Hops

Hops prefers moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade with a preference for full sun. However, hops is a vigorous grower that does well under most conditions. I find it pretty drought resistant. However, the vines will produce fewer and smaller strobiles with drought conditions.

hops_0767

It is a perennial that I cut back to the ground in the fall. It is one of the first plants to emerge in early spring in South Central Wisconsin as early as mid-April. It’s not uncommon to have 24-inch vines by mid May! The vines are course to the touch and will cling and twine onto an arbor and even nearby bushes. It likes to ‘grab’ at you when you go through the arbor in case it hasn’t already adhered itself to something. I can almost see the strong, vibrant vines dancing as they reach and curl towards something to cling to.

spring emergence
spring emergence
vine about to twine on rose bush
vine about to twine on rose bush

 

It is really important to provide a sturdy climbing structure for hops. I learned this the hard way. I originally had it growing on a light weight trellis that I kind of put together in a make shift manner. I guess it should have come as no surprise when I found the connecting trellis used for the top expansion had fallen one third down with the heavy vine still clinging to the top of it. It literally became a hobbit entrance to the garden! It was quite a novelty in the garden that year for my grandkids and myself as well. However, the following year I bought a very sturdy arbor.

I find it helpful when the hops vine is just starting to expand over the top of the arbor or even up the sides to provide a little guidance and spread the vines apart somewhat so the vines start off with a nice spreading cover. Otherwise, the vines tend to wrap and twist around the vine right next to them. They’re very clingy! Handle the young vines carefully when you’re “unwinding” them from one another. The vine can snap off easily.

hops_7079

An easy way to propagate the vine is to simply take a rhizome or root cutting making sure there’s a sprout ready to take off. It may have somewhat of a set back in the transplanting, but the vines tend to be very hardy and should take well to the transplant.

Harvest fresh strobiles containing lupulin, a yellow granular substance, tucked into the overlapping papery bracts. Collect the strobiles when the bracts are just starting to open versus a tight closed flower. Check inside bracts for evidence of the lupulin and fragrance.

Hops has five basic effects on the body. It acts as a sedative, bitter tonic, antispasmodic, anodyne and antibiotic. Here I would like to refer to various herbalists writings who have had experience using hops with clients. My personal experience with hops is limited to using it in dream pillows and as a sleep aid before going to bed. In researching Hops I was grateful to learn more extensive uses and benefits to the plant. Definitely, a plant I want to get to know better!

strobile showing golden lupulin granules
strobile showing golden lupulin granules
strobiles ready to harvest
strobiles ready to harvest
lots of strobiles featured on vine
lots of strobiles featured on vine

 

A few helpful ways about Hops.

  • Principally used for sedative, producing sleep, removing restlessness and alleviating pain, especially if combined with chamomile flowers. (Hutchens)
  • Effective on staph and other skin bacteria; excellent for skin sores and abscesses applied every few hours. Applied as a poultice to reduce inflammation. Used externally for antiseptic action for treatment of ulcers. (Hoffmann)
  • A smooth muscle relaxant: Suited to conditions where there is sleeplessness, pain, twitching and tremors associated with exhaustion from mental, emotional and nervous strain and over excitement. (Wood)
  • May be helpful with irritable bowel syndrome because it eases muscle spasms in the digestive tract. (Hutchens,)
  • Principally used for sedative, producing sleep removing restlessness and alleviating pain, especially if combined with chamomile flowers. (Hutchens)
  • Can be combined with Valerian and Passion Flower for insomnia. (Hoffmann). Note to self: ingest the tincture combo in a little honey because of the unpleasant taste.
  • A strong infusion made with the strobiles (may include the stems and leaves) and added to bathwater is very relaxing for insomnia from nervous exhaustion or menstrual cramps. (Moore)
  • Used as a fomentation or hot poultice for lower back pain. (Wood)
  • A hops tincture or a strong tea contain several antibiotic substances that are not particularly water soluble, but are effective on staph and other skin bacteria. The tincture is an excellent treatment of skin sores, abscesses, and the like: apply every few hours until the inflammation is reduced, or moisten the dried leaves with brandy or vodka, crush, and apply as a hot poultice. (Moore) Love this suggestion!
  • Ranges between a nervine and a sedative. In small regular doses it can calm and help reduce excess excitability and over-thinking, though it can be more sedative than plants such as passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) or Vervain (Verbena species), making for sleepiness. (Sevensong’s article, 2/12/2012)

So of late, I’m planning a soak in the tub with a strained strong infusion of hops flowers added to the bath water! And perhaps a little tincture of hops combined with passionflower as a sleep aid is in order, especially for those time when I have a “chatty mind” that won’t quit and/or I’m experiencing body pains from the day that are keeping me from getting a good night’s rest. I never thought of using hops for lower back pain, but I do now.

Resources

Hoffmann, David. (1988). The Herbal Handbook. Rochester, Vermont, Healing Arts Press.

Hutchens, Alma R. (1991). Indian Herbalogy of North America. Boston & London, Shambhala.

Moore, Michael. (2003).  Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Santa Fe, NM. Museum of New Mexico Press.

Moore, Michael. Herbal Materia Medica, fifth Edition. Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, Bisbee, AZ.

Sevensong’s article titled ‘Hops”, February 12. 2012

Winston, David. (2003). Herbal Therapeutics. Broadway, N.J. Herbal Therapeutics Research Library.

Wood, Matthew. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal, A Complete Guide to the Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books.

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