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  • Laurie Thatcher-Craig

Effectiveness of Hops on Insomnia


How todays Medical Researchers are providing scientific evidence of the effectiveness of Hops (Humulus lupulus) as a Traditional Medicine for Insomnia, Anxiety and Nervous tension.


Ahhhh sleep, a final frontier at the end of a long day. For many people, this journey to get to sleep has become allusive, and a destination that is impossible to reach. In 2014, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) declared Sleep Disorders a “Public Health Epidemic.” Their survey found that:

  • 23.2% of survey respondents (almost 50 million people) reported problems concentrating during the day

  • 11.3% (24 million) indicated lack of sleep interfered with driving

  • 8.6% (18 million) reported that sleep deficiency interfered with job performance.

There are now many sleep clinics available to people to diagnose and treat these disorders. The conventional medical treatments include pharmacological and psychological approaches, but long-term use of medications can lead to addiction, withdrawal symptoms and side effects. Natural approaches are therefore gaining more and more popularity because they do not have the disadvantages of many medications.

This blog is to educate you on the historic use of hops for sleep disorders, anxiety, and nervous tension, used by our ancestors, and to show support for this traditional natural medicine with modern day scholarly research.



Historical Use


Sleep deprivation can affect your biological rhythm. For thousands of years, our ancestors used hops to bring balance to the brain in order to restore that rhythm. The Cherokee, Delaware, Meswaki, Mohegan, Round Valley Indian Tribes, and the Lakota used hops for insomnia, and as a sedative for nervous disorders (D. Moerman’s “Native American Ethnobotony” + Culturally Important Plants of the Lakota:1998).


Ayurvedic medicine is widely practiced on the Indian subcontinent. They believe that if your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe, you have good health. When something disrupts this balance, you get sick. Hops have been recommended in Ayurvedic Medicine to bring balance when treating restlessness associated with nervous tension and its actions are reported as sedative.


Lupulin (the pollen in hop flowers) consists of various compounds, mainly bitter acids, volatile oils, and polyphenols. Lupulin, is a fine yellow resinous substance and was first isolated by the French pharmacist Planche in 1813. Reports on systematic chemical investigation of lupulin can be found in the United States as early as 1820. Ives, a physician, reported from his own experience that it frequently induced sleep and “quiets great nervous irritation” (American Journal of Science 1820.)


Planche praised its aromatic, tonic, and narcotic (sleep-promoting) virtues. “In many cases, it provokes sleep and appeases excessive nervous irritation, but without causing constipation. This was a great advantage compared to the effective treatment with opium”. (YIKES!)


Positive monographs for hops on the treatment of sleep disturbances have been published by the German Commission E45 and the Scientific Committee of European Experts of the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Both have extensively reviewed literature to form a consensus opinion (The Scientific Foundation for Herbal Medicinal Products. 2nd ed).


It has been demonstrated that the hop extract has important effects on the rhythms that regulate sleep. It affects serotonin and melatonin, suggesting that the sleep-inducing properties of the hop extract (infusion tea) activated the melatonin receptors. (Hypthermic effects of hops are antagonized with the competitive melatonin receptor, Journal of Pharmacol 2007)


Method of Preparation for a good night’s Sleep


In 2014 the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC) (part of the E.U.) filed an assessment report regarding Natural Health products containing Hops for the purposes of sleep disorders, and the scholarly research to support it. They reviewed numerous products throughout the E.U. member states. Many of the hop preparations available for sale to the public were dry extracts prepared with water, methanol 30%-45% or ethanol 70%. Some preparations consisted of powdered herbal substances or liquid extracts prepared with 70 %- 90% ethanol. The Review panel cited contradictory results obtained by different research teams in the determination of the pharmacological effects of hop products for insomnia. They commented that it, maybe due to the use of different raw materials. At no time was the quality of the hops, the preparation of the hops, or variety of the hops considered when assessing its effectiveness on sleep in the studies mentioned. We believe this is critical to the effectiveness of hops on sleep and was quite surprised to see this was not addressed in any study I reviewed as well.


In 2019, we undertook an “informal trial” regarding our farm grown hops for their effect on insomnia. We had several volunteers, including ourselves. (Yes even farmers have trouble sleeping.)


We chose 4 different varieties of hops that would be considered “Old World “that would have been around and used by our ancestors. We labelled them A, B, C, and D, so the participants would not know what variety they were taking. All hops were grown, harvested, processed, packaged, under the criteria established by Shellhammer, 2010, for quality protection of the essential oils, and part of our control. Volunteers were asked to rate each variety of hop for effectiveness over a 2 week period. If there was a noticeable difference, that one of the samples was not effective, they were told to move on to the others, and not continue for the 2 weeks we had requested. All participants were asked to use the method of preparation used by North American Indian Tribes (see blog on Influenzas) for infusion tea, using ½ - 1 Tablespoon of hops in 1 ¼ cups of rapidly boiling water. Once cooled down they were to drink only the top level infusion tea extract, approximately 1/4 - 1/3 cup 30 to 60 minutes before bed.


The net result of the trial was consistent across all participants, including ourselves. Only 1 variety out of the 4 being tested worked. The method of preparation was consistent by all participants. The same variety of hops, that were “set aside for not being effective” was also consistent among the participants. The main comment we received was “the hops that worked have given me my life back”. Additional comments included better memory and vivid dreams.


Some participants experienced a re- balancing effect. Meaning they used them for a period of time, and found they were able to stop taking them as they had their sleep in balance once again. (My personal experience was like this) Other participants found they could not go without their nightly hop tea and had just “incorporated it into their bedtime routine.” The variety chosen by the participants across the board is available from our farm as Night Cap Infusion Tea.


Conclusion


There was a time in human history when the farmer and the pharmacist / doctor, worked together to provide effective herbal remedies for many illnesses. Today the news is full of fear about COVID-19, and the arrival of the seasonal flu. Governments are panicking about the strain on the Health care system. They are begging all of us to get seasonal flu shots while we wait for the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved.

We have provided this information in the hopes that you have found this blog informative and enlightening, as to how our ancestors used hops as a Traditional Medicine to manage influenza and my own experience using them, for this purpose.

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