|The hops plant, Humulus lupulus, is a climbing plant native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Hops are herbaceous vine of the Cannibinacaea family of plants. The male flowers are yellowish-green and inconspicuous, while the female flowers are richly
blossomed, producing a yellowish fruit. The female flowers, commonly called hops, are used as flavouring and stabilisers during beer brewing. The vine grows in almost any moist, sunny area, and can reach lengths of over 40 feet. The flowers themselves are green in color, with dust-like yellow lupulin glands. The plant has a very strong odour and an extremely bitter taste. The green stems (bines) are pencil-thick and covered in six rows of climbing barbs. Hop shoots grow very rapidly and at the peak of growth can grow 20-50 cm per week. Hop bines climb by wrapping clockwise around anything within reach, and individual bines typically grow between 2 to 15 m depending on what is available to grow on. When the hop bines run out of material to climb, horizontal shoots sprout between the leaves of the main stem to form a network of stems wound round each other. Female flowers are used in the brewing of beer to provide bitterness, contrasting the sweetness of the malt.
Hops are high in bitter substances. The two primary bitter constituents are known as humulone and lupulone. They are responsible for the appetite-stimulating properties of hops. Hops also contain about 1–3% volatile oils. Hop resins are composed of two main acids, alpha and beta acids. Alpha acids have a mild antibiotic/bacteriostatic effect against Gram-positive bacteria, and favours the exclusive activity of brewing yeast in the fermentation of beer. Hops have a long history of use in folk medicine where they have been used to treat a variety of complaints. Hops's main function is used as a sedative to induce reversible depression of the central nervous system, and to relieve anxiety and induce calmness/sleep, eg, barbiturates, benzodiazepines. Hop pillows are very popular because they induce relaxation by acting on the olfactory centre and thus on the central nervous system through the limbic system. Humulone and lupulone, weak acid components that give hops a bitter taste, also killed bacteria or kept them from spreading. These same chemicals may help to prevent the formation of new blood vessels, potentially giving them anticancer effects. Poultices made from the flowers are used for boils and painful swellings. The herb stimulates oestrogen production and in men curbs excessive sexual desire and is a remedy for spermatorrhoea. It has been used for centuries in both traditional Chinese medicine and Native American healing to stimulate the appetite, ease digestion, and aid in relieving colic. The ointment made from hop powder is used against podagra, rheumatic pains in joints, pus wounds, as well as pain reliever. The fruit decoction is a good cure against dandruff and hair-loss. Hops may also have other protective effects against some cancers.