When most people here hops they immediately think of beer. Hops provide a bitter aromatic flavor to beer. They are used to offset the sweetness of the malt in beer production. Before people began using hops in beer brewing many other herbs and flowers were regularly used for bitterness including dandelion, burdock root, and heather. Hops have a strong antibacterial property and it was noticed that when they were used in beer production the beer would last much longer and not be as prone to spoiling. Over the centuries hops replaced all other herbs and flowers as the most common bitter and aromatizing ingredient in beer.

Hops are actually the female flower cluster of the hops species, Humulas lupulus. This flower is also known as a strobile. The hops plant is a climbing vine. When they are grown commercially the plants are trained to grow up wires or strings so more of them can be grown closer together. Once the male plants are recognized they are destroyed, because the female flower clusters are more prized without seeds. The male plants are removed to prevent pollination. The female plants are often cloned from other female mother plant so that only female plants are then cultivated.

There are records of hops being cultivated as far back as the year 700 in the region that is now modern day Germany. The first mention of hops being used in brewing beer was around the year 1100. In Great Britain hopped beer was first imported from Holland. It was not until the 1500’s that hops began to be grown in England, and it was not until the 1600’s that hops were cultivated in the United States. Germany is still the number one producer of hops in the world with the United States in second place. In the United States the Pacific Northwest is the major area of hops production.

In addition to beer production hops have been used for centuries as a medicinal herb. Primarily hops were prized for having anti-anxiety, relaxant, and sedative properties. Hops work great as a natural remedy for insomnia. They are available individually in herbal capsule form in many health food stores, but the most common way hops are used in natural medicine today is in combination with other natural sleep aids such as valerian, passion flower, melatonin, theanine, and lemon balm. Hops work very synergistically with these other nutrients to create very effective natural sleeping products. Many of the better natural sleep aids on the market are every bit as powerful and effective as prescription medications without the long list of side effects. These natural insomnia cures are also not addictive making them a great alternative to pharmaceutical medications.

As with other herbal products the best way to get the full benefits of hops is to look for products that provide hops in a standardized extract form. The most potent form of hops available will be listed as (4:1) (strobile). In this way the active components of the herb are isolated and concentrated in a clinically controlled way. This process insures that each pill you take will have the same potency as the last. Otherwise with all herbs there can be much variation between potencies depending on the exact part of the plant that is consumed, the growing conditions at the time of harvest, and other uncontrolled natural events.

Author's Bio: 

David Oromaner is a vitamin, herb, and nutritional supplement specialist with over 25 years experience in the health and wellness industry. He is a certified personal fitness trainer and bodybuilder with 25 years of experience in these areas of health and fitness. He owns a company called Guaranteed Supplement Designs that specializes in development and distribution of cutting edge natural products such as the natural sleep aid GuaranteedToSleep.

If you like this article you can read more at his Healthy Notes blog.