Hops are stomachic, tonic, nervine, diuretic, anodyne, sedative, and soporific. A pillow stuffed with hops will help an insomniac sleep. Moisten the hops with water before going to bed so rustling strobiles don't keep you awake (assuming you're either the insomniac or sleeping in the same bed with one). An infusion of the strobiles will help support muscle spasms. A poultice is used externally as an anodyne on rheumatic joints and muscle pains. The bitter-tasting tea will help stimulate appetite and calm nervous tension. The tea is soothing and serves as an antispasmodic in delirium tremens. Add one-half ounce of the herb to boiling water and give four-ounce doses of this infusion.
Ripe hops contain a yellow granular powder called lupulin. It contains the plant's active principles-an essential oil mainly composed of humulene, myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and farnesenee. Resinous bitter principles comprise up to 12 percent of the weight of the strobiles-mostly bitter acids, including lupulone and humulone. Over 100 compounds have been found in the essential oil.
Hops are best known as a flavoring for beer, but the plant has many uses. The spent hops left over from beer production make a good compost and mulch, especially for nursery trees. The ashes have been used in glass manufacturing. A pulp of the stems has been used to make paper and cardboard. Textiles such as yarns and strings are made from the stem fiber, and the stalks can be used for weaving baskets.
General Herb Information
Hops are native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Thegenus's two species are grown in gardens - H. lupulus which has a perennial root stock and annual shoots growing thirty feet or more in a season, and H.japonicus, a rapid-growing annual creating a graceful festoonery. The leaves of H. lupulus resemble grape leaves. They are rough, hairy, three to five lobed, coarsely toothed, about as broad as wide (three to five inches), and are in an opposite arrangement, though leaves at the end of shoots may be arranged singly. The twining stems, spiraling clockwise, are tough, flexible, and fibrous. Some plants produce racemes of male flowers from the leaf axils. Others produce female flowers and the plump, rounded, cone-like fruits called strobiles. The strobiles are about 11/4 inches long and are characterized by translucent, yellowish-green, papery bracts, each covering a seed (unless the variety is seedless). Hops flower from July to August.
Hops can be grown from seed but are generally propagated by dividing the young shoots from the main crown in sprrng or fall, or by cuttings rooted from older shoots and suckers in late summer. The first year, seed-grown hops usually develop slowly. Plant root cuttings in a hill-three roots per hill, spaced eighteen inches apart at the corners of an equilateral triangle. Keep well-cultivated and free from weeds.
Hops require a deeply dug, rich, moist soil with full sun. Soil pH should be between 5 and 8. By midsummer, the prickly vines may stretch from fifteen to thirty feet. Once rapid growth begins, water frequently. Cut the stems back after they are hit by a fall frost and add the refuse to your compost pile. In autumn, dress the roots with compost. Hops may require more care than some herbs, but they are worth the effort. Trained over a trellis, they create enclosed spaces in the garden-to say nothing of their food and health value.
In early fall when the strobiles begin to feel firm, turn an amber color, and are covered with a yellow dust, harvest on a clear day. The strobiles will spoil rapidly if not quickly dried soon after harvest. For good keeping, the moisture must be reduced from 65 to 80 percent to about 12 percent. Place in an oven no warmer than 1500°F and leave its door ajar.
As the young shoots appear in the spring, they can be eaten as an asparagus substitute. Blanch the shoots by hilling the crowns with dirt the previous fall. This makes milder-flavored and tenderer shoots. Eat only young shoots. The older ones tend to be tough and bitter. The flavor is nutty and pleasing, though the texture is often dry and gritty. At one time, a hill of hops was part of every English vegetable garden.
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Stir 1/4 of a teaspoon into a glass of water and consume 3 times daily, with meals.
Hops is not recommended for those who suffer from depression.
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