Hops, scientific name Humulus lupulus, is a climbing plant that needs support to grow. The female inflorescences are the cones, with the characteristic shape of pine cones. Often, when we talk about hops, we refer to the cones. Hops is one of the ingredients of beer, to which it gives the typical bitter taste, but hops are also a very interesting and beneficial natural remedy from which herbal teas and extracts are obtained. So let's try to understand, on the basis of scientific studies, what hops can do for our health. Then, we will learn more about how hops are taken and any side effects.
Hops against anxiety, insomnia and depression
Hop cones contain important active ingredients, such as humolone and lupulone, which give the remedy antidepressant and calming properties. It is believed that these substances affect the activity of the main inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Not only that, it has also been observed that hops are able to interact with some serotonin and melatonin receptors, thus helping to regulate the sleep-wake rhythm and improve sleep and relaxation (Kyrou et al, Hormones, 2017). One study found that taking dry hop extracts for 4 weeks in young adults with anxiety and mild depression significantly reduced symptoms and levels of cortisol, a marker of stress (Kyrou et al, Hormones, 2017).
Hops and immune system
Hop cones are a concentrate of essential oils, bitter compounds and flavonoids that are characterized by a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulating action. In fact, hops reduce the presence of pro-inflammatory substances and also of those substances connected to allergic reactions, suggesting a possible role of this remedy also in controlling allergies (Vazquez Cervantes et al, Nutrients, 2021). The ability of hops to counteract chronic inflammation is essential for strengthening the immune system since, in the long run, an ever-present level of inflammation weakens our natural defenses.
Hops and the brain
The compounds in hops are anti-inflammatory and, as such, help to extinguish inflammation in the brain. This fact is noteworthy since, as the most recent scientific research indicates, neuroinflammation is the fuse that causes brain degeneration to explode, leading to diseases such as Alzheimer's (Vazquez Cervantes et al, Nutrients, 2021).
Hops for heart and bone health
Hops contain phytoestrogens, which are substances that mimic the action of natural estrogens. Well, the intake of hops, thanks to these substances, has been able to protect the bones from the risk of osteoporosis, even in menopause. Not only that, phytoestrogens have also been shown to be protective for heart health, inhibiting the formation of thrombus and counteracting arteriosclerosis (Tronina et al, Molecules, 2020).
Hops against obesity
The flavonoids contained in hops, especially xanthumol, give hops hypoglycemic properties, also useful in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides and in combating obesity. In fact, hops are able to improve fat metabolism and glucose tolerance (Dostalek et al, Molecules, 2017).
Hops, how to take it and side effects
You can take hops in the form of herbal tea, an excellent remedy in case of anxiety or insomnia. Bring a cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and add 5 grams of hop cones, leave to infuse for ten minutes, then filter and drink. You can sweeten with a little honey. To enhance the effect, you can have a herbal mix prepared with linden, hawthorn and hops in equal parts, using a teaspoon per cup. Alternatively, hops also exist in the form of an extract. Hops are considered safe but can have some side effects, such as sleepiness, nausea and hypersensitivity in susceptible people (LiverTox, Bethesda, 2012). Do not use in pregnancy.