Wild About - Hops

Hops (Humulus americanus) are an herb that I have turned to again and again this year. You see, I'm a night owl, always have been, and sometimes I need help getting to sleep. And that's where beautiful bitter hops come in.

Of course, you are probably familiar with hops as a major component of beer. But did you also know that they have medicinal properties?

I can only speak of my on experience, but I have found hops to bring on a very gentle, natural-feeling sleepiness. Unlike other herbs I've tried, they don't make me feel loopy, or dead tired. Hops act more like a persuasive nudge than a strong arm.

I was lucky enough to find hops on one of my bike rides last summer (on a public path downstream from the Coors Brewery, so were the hops native or introduced?). As I rode along the path, the creeping sticky vines and papery strobiles (they are like a crepe-y pine cone) of hops suddenly stood out to me like a flashing sign. Like grape vines, they were everywhere - climbing along fences, up trees, and even creeping along the ground.  I knew immediately what they were, but not what they were used for. But I knew it was an opportunity that wasn't to be wasted, and because I'm always equipped to forage when I ride (whaaat? you don't ride with a knife and bags?), I stopped and picked a whole bag full of them. Their resinous aroma filled my nose all the way home.

When I did my research and found that hops are perfect for insomnia, it felt like serendipity. No wonder they had spoken to me so loudly.  I tinctured some by packing them into a jar and filling it with brandy, and I dried the remainder for tea.

Hops tincture is by far the best smelling tincture I've made. Something about the tincture draws out all of the fruity qualities of the herb. When I've finished my work for the day, and am ready to go to bed, I take 10-30 drops of hops tincture, and usually feel sleepy within 15 minutes.

I have also found the hops tincture to work wonders on my nervous stomach. Ugh, I can remember as a little girl, how my stomach would flip flop on the first day of school. These days, my whole digestive tract spasms whenever I'm nervous.  I got a letter from the Department of Revenue a few months ago that practically ruined me, until I opened it and realized it was just a reminder to renew my driver's license. Oops (sheepish grin). So, in situations were anxiety is likely to cause a major upset to my digestive system, I simply take 20 drops of hops tincture, and it helps to stop those sickening spasms of fear.

But when it comes to my bedtime ritual, I prefer to take hops as tea (3 strobiles works nicely). Part of that is that comfort of holding a warm cup of tea. But it's also because I really enjoy lingering over the bitter taste of the hops. Just think of the strong aftertaste that beer has - that's the hops coming through.  Now imagine a warm mug of that same lovely bitter taste lulling you to sleep. Good stuff. Sweet dreams, y'all.

I'm sharing this post with the Herbal Medicine Chest at the Woodwife's Journal. Click through if you are interested in taking advantage of more great herbal home remedies.  I'm also sharing with Real Food Wednesday, where real food is the rule.


  1. Wow - sounds better than Rescue Remedy :-) I always love seeing hops growing - I think they look beautiful. I had no idea though about their slumber inducing properties.
    Sue :-)

  2. I've never actually seen them growing! They're beautiful. I wonder if a few seeds escaped from Coors. =)

  3. Incredible! And amazing that you live in a place where hops are just growing where you can get them.

    I have to ask: Does Coors use local hops or buy them elsewhere? It would be so neat if you found and used the same hops that end up in beer bottles!

  4. That is so great. I wish I had some of those seeds. Can they be ordered? Great post.

  5. I have always wanted to try to grow some. One beer and I am fast asleep, so I know these would work wonderfully!

  6. Sue - I bet yours are about ready to pick!

    Belinda - I was wondering the same thing. But it's hard to tell because they grow here naturally, too.

    Karen - My guess would be that Coors imports.

    Gloria - I'm fairly certain hops can be obtained from herb stores, but they might be cheaper from beer-making suppliers.

    Pam - There really quite pretty, and would be both decorative and useful, win win.

  7. You know me, I have to try me some of this! My next goal is for a better sleep schedule! :) I also love that you found these wild, it is like nature said Here, try this FREEE! hugs! Alex

  8. Butter, you write about herbs so beautifully. Really truly.

    I dreamed about hops all night last night. Thought of you immediately upon waking!

  9. I use to live in Yakima WA, a neighbor to Moxee Wa the hop growing capitol of the world. Hops are very attractive and now good to know the rest of the story too! Thanks.

  10. Thank you, R, that means a lot coming from you.

    Melynda - They are so pretty, aren't they, but so useful, too.

  11. I know I say it often - but you AMAZE ME!!! I had no idea about hops - but it makes sense - beer puts me to sleep too!

  12. too funny, I just posted an article about growing your own hops on my eatlocalwestmichigan blog. The local brew supply store is letting all its customers know it's time to order the rhizomes!

  13. Christy - The hops are actually lovely. Because of the celiac thing, it's been ages since I've had a beer, but I adore the taste of hops.

    Wendy - I'm so tempted to grow them as well, but I've got good access to them in the ditches, so I might as well use my garden space in another way.

  14. I've always been afraid to try hops for fear they would make me feel goofy. Thanks for sharing this info with us at the Herbal Medicine Chest hop. Looking forward to hearing from you again.

  15. Seriously? I thought these were only for beer. Pretty though.

  16. Hi! Did you add any kind of sweetener, or was it great
    with the brandy alone? thanks!


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