People ask me all the time about my favorite herb. It’s an impossible question. The best I can do is to answer what my favorite is at the moment. I think I can safely say that I’m really enthusiastic about hops (Humulus lupulus) right now. In fact, it’s an herb I’ve written about both in my first book, Conceiving Healthy Babies, and my next book Heal Local.
The hop vine needs a cheerleader or two in most circles. Our use of it these days is mainly confined to specialty beers, and that’s a shame. It is incredibly bitter, and bitter, sadly, is not a flavor that we appreciate very much in the American diet.
Using Hops for Digestion
It is the bitter taste of hops that makes it such a digestive system superstar. We have a bitter receptor on our tongue that does not get stimulated by the standard American diet.
That bitter receptor is important. Foods that are bitter signal the liver and the gall bladder to begin their digestive work, pumping bile into the stomach before the food gets there. So much of our diet serves to suppress our digestive juices, so instead of digesting food properly we have putrefaction. This leads to a host of digestive upsets including gas, bad breath, indigestion, poor nutrient assimilation, intestinal irritation, gallbladder problems and acid reflux, to name a few.
Here at our farm we make a bitters formula with hops and it is one of my favorites! Just 15-30 drops of any bitters formula 15 minutes before you eat can get digestion working properly and literally change your life.
How To Make Bitters with Hops
- 2 parts hops (find organic hops flowers here)
- 1 part each of three of the following – burdock root, yellow dock root, gentian, angelica, artichoke leaf, blessed thistle, or any other bitter herb (find these herbs here)
- ½ part aromatic herb of your choice – anise, lavender, chamomile, dill, fennel, peppermint, etc. (find these herbs here)
Add the herbs in your formula to a quart jar. Your herbs should not fill more than half the jar. Cover with either vodka or warm apple cider vinegar to the top of the jar. Cover with a tightly-fitting lid and shake. Keep your bitters formula somewhere you will see it to remind you to shake often. Allow it to steep like this for 4-6 weeks. Strain and store in amber glass bottles (like those found here).
NOTE: Take care to look up any contraindications that apply to your family as you will be using this every day.
Take 15-30 drops of bitters 15 minutes before meals.
Using Hops for Sleep
Hops are well known for their pain relieving abilities and pain can often prevent sleep. This plant is my favorite remedy for insomnia. It is a gentle example of a class of nervines called sedatives. Sipping a beverage or using a few drops of tincture featuring the Humulus plant before bed is almost universally effective for those who can’t get to sleep and those who wake in the night. The intense bitterness of hops isn’t for everyone, so it is often a good idea to mask the flavor with something more pleasant. We mix hops with honey, skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) to create a honey spread for sleep support. (Click here and scroll down to find our Honey ZZZ Herbal Honey Spread.)
Hops are easy to grow and very beautiful in the landscape. In the summer when the blooms (called strobules) are opening up and still green, harvest and dry them for later use. We love our vines and collect all the hops our family needs each year off a couple plants.
What about you?
Have you ever used hops for better health? If so, share with us in the comments section!