Most of us have heard of hops because they are one of the main ingredients used in beer brewing. They give beer that classic bitter flavor, and in some varieties it can be quite pronounced. Since I love to make my own brews I’ve been curious about growing hops for a while now. Earlier this season we bought a start at the farmer’s market, plopped it in the ground, and it was off and running in no time! But did you know that hops also have numerous health benefits and can be made into a tea? I was so happy to learn about the medicinal benefits of hops and hop tea, and now I want to share that with you!
Hops (Humulus lupulus) are in the Cannabaceae family, which is the same family as cannabis and hemp.
One great thing about hops is that they are very easy to grow. They are a “bine” plant, which is similar to a vine but has a different growing habit. They are perfect for growing on a trellis, arbor, along a fence, or even on the side of a house or barn. Hops do have a tendency to take over a bit, so feel free to prune freely if they are going where they shouldn’t.
Hops are perennial and will die back to the ground each fall, coming back up in the spring. This makes them good for growing as a natural shade provider in the summer when you still want to allow the sun to come through during the winter.
The pale green hop flower cones are what is primarily used for most applications, including brewing beer and for medicinal uses.
Medicinal Benefits of Hops
While hops are well known as being a bittering agent and natural preservative for beer, they are less known for their awesome medicinal benefits. Here are some of the powerful health benefits of hops.
Hops as a sleep aid
Probably the best medicinal use for hops is as a sleep aid. It is a relaxing sedative herb and is particularly effective when combined with valerian.
So that’s why I always feel sleepy after a very hop forward beer!
Hops for stress and anxiety
Beyond helping with sleep, hops are also very beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety. According to this study on the effectiveness of hops for anxiety and stress:
“In otherwise healthy young adults reporting at least mild depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms, daily supplementation with a hops dry extract can significantly improve all these symptoms over a 4-week period.”
Several sources say that hops should be avoided by those with more than mild depression due to its powerful sedative properties.
Hops for digestion
Being a bitter and tonic herb, hops help to ease and stimulate the digestive system. Hops are perfect for making into digestive bitters and are best taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite and help with digestion. You can then use those bitters to make hop cocktails!
Drinking hop tea is another way to use hops for digestive issues, see how I make it below.
Hops for the immune system
Amazingly, hops are also a powerful immune system booster! They have antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antibiotic properties.
Brew up a batch of hop tea when you’re feeling a sickness coming on, or take a few drops of hop tincture to shorten the duration of a cold or flu.
Hops for skin and hair care
Hops are high in anti-oxidants making them excellent for the skin and hair. They also have anti-inflammatory benefits, so are useful for calming rashes or inflamed skin. They would be excellent to use in an infused oil or herbal salve for skin conditions.
When hops are used on the hair they help to treat dandruff and flaky scalp, and can even help with hair loss! Some people claim that using a beer rinse makes hair shiny, likely due to the hops.
Hops are perfect for men’s beard care as well! Check out these awesome hops beard products on Etsy, or you can make this cedarwood and hops shaving soap. These soaps made from beer sound really cool too!
They are also good for healing minor cuts and wounds. Try making a hops poultice next time you you have an injury to help speed healing.
Hops for women
Hops have historically been used for women’s menstrual problems and also for women who are in menopause due to the high level of phytoestrogens they contain. They are effective at reducing the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome by reducing irritability and soothing cramps.
For menopausal women hops help to naturally regulate hormones, ease hot flashes, and calm nerves.
Because of its phytoestrogens hops should not be taken by pregnant women or young children.
How to Make Hop Tea
Making hop tea is probably the easiest way to use hops. Since we grow our own hops I prefer to use the fresh green hop flower cones when I make tea for the best flavor. But once the season is over I pick what’s left and dry them for later use.
You can purchase dried hops from Mountain Rose Herbs, my favorite place to get high quality organic herbs!
To make hop tea, simply pour two cups boiling water over 5-10 hop flower cones. The more hops you add the stronger, and more bitter, it will be. I found the bitterness to be quite mild and not bad at all, but everyone has different tastes. Adding other herbs like chamomile or peppermint will help with the flavor if needed.
As you can tell, hops are pretty amazing and have some great medicinal benefits. I hope this post has inspired you to use hops for your health, even if it means drinking an extra hoppy beer before dinner tonight!
- 2 cups water
- 5-6 cones hops flowers
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
- Pour the water over the hops flowers.
- Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Strain the cones and sweeten the tea to your taste.