What better day then a Storm Day when parents across the land (the northeast, anyway) are unexpectedly home with their children to learn about the medicinal benefits of… hops!
“Hops? Medicinal? Wait a Minute! Isn’t That in Beer?”
Why yes, yes it is. And one of things I’m hoping to learn today is whether hops has any medicinal effectiveness in the form of beer. I highly doubt it based on what I currently know about how steeping works as an extraction method for volatile oil which is the active agent for hops. My thought is that all that damned filtering in commercial beers would remove the little hairs containing lupulin which is where the medicinal properties of beer come from.
But really, how cool would it be if we learned today that yes, in fact, beer is GOOD FOR YOU! Wouldn’t that be a great thing to learn on this “snow day”?
Now, before we get on with this too far, I’ve been advised by my “legal consultant” (a very good friend with no legal experience under his belt as far as I’m aware, but with my best interests at heart working desperately to keep me from getting myself sued) to stay away from talking about herbs as medicine entirely, and I’m sure he’s right that’s the smartest thing to do. BUT I CAN”T, so instead, here is my disclaimer:
I am not a professional doctor or health care provider. I have not got any license or medical background beyond my own studying and reading and experimentation. I provide the information on this page based on what I have read, but I also sourced it all so you can read what I have read and form your own conclusions. Everything I use in my tea creations can be found in herbal health tea section of your grocery store. I use the researching and sourcing skills we all learned in high school and that I perfected in college and graduate school to read and interpret scientific studies, look up terms I don’t understand and incorporate their meaning, draw larger conclusions, think of and discover answers to further questions that arise, etc.
With that in mind, my goal here is to give you information in layman’s terms (as much as possible) and provide you with the sources to go read the scientifically written studies and etc on your own, if you so choose.
SO! Boring stuff’s over. Back to BEER!
Hops were added to beer back in France in the 7th century as a preservative.
Scientists have proven that the same chemical compounds in hops which act as a preservative also have the following medicinal properties:
– antibacterial action
-stimulate gastric secretions
Now they’re just working on figuring out which of the chemical compounds cause which actions specifically. They’re also starting to discover potential new uses for hops that hadn’t been widely used before such as reducing hot flashes in menopausal women, stabilizing blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes, and preventing cancer!
“So then, if they know all that, and these things have been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN, then why don’t we know about them?”
Very frequent, very reasonable question. I have no idea, let me ask the FDA…
(Time passes… Google searches are run… FDA website is searched…)
And I’m Back! And I still don’t know the “answer”!
As far as I could tell, there is no real “answer”. But the information I did find led me to believe one of two possibilities is correct. Either:
a) The Food and Drug Administration only evaluates that which it is presented with from pharmaceutical companies to study, has a very pharmacological paradigm. (Their website includes a “poisonous plant database” which includes ginseng, apricot, almond, St. John’s wort and peach, but does not contain any reference I could find to beneficial plants.)
b) MONEY! There is very little money to be made from herbal medicines (since they’ve been in use for thousands of years and are exempt from patent laws) and therefore our government and pharmaceutical companies are not motivated to invest in the research. (The price for one research study starts at $1 million. Usually several studies are needed to establish efficacy conclusively.)
Basically, what it boils down to is that here in the US we don’t really study herbal medicine. Which is why the FDA isn’t willing to vouch for their use. And this keeps us hooked on “safe” drugs that the FDA HAS supported, which often have more side effects than that which we are trying to treat.
Here’s an example: Side effects of Hops vs. Side effects of a Common Sleep Pill
(Information taken from Drugs.com)
HOPS COMMON SLEEP PILL
– Increase in core body temperature – aggression, agitation, changes in behavior
– Rash has occurred in Hops pickers (farmers) – thoughts of hurting yourself
– – hallucinations
– -daytime drowsiness
– – memory or concentration problems
– -anxiety, depression, nervousness
– – nausea, stomach ache, loss of appetite
– -dry mouth, unpleasant taste in mouth
– -skin rash
“But wait!” You cry, hopeful you’ve found a loophole, “You said that herbal rememdies aren’t effectively studied in the US! So what if we just don’t KNOW what the side effects of Hops are yet?”
Very good point! And glad to know you were paying attention!
As it turns out, just because we’re not doing something here in the US, doesn’t mean it’s not being done elsewhere in the world. Europe is leaps and bounds ahead of us in the study of herbal medicines. Most notably is the German Commission E, which is a regulatory agency composed of scientists, toxicologists, physicians and pharmacists. But there are lots of others as well. And what do they find for hops side effects? Nothing… Well, not exactly. They keep finding new ways that hops are good for you! But certainly no side effects to rival those listed above for sleeping pills.
And where does all that leave us? With the initial question –
“Hey! You never told us if beer is actually good for us!”
Again, Dear Reader, you are correct. I could find no conclusive evidence to support or deny that beer contains lupulin. Sorry 😦
I found one study which suggested more research is needed. I also found several websites claiming adamantly that lupulin is in beer, but their sourcing did not meet my quality requirements.
But I also didn’t find conclusively that beer ISN’T good for you! But no one else knows that! So hey, go grab yourself a beer and if anyone asks, tell them it’s health food!
Hope you have a happy Sandy day!
ACTUAL BOOKS THAT I HOLD IN MY HAND: