Saturday, July 29, 2017 by Frances Bloomfield
Hops are the flower clusters of the common hop (Humulus lupulus), an herbaceous climbing plant native to Europe, North America, and western Asia. The most famous and most common use for hops is as a flavoring agent in beer, an application that goes as far back as the 11th century. More recently, however, female hops’ flowers are gaining a reputation as an herbal remedy, a reputation that is as ancient though less known than the one related to beer making.
Hops contain the essential oil components humulene, caryophyllene, myrcene, and farnesene. It’s these essential oils that are responsible for giving hops their powerful therapeutic qualities, specifically as antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agents.
Xanthohumol is another noteworthy substance found in hops. Like myrcene, this flavonoid compound gives hops their bitter flavor, and makes these flowers very useful. Xanthohumol is believed to imbue hops with a wide array of health-promoting benefits that include antiviral, anti-clotting, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties.
Apart from these, hops contain the potent antioxidant vitamins C, B6 or pyridoxine, and E, as well as the amino acid asparagine. While the vitamins all play important roles in protecting the body from disease and slowing down the body’s natural aging process, asparagine plays a role in the treatment of a variety of conditions.
Hops can be used to alleviate the symptoms of:
The essential oil form of hops is a favorite among practitioners of aromatherapy, especially when it comes to pain relief. Hops essential oil is considered to be an analgesic substance that is effective in the treatment of all kinds of chronic pain, such as headaches, muscle aches, and even menstrual pain and cramping. In fact, one of the earliest medicinal uses of hops was as a remedy for menstrual difficulties during the early Greek and Roman period.
Hops essential oil has a soothing, sedative quality that makes it an ideal treatment for insomnia.
One other use for hops essential oil is for reducing instances of congestion and coughing. This can be attributed to the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of hops.
Certain chemicals in hops act similar to estrogen, and can therefore help reduce or relieve the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.
Hops are believed to be good for:
Thanks to anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and calming qualities of hops essential oil, it can defend the skin from irritants and infections. Moreover, the antioxidants present fight off free radicals that may age the skin. Hops essential oil is unusually strong, however, and shouldn’t be used as is by individuals with sensitive skin — it should be diluted with water.
Hops can be added to foods as a flavor enhancer instead of a main ingredient. Their strong, bitter taste can overpower dishes if used in great quantities. So when cooking with hops, be sure to use them lightly or risk producing dishes that taste more like medicine than anything else.
Additionally, hops can be steeped for a calming tea, then blended with peppermint, chamomile, or lemongrass to dilute the bitterness.
Although hops are more known for their use in beer, their medicinal applications cannot be spoken of enough. The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of hops make them quite effective in treating chronic pain, congestion, and coughing, while their sedative quality is good for insomnia. One should exercise caution when consuming hops or using hops essential oil, however, as hops impart a strong, bitter flavor to any dish, and hops essential oil is particularly strong.
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