HopsHops for sleep

Hops have been used by European and western herbalists for many centuries. Hops are known to reduce tension and anxiety-related sleeplessness. Hops are a member of the Cannabaceae (marijuana) family and the herbal remedy hops is related to marijuana and is legally sold in supermarkets, drugstores and health food stores across the world.

Hops have been used for centuries to flavour and preserve beer. The bitter, aromatic taste of beer mostly is due to the hops content. Less well known, however, is that hops are also used for medicinal purposes. Hops pickers have reported sedation during harvest, and hops flowers have been added to pillows for the relief of nervous conditions. It’s said that hops improve the quality of sleep (falling and staying asleep), calm us down and improve our digestion among many other benefits.

Hops have been used for centuries in different types of medicine, including North American traditional medicines and Indian-Ayurvedic medicine, according to the American Botanical Council (ABC).

The English have also known about hops’ therapeutic benefits for some time. The ABC says one of the most prominent people treated with hops was King George III. He is believed to have slept on pillows filled with hops to help calm him down.

Studies have found that hops are sedating (calming and sleep promoting). Compounds in hops have various properties, including relieving aches and pains, and killing bacteria. Hops are used to help treat various health problems, such as sleeplessness and nervous problems.

This plant is native to North America and Europe, but is cultivated in many other places. It’s commercially grown in many countries throughout the world, mainly for the brewing of beer.

Hops: Latest views

Healthline.com warns that the uses of hops listed on its website (many of which are listed on this website) haven’t been thoroughly tested in humans. The safety and effectiveness of hops haven’t always been proven. Some of these health problems can be serious, and should be assessed by a qualified healthcare provider.

Hops are included on the United States Food and Drug Administration’s list of foods “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS). Commission E, Germany’s equivalent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has given its approval for using hops in cases of anxiety, restlessness, and fighting sleepless nights.

A study of hops and valerian combined was published in 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study found that together the two herbs improved sleep.

Sleeppassport.com cites and references the results of three studies published in various medical newsletters/science journals. The studies found that a combination of hops and valerian can help promote sleep. Sleeppassport.com says: “There are many more such studies.”

Healthline.com says many uses for hops are based on tradition, limited research and scientific theories, and have not been thoroughly tested.

Using hops

Fresh and dried hops have different properties and are used to treat different symptoms. Fresh or newly dried hops, usually dampened with glycerin to reduce the rustling noise, are used in sleep pillows to help ease a restless or anxious person into sleep.

As the hops age, they change in chemical composition. For this reason, the hops in pillows should be changed every few months. Fresh hops can also be made into a tea that is taken to combat insomnia. The tea is made by steeping about two teaspoons of fresh hops in one cup (250 ml) of boiling water for five minutes.

Hops are often combined with other calming herbs, such as valerian. Hops are taken in various ways, including as tea and tincture, in capsules, tablets and creams.

Internally (by mouth) hops have been used for many things including insomnia and other sleep problems, anxiety, restlessness, stress and tension and irritability to name a few examples.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using hops, as not enough is known about how hops might affect them.

WebMD says hops might worsen depression, so depressed people should avoid taking hops. Hops might make people feel too tired when combined with anesthesia and other medications during and after surgery. For this reason, stop taking hops at least 2 weeks before surgery.

MedicineNet.com advises caution if you have diabetes, alcohol dependence and/or liver disease. If you take hops, limit how much alcohol you drink, because they might worsen some effects, such as tiredness. The website recommends talking to your doctor before using hops if you have depression or cancer.

Side effects of hops

WebMD says that hops are considered likely safe for most people.

MedicineNet.com says allergic reactions to hops are unlikely. See a doctor or pharmacist straight away if you notice symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as: a rash, itching, swelling, dizziness or breathing problems.

Healthline.com adds that hops might cause: dry cough, bronchitis and other occupational respiratory diseases, slowed breathing, slowed thinking, drowsiness or even depression. Large amounts of hops might cause fits, hyperthermia, restlessness, vomiting, stomach pain and acid.

According to WebMD hops interact with alcohol. Taking large doses of hops with alcohol might cause people to feel very sleepy.

MedicineNet.com says before taking hops, tell your doctor or pharmacist all prescription and non-prescription medication that you’re taking. Hops may interact with several drugs.

One caution to note is that hops might increase the effect of sedative drugs. So if you’re taking drugs for insomnia, it would be very wise to discuss things with your health care professional before taking hops or any of the other herbs for sleep.

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