Having trouble catching your zzzzs? Do you toss and turn most nights? While grabbing a “cold one” isn’t exactly the way to get a good night’s sleep, the key ingredient in beer—hops—may just offer some help.
Hops have a long history of helping insomniacs find some relief. They have been used medicinally for hundreds of years to treat sleep problems, as well as anxiety, irritability, and restlessness. Could they help you?
What Are Hops?
Hops are most commonly used as an ingredient in the beer brewing process and are what give it its bitter flavor. They are the female flower from the hop plant, humulus lupulus, a creeping vine that grows in temperate climates.
A Happy Accident
What’s most fascinating is how the sedative effects of hops were discovered: field workers harvesting the crops began falling asleep on the job! This led researchers to conduct more studies on the plant, which has been used for centuries in Europe and by Native Americans, and how it can benefit the sleep-deprived. More recent studies have shown that hops help enhance GABA levels (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain, which is naturally produced to help quiet the central nervous system, lower anxiety, and increase calmness.
Hops have also been shown to lower your body temperature, which brings about drowsiness and begins the body’s sleep process. Lowering the core body temperature is an important physiological step toward sleep.
Luckily, you don’t have to drink an alcoholic beverage to reap the benefits of hops. In fact, drinking too much alcohol can reduce your quality of sleep. You can get the benefits of hops in herbal teas, tinctures, capsules, and even non-alcoholic beer.
How To Use Hops To Help You Get Some Shut-Eye
Hops appear to work most effectively when used in conjunction with the herbs valerian root extract, passionflower, or lemon balm. Valerian, another well-studied herb used to aid sleep, has a similar medicinal profile. It is most commonly combined with hops as a sleep aid.
- Make a pouch of hops and breathe in the scent before bed, a trick supposedly used by King George III to help him sleep. Fill a pouch or satchel with dried hop flowers and slip it into your pillowcase to help ease sleep troubles. Try adding in a mixture of chamomile, lavender, or passionflower for an added bonus.
- Make hops tea, which has long been recommended by herbalists as a tonic for insomnia. Boil 8 oz of water and fill a tea ball with dried hops. Steep for 3 minutes and drink. The tea tends to be bitter, so adding a bit of honey to sweeten it may make it go down easier.
As always, it is recommended to consult your doctor before you begin taking a supplement or making any changes to your existing medication and supplement routine.
Where To Buy Hops
You can purchase dried hops at most natural food stores, home brewery suppliers, or online from trusted retailers. One we recommend is Penn Herb Company — check out their line of hops products here.
Note of caution: Be sure to keep hops away from your four-legged friends, as hops can be toxic to pets.
Natalie LaVolpe is a freelance writer and former special education teacher. She is dedicated to healthy living through body and mind. She currently resides on Long Island, New York, with her husband, children, and dog.