for sleeplessness, reduce anxiety and nervous tension, including headache and indigestion. Hops is also said to reduce sexual excitement in men and can be used for premature ejaculation (3).
In addition hops is also known to be used for ADHD, stomach infections, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, period pain, nerve pain, inflammation, muscle tension, fluid retention, some cancers, kidney and bladder infections and more. Lotions and creams can be used for boils, bruises, cuts, dandruff, hair loss, wounds etc.