The Amazing Hops Plant and Its Health Benefits
Beer is brewed using only a few ingredients. Water, yeast, malt and hops form the core of all beer varieties. Beer has also long been known to provide health benefits (which are now being borne out by the medical community). Many of those benefits stem from the hops plant. In fact, hops have been used as a homeopathic remedy for a range of problems from insomnia to menstrual problems and indigestion. Beer drinkers regularly ingest a significant amount of hops and can reap a lot of health benefits (as long as drinking is done in moderation). What should you know about hops?
For those who have trouble getting to sleep, hops can provide some significant benefits. Hops have a sedative effect, for which the plant was used long before it made its debut in brewing beer. To treat insomnia, you can use hops in several different ways. Some sources recommend putting hop flowers in a pillowcase beneath your head, but most sources recommend brewing a tea with it or taking a supplement. Additionally, taking hops will not result in you feeling groggy the next morning (unless you’re drinking too much beer). Many herbalists recommend combining hops supplements or tea with other extracts, such as valerian or melatonin for more serious insomnia problems.
Treating Anxiety and Nervousness
The sedative properties of hops also help with nervousness and anxiety. Taking a hop supplement can reduce nervous anxiety and help promote a sense of well-being and relaxation. This is part of what you experience when you drink beer (apart from the effects of the alcohol).
Hops have long been used for treating digestive problems. Diarrhea (particularly due to anxiety) can be helped in this way, as can indigestion. For those with irritable bowel syndrome, hops offer benefits through antispasmodic action. It can also be used for constipation and for gassiness. When combined with other herbs like mint, it can provide a very effective remedy as well.
For women who suffer from serious menstrual discomfort, hops can provide some benefits. Its estrogenic effects can provide relief from hot flashes, as well as cramping and other symptoms. Tea seems to be the most highly recommended form here.
A Good Source of Antioxidants
For those looking for something a bit more scientific and supported by modern medical research, consider the huge concentration of antioxidants found in hops. The level of antioxidants here is comparable to what is found in wine and offers the same benefits.
Antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body, which are responsible for everything from the aging process to cancer cell development. In fact, German scientists have actually brewed a beer with a high hop concentration specifically for targeting cancer growth. The average craft beer contains enough antioxidants that drinking a single beer is more beneficial than a glass of red wine for the body.
Kidney stones are caused by a buildup of calcium in the body. Hop supplements can help reduce your body’s level of calcium and prevent the formation of these painful stones.
Hops (the actual plant portion, not a supplement) can also be used to treat skin conditions. The plant can be used for extremely dry, cracked skin and it can also help to heal leg ulcers in patients with poor leg circulation, varicose veins and more.
Hops also have organic compounds that are thought to help fight osteoporosis and even help keep it from developing in the first place. Studies have shown that drinking beer, hop tea or taking a hops supplement can help fight bone loss and even reverse the process. Another benefit for those with osteoporosis is that hops seem to fight inflammation within the body.
Does Beer Contain Enough Hops to Do Any Good?
For beer lovers, the obvious question here now is does your preferred brew contain enough hops to actually do your body any good? Actually, most do. Beer brewed with extra hops will certainly contain more of what you want, but all beer that uses hops (that’s 99.9% of beer out there) will offer at least some benefits, particularly in the area of antioxidants.
You should also know that some people are more sensitive to the way that hops work. Like many other herbs, some people will respond well and others won’t respond at all (that doesn’t mean that a beer a day or so can’t be very good for you though).
Possible Complications of Hops
Like all other herbs and supplements, there is a downside to using hops for your health. In fact, taking too much can actually aggravate the symptoms you are trying to treat. For instance, overdoing it with hops supplements can actually cause additional stomach upset because it stimulates acid production. Too much exposure to hops has been linked to menstrual cycle irregularities in women as well. Of course, the high estrogenic effects of this supplement can also have unwanted effects on the body, and even loss of libido in men.
Additionally, the very effects that hops are used for can be problematic. If taken during the day, the supplement can cause unwanted drowsiness. Make sure that you do not take it before driving or operating machinery. It’s also not recommended for pregnant women or those breastfeeding as the effects have not been well studied by doctors. It is also recommended that those suffering from depression not take this supplement as there are indications that it can actually worsen depression.
Hops can be a very powerful supplement and can provide significant support for your health. Ingesting it through tea or through a formulated supplement available through health stores is the most common way to take it. However, beer can also be a good source of hops, particularly for those who are only interested in the antioxidant properties of the plant. Drinking a beer or two per day has been shown to provide substantial health benefits for men and women.