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Hops, botanical name Humulus lupulus, is a climbing plant native to Asia and Europe, belonging to the Cannabinaceae family which also includes hemp and marijuana. It has a stem five, six meters high, with rough leaves similar to those of the vine, with a thinner and rounded petiole and without tendrils. The flowers are yellow-green and develop between June and September. The cones of the female flowers are covered with a powder: lupulin. Due to its strong, aromatic smell and strongly bitter taste, hops are used for the production of beer, especially the European variety Humulu lupulus, while the Asian variety, Humulus japonicus is exclusively used as an ornamental plant to cover pergolas and garden supports. Hops grow along hedges and in the woods. It prefers humid soils (hence the name Humulus) and likes the proximity of elms. The shaft clings to the nearest support reaching a maximum height of seven meters. The plant is present up to altitudes of 1500 meters. Its root, every year, emits a new stem which withers in late summer. In the past, hops were used to stuff pillows, in order to promote sleep. In addition to serving for the production of beer, this climbing stem is also used in phytotherapy. The part of the plant used for this purpose are the female flowers, called cones and the dust present on them: the lupulin. Their harvest takes place between September and October and before using them they must be kept for a long time.
Hops contain essential oil, resins, bitter substances such as humulone, lupulone and their derivatives, mineral salts, tannins and phytoestrogens. The main effects of hops are on the nervous system and digestive system. At the nervous level, hops seem to have sedative and calming properties, which promote sleep and decrease hyperexcitability. The bitter and strongly aromatic taste also allows it to be used to promote digestion, fight lack of appetite and nervous dyspepsia. The flavor of the hops is due to the humulone and lupulone which during the storage of the plant release a volatile alcohol with sedative effects. In this sense, hops would be more effective if inhaled. Some even claim that it has the same effects as marijuana and that smoking it causes a mild state of euphoria. Hops also possess bactericidal activity. The sedative action, combined with the antimicrobial action, allows its use for the treatment of whooping cough. In the 1950s, the first hormonal effects of hops, which contain substances similar to estrogens, were ascertained. Proof of this is the fact that during the harvest, women, even regardless of the period of the cycle, suffered the onset of menstruation. Estrogenic substances would be present, in modest quantities, in hopped beer which is indicated in the treatment of menstrual disorders and irregularities, in menopause disorders and to curb male hypersexuality. The female inflorescences of hops have beneficial effects even in case of premature ejaculation and nocturnal pollution.
For medicinal purposes, as already mentioned, the female inflorescences of the plant and the powder contained in them, called lupulin, are used. From these various herbal remedies are obtained, such as infusion, powder, dry extract and mother tincture. The infusion is prepared with 0.5, 1 gram of inflorescences in 150 ml of boiling water. The infusion should be left to rest for 10 minutes in a closed container, then filtered and drunk both during the day and before going to bed. The flower powder is also contained in capsules. The recommended dose is one or two capsules a day before meals. One capsule contains at least 200 mg of powder. The capsules may also contain the dry extract. The recommended dose is 100, 200 mg of dry extract. The ideal dose of mother tincture of hops instead, it is 40 drops two, three times a day. The tincture is also called hydroalcoholic solution and is obtained from the maceration of fresh plants. These products are used in cases of insomnia, nervousness, dysmenorrhea and digestive disorders. The use of hops is not recommended in pregnancy, due to its marked estrogenic activity, in childhood, in women who have undergone mastectomy and for those taking antidepressants and anxiolytics.
Hops: Product costs
The costs of herbal remedies based on hops remain on the average of other medicinal products. The mother tincture of hops, in a 50 ml bottle, costs just over six euros. A pack of 60 capsules of hop flowers costs just over eight euros. The recommended dose for this type of capsule is two, four a day, to be taken with plenty of water, during the day and just before going to sleep. A pack of 45 capsules can cost as much as 9 euros. Slight variations in the price of the products depend on the composition and the manufacturer. Hop extracts are also marketed in tablet form. A pack of 45 pieces costs around ten euros. The recommended dose for this type of tablet is one, two a day, at mealtimes. The correct dosage varies according to the composition and brand and it is useful to agree in advance with a herbalist doctor.