Botanical name: Humulus lupulus
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
The hops plant, Humulus lupulus, is a climbing plant native to Europe, Asia, and
North America. Hops are the cone-like, fruiting bodies (strobiles) of the plant and are
typically harvested from cultivated female plants. Hops are most commonly used as a flavoring
agent in beer.
Hops have been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Soothing the stomach and promoting healthy digestion have been the strongest historical use
of this herb. Hops tea was also recommended by herbalists as a mild sedative and remedy for insomnia, particularly for those with insomnia
resulting from an upset stomach.1 A pillow filled with hops was sometimes used to
encourage sleep. Traditionally, hops were also thought by herbalists to have a diuretic effect
and to treat sexual neuroses. A poultice of hops was used topically to treat sores and skin
injuries and to relieve muscle spasms and nerve pain.2
Hops are high in bitter substances. The two primary bitter constituents are known as
humulone and lupulone.3 These are thought to be responsible for the
appetite-stimulating properties of hops. Hops also contain about 1–3% volatile oils.
Hops have been shown to have mild sedative properties, although the mechanism is
unclear.4 Some herbal preparations for insomnia combine hops with more potent
sedative herbs, such as valerian. Hops also
contain phytoestrogens that bind estrogen receptors in test tube studies but are thought to
have only mild estrogen-like actions.5
How much is usually taken?
The German Commission E monograph recommends a single application of 500 mg of dried herb
for anxiety or insomnia.6 The dried fruits can be made
into a tea by pouring 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water over 1–2 teaspoons (5–10
grams) of the fruit. Steep for ten to fifteen minutes before drinking. Tinctures,
1/4–1/2 teaspoon (1–2 ml) two or three times per day, can also be used. As
mentioned above, many herbal preparations use hops in combination with herbal sedatives,
including valerian, passion flower, and scullcap.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Use of hops is generally safe. However, some people have been reported to experience an
allergic skin rash after handling the dried flowers. This is most likely due to a pollen
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum,
2. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave
Press, 1996, 56–7.
3. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton,
FL: CRC Press, 1994, 305–8.
4. Bradley PR (ed). British Herbal Compendium. Bournemouth:
British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 128–30.
5. Eagon CL, Elm MS, Eagon PK. Estrogenicity of traditional Chinese and
Western herbal remedies. Proc Annu Meet Am Assoc Cancer Res 1996;37:A1937
6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete
Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative
Medicine Communications, 1998, 147.
7. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave
Press, 1996, 56–7.