Hops: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on hops

Humulus lupulus is a species of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family. It is a dioecious, perennial, herbaceous climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome in autumn. Strictly speaking it is a bine rather than a vine, using its own shoots to act as supports for new growth.

The root is stout and perennial. The stem that arises from it every year is of a twining nature, reaching a great length, flexible and very tough, angled and prickly, with a tenacious fiber. The leaves are heart-shaped and lobed, on foot-stalks, and as a rule placed opposite one another on the stem, though sometimes the upper leaves are arranged singly on the stem, springing from alternate sides. They are of a dark-green color with their edges finely toothed. The flowers spring from the axils of the leaves.

The hop is dioecious, i.e. male and female flowers are on separate plants. The male flowers are in loose bunches or panicles, 3 to 5 inches long. The female flowers are in leafy cone-like catkins, called strobiles. When fully developed, the strobiles are about 1 1/4 inch long, oblong in shape and rounded, consisting of a number of overlapping, yellowish-green bracts, attached to a separate axis.

If these leafy organs are removed, the axis will be seen to be hairy and to have a little zigzag course. Each of the bracts enfolds at the base a small fruit (achene), both fruit and bract being sprinkled with yellow translucent glands, which appear as a granular substance.

It is these ripened cones of the female hop plant that are used in brewing, and female plants only are cultivated, since it is from these alone that the fruits can be obtained.

common names & nomenclature
The origin of the name of the hop genus, Humulus, has been assumed by some that it is derived from humus—the rich moist ground in which the plant grows.

The specific name Lupulus, is derived from the Latin, lupus (wolf). Pliny explains that the hops plant strangles other growth by its light climbing embraces, as the wolf does a sheep.

The English name hop comes from the Anglo-Saxon hoppan (to climb).

Also known as:
common hops, hops, hop

Hops, the herb of beers
Hops: Where in the World
habitat and range for hops

Humulus lupulus is native to Europe, western Asia and North America.

Hops: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting hops

Growing best in sun or semi-shade, hops are reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of between 31 and 137cm, an annual temperature in the range of 5.6 to 21.3°C and a pH of 4.5 to 8.2. Plants are very hardy tolerating temperatures down to about -20°c when dormant. Care should be taken in the spring as the young hop shoots can be damaged by any more than a mild frost.

Hops require deep, rich fertile, well-drained soil.

Sow seed in spring in a cold frame. Germination is fairly quick. Transplant out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out in the summer or following spring. Division can be done in spring as new growth begins. You can plant the divisions straight out into their permanent locations in the garden.

The female flowering heads are harvested in the autumn and can be used fresh or dried.

Store the dried hop flowers in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Hops: The Rest of the Story
hops history, folklore, literature & more

hops—more than just an ingredient in beer
You probably know that hops are one of the major ingredients in the popular beverage beer. It’s a plant that’s been used to brew the beverage for centuries. However, hops can be used for much more than making an alcoholic liquid. In fact, you’ll wonder why you didn’t know more about hops before.

Dried hops can be used for a variety of things. For example, if you’re having problems with inflammation of a joint or other area of the body, you can create a poultice of dried hops. When you apply it directly to the affected area, you’ll enjoy soothing relief. In addition, hops can be put in a sachet made of cheesecloth or old nylons and placed under your pillow. This will help you to fall asleep and have sweet dreams if you’re suffering from insomnia.

If you suffer from menstrual cramps that sometimes seem unbearable, hops can also help you to find relief. The plant works to fight muscle spasms that cause the painful cramps. In addition, it can fight spasms in the respiratory system that cause asthma.

This work with muscle spasms extends to the digestive system as well. If you suffer from indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome, hops can bring relief by relaxing the muscles of the digestive system. In addition, hops can be a good treatment for increasing your appetite if you’ve lost it due to illness.

Hops can be used in many forms such as infusions, liquid extracts, tinctures, oils, and tablets. You’ll need to do research before taking it to make sure you get the dosage correct. You may also find that hops are an ingredient in teas that are designed to help you sleep at night.

While the hop plant is best known for its role in beer production, the truth is that it’s a handy little plant. It can provide a variety of healthful benefits that make it the perfect solution for some health problems.

One word to the wise, hops can actually cause some skin irritation if you handle the plant directly. It can cause dermatitis and eye irritation if you get it in your eyes. In addition, some people have an allergy to hops. Make sure to handle hops with care so you can avoid these irritations and complications. Used correctly, hops can be a great addition to your herbal regimen. You may wonder how you ever lived without it.