In the summer of 2021 I planted a hops plant. It grew maybe half a foot. Over the summer of 2022 it took off, requiring a trellis to support its lushness. I harvested so many of those “flowers” when they were still a vibrant green. Once dried they even stayed that color. Just harvested or even quickly dried hops smells amazing and has citrus/pine notes. It is nothing like what you would buy in a store or on-line. Fresh picked “cones” makes a lovely cup of tea with the addition of a bit of milk. I quickly became addicted to this afternoon beverage. I find myself still craving it long after the fresh hops is gone. If hops is not quite to your taste you can adapt a chai recipe to make it more palatable.
At first I put the dried “flowers” in several bath formulas for sleep and relaxation (dream pillows, baths, steams). Hops is pretty bitter, so unless you like beer–you won’t be picking much other than to make a batch tincture, which could last you for years. I did some research, looking for creative ways to use up the fresh hops so that it would not go to waste. I came across a recipe for hops salt. It is pretty tasty. Salt is a natural, long term preservative. It is an easy and palatable way to take small amounts of medicinal herbs on a regular basis. Experimenting with salts can expand how you use culinary herbs like fresh basil, nasturtium leaves, fennel, dill, rosemary or thyme. A small sprinkle goes a long way on grains, roasted vegetables, or proteins. Salt brings out and strengthens any floral notes or volatile oils. Your dinner guests will wonder what is creating that very subtle flavor of “citrus” or “pine”. Herbal salts and are very easy to make.
Hops Salt Recipe
Place 1 cup of white sea salt into a food processor. Add a handful or 1 cup of loosely packed fresh herbs. Blend until your product is of a uniform color and texture. This breaks down any pigments. You will have a brightly colored salt for a few days before it fades to an olive green.
In spring the perennial rootstock of hops will send up several spiny, woody, angular stems/shoots that can be up to 20 ft. long. These “vines” like to climb, twist and attach. Hops is known for its “aggressive” and smothering growth. Leaves are darker green, rough, cordate, serrate, opposite, palmate, with 3-5 lobes. These grow on long stems from off of the vines. Flowers are quite small, without petals, and grow in clusters on separate plants. Male flowers are small panicles/racemes appearing early in the summer. Female flowers, are catkins. These grow in size to form numerous, larger, vibrant green, highly aromatic “flowers”/strobiles with overlapping layers of bracts/scales (technically a cone shape fruit). Hops can be found growing in hedges, in the woods and sometimes along a stream as it prefers damp soil. It does well cultivated in the garden.
Hops has been used to treat insomnia, stress, muscle tension, anxiety, restlessness, hyperactivity, headaches, pain, fever, low milk supply, mastitis, menstrual problems due to low estrogen, hot flashes, menopausal symptoms, poor appetite, diarrhea, gas, IBS, Chrone’s disease, inflammation, digestive tract infection, ulcers, and rheumatism . As a bitter, it supports the liver, spleen and digestive system. Hops is a good diuretic for several conditions like cystitis, edema/water retention and kidney stones. Its antispasmodic properties make it useful for coughs and gastrointestinal spasm. Externally it has been used to treat dandruff, eczema, acne, boils, rough skin, rashes, growths, sprains, abscesses, bruises and wounds. A poultice can be helpful for headache and earache. The vines have been used to make cord, cloth and paper just like hemp which is in the same botanical family. Hops could also be used as a source of pectin.
Latin name: Humulus lupulus
Botanical Family: Cannabidacae
Parts Used: female cones/strobiles “flowers”
Energetics: cold, dry, bitter, pungent
Spiritual Uses: To support our efforts when we need to achieve a goal. Helps us to develop patience, cooperation and perseverance. Some things take a long time to manifest. Be open and receptive as often the unexpected/unwanted can be the most beneficial to us in the moment. Reminds us that giving and receiving must come from the heart. Encourages us to share ourselves with the community. But with the caution that any gift should be truly needed and requested by the receiver. This prevents energy depletion and resentment. Calming when one fears loss. Sometimes we need to loose everything in order to gain what we most want.
Contraindications: Do not use during pregnancy. Because of its sedative effect hops may not be appropriate for those with a history of depression or the use of prescription sedatives. Can cause contact dermatitis or eye irritation in sensitive individuals. Dried hops that are several months old will have a stimulating effect. This herb has a history of suppressing menstruation in women and sex drive in men. Many not support those struggling with infertility. Prolonged high doses may stress the kidneys.