The medieval healer and abbess Hildegard von Bingen was not a genuine fan of hops. In her view, hops caused melancholy. It was only their preserving effect that she appreciated. Today, the “green gold” is in fact used almost exclusively for brewing beer. However, if we take a look at recent research findings, we can put Ms von Bingen right: No medicinal herb garden should be without hops!
The preserving qualities that hops are so highly prized for are due to the alpha and beta acids contained in the lupulin. These acids have an antimicrobial effect, which basically means they launch a sweeping attack on bacteria, viruses and molds. Hop components are able to prevent colonization by microorganisms. According to research findings, the antibacterial power of hops can even overcome the multi-resistant pathogenic bacteria that are currently causing headaches for the medical community.1 This wide range of effects makes hops suitable not only for food production, but also for a whole range of antibacterial applications in medicine.
In addition to the alpha and beta acids, the entire group comprising the polyphenols and in particular the prenylated flavonoids, which include xanthohumol, is very important. Polyphenols are prized for their anti-oxidative effects. They are able to keep our cells young. Xanthohumol in particular has made its mark as a prophylactic of a wide range of cancers.2 In addition, hops are anti-inflammatory and support the body’s immune system. Recent research has confirmed their healing properties for a whole range of oral inflammatory diseases, and they are also capable of providing protection against cardiovascular diseases. Xanthohumol and bitter acids also appear to work wonders on two other common illnesses: According to studies, these substances prevent obesity and diabetes.3 But that’s not all: Hops also contain effective phytoestrogens that relieve menstrual pain and menopause-related complaints. Commercially available preparations contain not only hops, but also soya bean and valerian extracts that have similar effects.4
Extensive medical research has been conducted on the calming qualities of hop oils and bitter acids. The findings show that their effect is the opposite to that of coffee: The degree of alertness achieved with coffee could be effectively neutralized by means of hops.5
Another thing worth mentioning is that hops also help against acne and give a good complexion to the skin – which shouldn’t come as a surprise by this stage.6
Meanwhile, work still continues on formulations. Hop extracts are contained not only in some food supplements and medicines, but also in care products: There are toothpastes, body lotions and shampoos made with hops. But be warned! Beer is no substitute for medicine. In beer, the concentration of the effective ingredients is much too low and, besides, they are combined with alcohol, which is counterproductive if consumed in high doses and over an excessive period of time.
The one thing we can say is this: If you want to play it safe, take one to two hop pellets swallowed whole with a little water every day. And if you do that regularly for a hundred years or so, you’ll have ... a long life.
2 Yoshihiro Abiko, Durga Paudel, Osamu Uehara,Hops components and oral health, Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 92, 2022, 105035, ISSN 1756-4646, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2022.105035.
3 Vazquez-Cervantes, G.I.; Ortega, D.R.; Blanco Ayala, T.; Pérez de la Cruz, V.; Esquivel, D.F.G.; Salazar, A.; Pineda, B. Redox and Anti-Inflammatory Properties from Hop Components in Beer-Related to Neuroprotection. Nutrients 2021, 13, 2000. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13062000
4 Kenda, M.; Glavač, N.K.; Nagy, M.; Sollner Dolenc, M.; on behalf of the OEMONOM. Herbal Products Used in Menopause and for Gynecological Disorders. Molecules 2021, 26, 7421. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26247421
5 Min, B.; Ahn, Y.; Cho, H.-J.; Kwak, W.-K.; Suh, H.J.; Jo, K. GABAA Receptor-Mediated Sleep-Promoting Effect of Saaz–Saphir Hops Mixture Containing Xanthohumol and Humulone. Molecules 2021, 26, 7108. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26237108
6 Korpelainen, H., Pietiläinen, M. Hop (Humulus lupulus L.): Traditional and Present Use, and Future Potential. Econ Bot 75, 302–322 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-021-09528-1