Hops (humulus lupulus) resemble grape vines, growing more than 16 feet tall. It is a medicinal as well as a culinary herb. They are grown in western North America, but most are grown in Europe. The female plants bloom and bear fruit. The yellow-green blossoms hang from the plant during harvest and these flowers are cut near the base, gathered and processed for consumption.
Hops are used primarily in making beer, adding a tangy or bitter flavor. They are rich in antioxidants and have been used for hundreds of years as an organic additive, preventing the growth of parasites. They are also used for a variety of other purposes in food and drink, and in natural remedies. These issues include menstruation problems and heartburn. And, like other bitter herbs and spices, hops are used to help digestion and treat bloating and gas.
Consumption of hops can decrease nervousness and promote a feeling of well-being and satisfaction. Constituents in the herb are currently thought to relax the neurological system and treat insomnia. Sleepiness observed in workers in European fields led to the use of the herb as a sedative and a sleep aid. The German E Commission has given sanction to the use of it for treating “discomfort due to restlessness or anxiety and sleep disturbances.” They also have fairly strong estrogen-like properties, making it a phytoestrogen, like soy. The herb is, therefore, thought to be useful in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Recent studies indicate that a water extract of hops (called “hop water”) may be useful in reducing allergic reactions to such plants as ragweed.
There are few adverse reactions to using hops, making it one of the most commonly approved organic herbs. Its high estrogenic=like properties, however, can also have negative results on the body, and even lack of sexual interest in men. It is not advisable for pregnant and lactating mothers.
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