Hop (Humulus lupulus) is a very popular plant due to its ageless use in preparing beer. At the same time, this herb may also be used medicinally, and modern scientists and herbalists work on discovering its properties and proving those attributed to the Hop by the herbal practitioners centuries ago.
Humulus lupulus is one of the representatives of Cannabidaceae family. Although various species possess minor differences, they may all be used interchangeably. In general, Humulus lupulus looks resembles that of a Stinging Nettle.
Hop, as it is known to the majority of people, is a hardy herbaceous plant with perennial stout root and crown that give raise to the annual rough and prickly angled climbing stems, which nevertheless are very flexible. The plant may reach great length (up to 25 feet).
Humulus leaves are opposite, with the exception of the upper ones, which may be situated alternately. The dark-green leaves, which have foot-stalks, are three-lobed with finely toothed margins.
In summer the plant bears multiple flowers commonly called “hops”, which develop in the axils of the leaves. Male flowers grow in panicles 3-5 inches long. Female blossoms look like leafy cone-shaped rounded catkins, which are scientifically called strobiles. They consist of many overlapping yellowish-green bracts, each one covering a fruit of the plant. The bracts and the fruits are covered with yellow granular powder, which is actually tiny glands containing lupulin – the resinous bitter agent, the most valuable constituent of Hops. Male and female flowers grow on the separate plants. Harvesting period is in September.
Humulus lupulus is native to Europe: it is said to have been grown in Germany, Holland, and England for ages. It is also suggested to have been cultivated in some parts of western Asia. Nowadays, the plant is commercially grown in many countries of the northern hemisphere.
Hops can tolerate colder temperatures, but it needs sunny places to grow well (or at least partial shade), and deep, humus rich and well drained soils or deep and sandy or loam soils to thrive. It should also get timely watering.
Female flowers, called hops, are used medicinally. The leaves and stems are also known to be used to prepare herbal remedies.
Capsules, extract, and tablets containing Hops may be found on the market. Often the remedy is combined with Valerian due to the similar action in order for the consumer to achieve better treatment results.
Hops cones are used for their bitter principle provided by the powder-like glands sprinkled over the bracts and fruits of the plant. The active ingredient of that powder is lupulin – a soothing, sedative, and hypnotic agent, consisting in its turn of humulene, lupamaric acids, and cholene. Lupulin works as a nervine and calming drug to induce sleep and eliminate headache and irritation. It may also improve the milk flow in breastfeeding mothers.
Volatile component dimethylvinyl carbinol is also associated with the sedative properties of the herb, as well as valerianic acid, found in Hops.
Polyphenolic compounds of Hops (humulon and lupulon) add to the bitterness of the plant’s remedies and serve as antibacterial and antiseptic means. Due to the bitter principles the herb is capable of fighting various digestive problems. It improves liver functioning and the production and secretion of digestive juices and bile. Besides, Hops is effective in relieving muscle tension and spasms, reducing pain and inflammation in the body (mainly due to the presence of tannins).
Another component of Hops, asparagin, is a diuretic, which may aid in toxins elimination from the body and reduction of fluid retention. Hops remedies may also have estrogenic effects.
In general, Hops is used as an anodyne, antiseptic, antispasmodic, diuretic, febrifuge, hypnotic, nervine, sedative, stomachic and tonic.
Initially, Hops cones were used to add bitterness to the drinks. With the lapse of time, people noticed that some of the herb’s actions may be used for eliminating certain health conditions. The most frequent use of Hops was as a sedative means: insomnia, depressive symptoms, irritation, nervous tension, delirium and anxiety were treated with the plant’s preparations.
Digestive disorders (diarrhoea, indigestion, dyspepsia, abdominal cramps and colics, and even worms) were the second type of the health problems, most frequently treated with Hops remedies.
In addition, jaundice, dysentery, fever, tuberculosis, leprosy, inflammation are said to be effectively treated with Hops. Used externally, the preparations from the plant are capable to fasten the healing of different skin conditions and slow-healing wounds and bruises. Moreover, even dandruff and painful menstrual symptoms can be reduced with the Hops remedies.
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