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This article is from the Herb Reference series.


Other Names:

Common Hop

Latin Name:

Humulus lupulus
H. americanus

The Hop plant was first mentioned by Pliny, who called it a garden plant and described how the Romans of his day ate it as we do the asparagus today. It was not put to its chief use, however, the brewing of beer, until the fourteenth century. Before that time people drank meade or ale, beverages made out of fermented honey or barley and flavored with such herbs as ground ivy, marjoram, buckbean, yarrow, germander, broom or wormwood.

Native to Europe, Western Asia, and North America but is of course cultivated for beer in many temperate countries, including the United States. Herbalists generally buy their hop flowers from a supplier, but if you have a garden they are easy enough to grow for yourself. Being perennials, hops are nearly always grown from purchased roots rather than from seeds. These have to be obtained from companies who cater to vegetable growers and farmers, for the average nursery doesn't stock them.

Stems: Squarish, angular, and hairy.
Flowers:  Male and female flowers apear on separate plants.
Male: greenish white with five sepals and five stamens grow in loose 
bunches 3 to 5 inches long.
Female:  Pale green, paired blooms
on short spikes grow at the axils of the leaves. 
Leaves: Opposite, cordate, coarse, finely serrated edges, with three to five lobes.

Fruit: Papery, greenish, and cone like strobiles grow from the female flower. These have a sprinkling of yellow glandular hairs which contain the active constituants of hops.

Rootstock: Branched.

Height: May grow to 30 feet in length.

Cultivation: Plant the hop root in a sunny spot thick end up in rich loamy soil in early spring, and stick one of those inexpensive cedar or redwood trellises obtainable from most nurseries in behind it. Once the root begins to sprout, give it plenty of water, for the hops plant is a vine like the grape, and virtually cannot be over watered. By midsummer you will have a tangle of square, downy stems covered with dark-green lobed leaves. In the axils of the leaves strongly aromatic flowers will then appear, which contain the actual property sought by the herbalist. No fruit will grow till the third year.

The female hop flower, a leafy yellow conelike catkin, contains the drug lupulin, which posses tonic, diuretic, and sedative properties. Hop flowers have accordingly been employed by herbalists for various types of anodynes and sleeping potions for a very long time.
Sedative Hops Tea: A mild sedative hops infusion may be drunk before going to bed if you have trouble sleeping. Infuse 1 teaspoon dried hops flowers in 1 covered cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain and flavor with honey and lemon as required.

Sleep Pillow: An old remedy for restless slumber is the hops pillow. A small pillow is stuffed with hops flowers which have been sprinkled with a little alcohol (vodka is suggested) to help release their essential oil. Adding a few rosebuds and verbena leaves will also improve the pillows results.

Tender Hop shoots can be cooked as a vegetable.


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