If there were an herb that would make Homer Simpson happy, it would be Humulus Lupulus, or female hops flowers. Also called hops cones, seed cones, strobiles, or simply hops, they’re a major component of most beers. And since Homer loves his Duff beer, it’s a sure bet he’s getting a healthy dose of hops regularly.
So, how exactly do hops flowers benefit Homer and real humans who include them in their diet? Let’s find out.
Hops Health Benefits
Hops enjoy a prime reputation for their role in flavoring and preserving beer. However, there’s so much more that they can do. Hops flowers have enjoyed a respected place in the world of herbal medicine, and scientific research supports its healthy reputation.
How Hops Can Help Relieve Menopause Symptoms
The first of the health benefits of hops flower we’ll discuss is how it helps relieve menopause. Women undergoing menopause experience a number of discomforts, most commonly hot flashes and night sweats. Thankfully, there are natural remedies like hops and fenugreek that can help lessen the hassles of menopause.
A 2016 study suggests that taking hops tablets dramatically reduced hot flashes that women in early menopause experienced. This reaffirms a 2010 double-blind study, which indicated the superiority of hops extract in alleviating menopausal symptoms.
Putting Insomnia to Bed with Hops
Waking up all refreshed after a good night’s sleep has to be one of the best feelings in the world. Unfortunately, too many of us suffer from insomnia, which tends to make us feel cranky and inattentive. Sleep deprivation can also lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and hypertension.
The good news is you can snooze off for some much-needed zzzz’s as it is one of the health benefits of hops flower. There are studies showing that the herb, when combined with valerian, promotes better sleep quality. Combining hops with lemon balm also demonstrates a considerable effect on alleviating sleep disturbances.
Treating Anxiety with Hops
Everyday life is full of stress. We experience pressure on the job, problems with money, traffic woes, conflicts in relationships; the list goes on. The resulting anxiety can be debilitating for many, affecting their ability to function in their daily lives.
Improving mental health is one of hops benefits. A 2017 study in the journal Hormones shows that hops supplements improved anxiety and mild depression in otherwise healthy young adults. Hops also demonstrated a positive effect on other mental problems like restlessness and mood disorders.
Improving Digestion with Hops
There’s no understating the importance of gut health in our overall well-being. It’s vital for our digestive system to be in tip-top shape so that it can absorb the nutrients that our bodies need.
In herbal medicine, one of the primary health benefits of hops is its use as a digestion aid. A 2017 study demonstrates that hops extracts reduce inflammation in the stomach. Also, hops’ bitter components—lupulone and humulone—are appetite stimulants; they’re good for those looking to gain weight.
Xanthohumol: A Powerhouse for Health
It’s a mouthful to say, but learning about xanthohumol, one of hops’ flavonoid components, is worth the effort. Found mainly in hops resin and in the underside of young hops leaves, it packs quite a punch, medically speaking. A 2015 study in the journal Molecules explains the potencies of xanthohumol in hops:
- Acts against obesity and metabolic syndrome.
- Helps control glucose metabolism and potentially aid in treating diabetes.
- Helps prevent cardiovascular conditions like atherosclerosis.
- Possesses anti-carcinogenic properties that help prevent cancer.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Demonstrates antimicrobial activities against harmful bacteria.
- Holds promise when it comes to protecting the liver, skin, and thyroid against diseases.
The amount of xanthohumol in regular beer isn’t sufficient to make a significant health difference. If you want to reap its benefits to the fullest, you’ll need to take food or beverages enriched with the flavonoid.
Words of Caution About Hops Flower
Hops flowers can mimic estrogen, so they might be harmful to people with hormone-sensitive disorders, including certain types of breast cancer. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, and children below 3 years of age are also advised against taking hops products.
Exposure to hops flowers can sometimes trigger allergic symptoms like skin redness, conjunctivitis, contact dermatitis, and swollen eyelids.
The dried and compressed form of hops, called hops plugs, are particularly toxic to dogs and cats. If you plan to grow hop plants to brew your own beer at home, keep this in mind. If your pet starts to exhibit symptoms like an extremely high temperature, vomiting, rapid panting, and anxiety, go to the vet.
Without treatment, a pet with hops poisoning can die within six hours. Dog breeds that are prone to malignant hyperthermia (overheating), such as Labrador retrievers, greyhounds, and Dobermans are particularly vulnerable.
The Rise of Hops: A Short History
Beer goes back thousands of years, but the use of hops in beer didn’t start until around 800 AD or so. This was when medieval monks learned that hops flowers somehow made beer keep better.
Northern German farmers then started cultivating hops plants specifically for flavoring beer. In 1629, English and Dutch farmers in what’s now the USA began cultivating hops in the New World. Meanwhile, in 18th-century England, the government required hops—which were taxable—as an ingredient in all beers.
However, before anyone ever thought of adding hops to beer, the herb was already contributing to making everyday life better. The ancient Romans included it in their diets, and members of the Cherokee tribe used it to relieve inflammation.
Ways to Obtain Hops Flower Benefits — Without the Alcohol
Sampling the world’s beers isn’t the only way to enjoy the benefits of hops, though it’s a pleasant way to do it. (A friend is on a quest to find the best beer in the world, and so far, his money’s on the Belgians.) There are several ways to take or use hops flowers to improve your well-being. Let’s look at a few examples.
In Food and Non-alcoholic Drinks
Before the hops plants start forming their flowers, they form little shoots, which many people eat as spring greens. These shoots, ranked among the world’s most expensive vegetables, are also known as wild asparagus. They can be pickled, baked, and grilled, and enjoyed in delectable dishes such as frittata and Italian risotto.TIP: Hops tea is a way to partake of the herb's benefits without getting tipsy. It's a natural sedative and the perfect way to de-stress after a long day. Click To Tweet
You can always get a bottle or two of non-alcoholic beer. They’re full of hops goodness, but without the drunkenness factor.
In Essential Oils
You can receive numerous health benefits of hops flower through extracted essential oils. In aromatherapy, its floral and spicy scent blends well with other types of essential oils such as citrus and woods oils. Similar to tea, hops oils promote calmness and reduce cravings. They’re even reputed to tame an overactive libido.
Essential oils derived from hops flowers are ingredients in personal hygiene products as well. You’ll find natural deodorants with low dilutions of them available in the market. They work by preventing nasty bacteria from interacting with your sweat, thus keeping you smelling clean and fresh.
Whether you’re thinking of brewing beer at home or simply adding to the variety of herbs in your garden, you’ll find that growing hops plants doesn’t take too much effort. After reaping the fruits of your labor, you’ll find yourself saying “cheers” or “bon appetit”—not “d’oh!”