Humulus lupulus

A monoecious or dioecious perennial climber, with extensive roots (stout and perennial), which dies down in winter. The stem arising from it yearly is tough and flexible, woven in nature, reaching great length and prickly, with a tenacious fibre. The leaves are dark green in colour with finely toothed edges, heart-shaped and lobed, generally opposite each other. Flowers spring from the axils of the leaves. Male (loose panicles 3-5inches long) and female (leafy cone-like catkins) flowers are on separate plants. Flowers from January to February and fruits from February to March.

Family: Cannabaceae

Which probiotic is it in?: Hops is a key herb in Sleep

Habit and cultivation: Hops are native to the UK. It is the sole representative of its genus in these islands. Cultivated and naturalised in both Australia and New Zealand. Preferring sunny, open, rich moist soils, hops need extensive support during cultivation due to the length of the stems. Usually grown from cuttings of root stock when it first shoots in spring but can be propagated by seed. Frost resistant but drought tender.

Actions (known for): Sedative, hypnotic, anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, astringent, diuretic, digestive bitter and anti-bacterial.


A garden plant for the Romans who ate the young spring shoots in the same way we consume asparagus today. Lupus is derived from the Latin lupus meaning wolf; Pliny explained that it strangles other plants with its light, climbing embraces as the wolf does the sheep. The English name ‘hop’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon hoppan (to climb). Hops have been used in the making of ale since the 14th century.

Parts used:


Constituents (bio available chemicals):

Bitter principle (15-20%) resinous and containing derivatives of phloroglucinol. On storage bitter acids convert at least in part to isovaleric acid. Volatile oil (0.3-1%). Flavonoids kaempferol and quercitin. Also contains tannins, phenolic acids, choline, trimethylamine, asparagine and undetermined oestrogenic substances.

Nutritional constituents:

Vitamin: B-complex. Minerals: magnesium, zinc, copper, and traces of iodine, sodium, lead, fluorine and chlorine.


Colitis, excitability, insomnia, menopause symptoms and neuralgia.


Liquid extract (1:2): 10-30ml per week. Infusion of dried herb: 0.5-1g to aid sleep, or 3 x daily. Fresh hops can be placed on a pillow to aid sleep as their scent is carried by the olfactory nerve directly into the brain.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia

Cautions for therapeutic doses

Can be interactive when consuming alcohol or other sedative drugs. May contribute to depression. Topically the pollen has been known to cause contact dermatitis and the fresh plant and plant dust has been known to cause allergic reactions.

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