Chances are you’ve sampled recipes using Humulus lupulus at least once in your lifetime, at least if you’re over 21. More commonly known as hops, the ingredient that gives beer its distinctively bitter flavor, brewers have used this twining vine for centuries. Its use as an culinary ingredient can be traced back to ancient Rome, where the young shoots were prepared in butter or cream. Humulus lupulus has long been used in several herbal remedies, both internally and externally, to ease anxiety, insomnia, sores, and swellings. The origin of the word “Humulus” has been debated as either stemming from “humus,” or rich earth, or “humela,” the German word for “hop.” “Lupulus” translates to “small wolf,” a reference to this vine’s tendency to cover and then smother other plant life. The common name “hops” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “hoppan,” which means “to climb.”
A tea or infusion made from Humulus lupulus has been used for centuries to cure insomnia, to lessen anxiety, to manage menstrual cramps, and to improve digestion. To make the tea, take one teaspoon of dried, chopped Humulus lupulus and add to one cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for five to ten minutes, then strain and enjoy. Humulus lupulus contains a substance that acts like estrogen and has been used to encourage the flow of breast milk. In conjunction with other herbs, it’s also been used as a natural method for breast enlargement.
Tinctures, or mixtures of herbs and alcohol, that contain Humulus lupulus have also been used to treat the same conditions for which infusions are employed and, when combined with other relaxing herbs, they can be an effective alleviant for stress. To make your own, combine ½ ounce of Humulus lupulus, ½ ounce of passion flower, ¼ ounce of skullcap, and ¼ ounce of valerian in a container. Make sure the container has a lid that can be sealed tightly. Add one pint of alcohol with a high proof, such as Everclear, strong vodka, brandy, gin, or rum, then save and clean out the bottle in which the alcohol came. Seal the container with the herb/alcohol mixture tightly, then let sit for two weeks, shaking daily. After the two weeks has elapsed, strain the mixture and return to the clean bottle. Take several drops of the tincture to relieve stress.
Tea made from Humulus lupulus can also be used as a poultice to treat sores, rheumatic aches, and painful swellings. Simply apply the tea to a clean cloth and wrap the affected area. Cover the poultice with a clean towel to both stop drips and keep the area warm. To get the sedative effects of Humulus lupulus without actually ingesting it, make a pillow containing the flowers. When rested upon, the weight of your head crushes the flowers and releases the soothing oils. Warmed, the pillow is a traditional remedy to soothe a toothache.
As with all herbal remedies, you should not use unless you first consult with your doctor. Although Humulus lupulus has been traditionally used to encourage the flow of breast milk, there is little scientific information about the benefits or dangers of this practice. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid use. Humulus lupulus may worsen depression and interfere with surgery-related medications such as anesthesia. Humulus lupulus may interact adversely with alcohol and certain sedatives.