Family:    Cannabinaceae
Genus:     Humulus
Species:   Lupulas


Synonyms and Common names:   Beer flower.

Description and Habitat:
The hop plant is a straggling, rambling, climbing perennial with lobed leaves that grow off a central, slightly rough-surfaced stem. The plant requires support and can often be found growing up trees or, if cultivated, on trellises. As most people know, hops are a primary ingredient in beer and are widely cultivated in various parts of the world over here, Kent is a particular area for this. The leaves are quite large and rich green in colour. The stem of the plant is very sturdy and wiry, with a faceted, slightly prickly surface. The leaves themselves are three or five-lobed. The plants are either male or female.  Male hop plants have small, rather insignificant flowers, while the female plants have small cone-shaped flowers that have a look of a pine cone.  These ripen into the well-known, papery fruits from September onwards.

It is relatively easy to cultivate hops in Britain, they grow from the rhizome, although small plants can be bought from the internet,    Hops often intertwine into country hedges near where they have once been grown commercially.   Hops prefer deep, well-drained loams. Use well-mulched soil or high-quality compost and rotted manure to bed them in. Ideally, plant over winter or buy plants in pots instead of rhizomes. Plant in the sunniest spot with room for strings or a pole for them to climb.

Parts used:   flowers from the female plant.

Collection and preparation:  The cones, or flowers, are gathered before they are fully ripe in late summer and early autumn.  They should be dried with care in the shade.

Constituents:  Lupulin, bitters, resin, volatile oil, tannin, estrogenic substance.

Actions:  Sedative, hypnotic, antiseptic, astringent, analgesic, bitter, nervine.

Indications and Therapeutics:
Hops have a marked relaxing effect upon the central nervous system.  They are used extensively for the treatment of insomnia.  Hops will ease tension and anxiety and may be used where this tension leads to restlessness, headache, and possibly indigestion.   As an astringent with these relaxing properties, hops can be used in conditions such as mucous colitis.  They should, however, be avoided where there is a marked degree of depression, as this may be accentuated. Externally, the antiseptic action is used for the treatment of ulcers.


Contraindications:   Avoid use when Hormone-sensitive cancers and conditions are present.  Some chemicals in hops can have an action like the hormone estrogen. People who have conditions that are sensitive to hormones should avoid hops. Some of these conditions including breast cancer and endometriosis.

Hops can act as a mild depressive on the higher nerve centres, and is, therefore, contraindicated in depression. Its   The pollen from the flowers may cause contact dermatitis and the flowers themselves rapidly lose their effectiveness with storage. Chronic exposure to hops by those who work with them has led to nausea, vomiting, abnormal sweating, sleeplessness or drowsiness, agitation, fever, slow heart rate, dilation of the pupils, and skin reactions such as erythema, conjunctivitis and pustular dermatitis. Paradoxically, many of these symptoms are the opposite of the therapeutic effects of this herb.

Preparation and dosage:
Infusion:  1-2 teaspoonful of the dried herb and pour over 1 cupful of boiling water.  Allow to infuse for 10 -15 minutes.   Drink at night to induce a good night’s sleep.

Tincture:  Take  1-4 ml. 3 times daily.


Additional comments and Folklore:
According to flower folklore, hops have powers of healing and sleep. Beer Flower is a folk name of hops.

Hops are used in “healing” sachets and incense. In colour floral magic, the robust green flower cones of hops are used in spells for healing, money, prosperity, luck, fertility, beauty, employment, and youth.

History recalls Hop Picking in Kent:

A large supply of hands was needed to pick even one acre of hops. So the tradition of itinerant workers arriving for the picking season was early established. But in the 19th Century with the huge increase in acreage went an expansion in the hop picking phenomenon.   The mass arrival of families from the East End of London, Portsmouth, Birmingham and other towns for their annual hopping holiday.  An acre of hops could employ 200 pickers at a time. The migration has been variously estimated at 350 to 450,000 people, a large proportion of Kent and Sussex.    For a country with a population of 8 million people, this was a prodigious movement of people, for example, compared with itinerant foreign farmworkers of the 21st Century.   Big hop growers took in 3000 or more pickers. In the early 1800s, the pickers earned a penny a bushel, rising to 2 pence later on.

Special trains were laid on from East End Stations. Pickers were housed in very rudimentary huts and sheds around the hop gardens. With so many incomers there were inevitable tensions with the country residents and sometimes drink-fuelled violence. Extra Constables were deployed during the season. William Marshall writing in 1798 said that the roads swarmed with strolling pickers.  They were said to be living as much in a state of nature as American Indians or the savages of the Southern Hemisphere And plundering the countryside. The Oast acted as a social centre during the picking season, especially for the end of season party.

There was a Victorian tendency to take a romantic and sentimental view of the blessings of hop picking in the country, a wonderful break from their benighted life in urban slums and the Docklands. This was an opportunity for clergy, temperance causes and charities to improve the moral and physical welfare of hoppers.

Hops were first used in beer in Asia 10,000 years ago

It appears that hops were used in Babylon before 200 AD.   Hop's Latin name appears in records of Jews’ captivity in Babylon. They mention sicera, which means strong drink, made from hops.

Hops spread into Europe from Asia through Eastern Europe. The most consistent fact about the spread of hops is that in almost every country, the use of hops was resisted.

Hops are a distant relative of stinging nettle and of cannabis.