Popular beer brewing agent hops may promote relaxation.
The seed cones of the hop plant are referred to as hops and are known for the bitter-tasting touch they adds to beer. Hops’ relaxant properties may promote stress relief by:
- Calming the body. Hops promote relaxation and reduce anxiety and stress through a sedating effect.
The hop plant, Humulus lupulus, is known for its cone-like flowers called hops, which have been used to stabilize beer during fermentation and infuse it with its bitter and citric flavor as far back as the 9th century.1
Aside from being used in beverages, hops have also been utilized in medicinal preparations. As a natural sedative, the hop plant is popular in traditional medicine to promote relaxation and sleep, especially in cases of insomnia.
Today hops preparations are occasionally utilized as a supplement for helping ease anxiety and associated symptoms such as irritability and nervousness.
How Hops May Help With Stress
Although the exact mechanism behind stress relief by hops hasn’t been identified yet, several working hypotheses have been proposed. Among the plentiful bioactive ingredients in hops are the flavonoids xanthohumol, 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN), quercetin, rutin, and astragalin.2
Acting as a sedative
Hops interact with several brain chemicals to exert a sedating effect. Most notably, hops seem to affect the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA which is known to reduce neuron activity, promoting relaxation and sleep. It might also affect serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in sleep regulation and mood. 3
Hops Benefits & Uses for Stress
The ability of hops to sedate the body and promote relaxation, along with the fact that it’s a naturally found product that is approved by several European health organizations, makes it a popular supplement for stress relief.4
General sedation encompasses alleviation not only of anxiety, but also connected symptoms such as tension, restlessness, irritability, excitability, and nervousness.5
Research shows that hops may reduce stress through:
- Sedation. Hops were shown to have sedative effects on mice engaged in a maze test.8
- Maintaining a proper activity-rest rhythm. Hops increased GABA and improved the daytime activity-rest rhythm and nighttime sleep cycle of quails.9
There are few human trials of hops as an anti-stress agent.
In this study 17 female nurses on rotating or night shifts were given hops in the form of 330 mL of non-alcoholic beer with dinner over the course of two weeks. Based on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Self Evaluation Questionnaire), the hops group experienced decreased anxiety. In addition, hops also reduced time needed to fall asleep (12.01±1.19 min compared to the 20.50±4.21 min of the control group).
- The study concluded that “through its hop content, alcohol-free beer could exert a sedative action in humans, apart from its benefits for health when consumed in moderation.”10
Dosage for Stress
- Research studies have used hops doses of 50 – 500 mg
- Hops supplements provide doses of 300 – 500 mg
- Hops can also be taken as:
- A liquid extract, 1 mL (20 – 30 drops), 2 – 3 times per day
- A tincture, 1 – 2 mL (1/4 – 1/2 teaspoons), 2 – 3 times per day
- Tea, 5 – 10 g in 250 mL of boiling water
Supplements in Review Says
- Hops 500 mg for stress.
We recommend hops as a mild calming agent. Although hops have not yet been shown to directly relieve stress, they do seem to relax the body and ease related symptoms such as tension, restlessness, irritability, excitability, and nervousness.
500 mg seems to be the ideal dose. You can also consider combining hops together with other calming herbs such as valerian and lemon balm for added effect.
- Langezaal CR, Chandra A, et al. Antimicrobial screening of essential oils and extracts of some Humulus lupulus L. cultivars. Pharm Weekbl Sci. 1992 Dec 11;14(6):353-6. ↩
- Miranda CL, Stevens JF, et al. Antiproliferative and cytotoxic effects of prenylated flavonoids from hops (Humulus lupulus) in human cancer cell lines. Food Chem Toxicol 1999;37:271-85. ↩
- Aoshima H et al. Effects of beer and hop on ionotropic gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Apr 5;54(7):2514-9. ↩
- Schiller H, Forster A, et al. Sedating effects of Humulus lupulus L. extracts. Phytomedicine. 2006 Sep;13(8):535-41. ↩
- Weeks BS. Formulations of dietary supplements and herbal extracts for relaxation and anxiolytic action: Relarian. Med Sci Monit. 2009 Nov;15(11):RA256-62. ↩
- Newall CA, Anderson LA, et al. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996. ↩
- Abourashed EA, Koetter U, et al. In vitro binding experiments with a Valerian, hops and their fixed combination extract (Ze91019) to selected central nervous system receptors. Phytomedicine. 2004 Nov;11(7-8):633-8. ↩
- Hansel R, Wolfart R, et al. Sedative-hypnotic compounds in the exhalation of hops, II. Z Naturforsch C. 1980 Nov-Dec;35(11-12):1096-7. ↩
- Franco L, Sanchez CL, et al. The sedative effects of hops (Humulus lupulus) , a component of beer, on the activity/rest rhythm. Acta Physiologica Hungarica. 2012 Jun;
- Franco L, Sánchez C, et al. The Sedative Effect of Non-Alcoholic Beer in Healthy Female Nurses. PLoS One. 2012; 7(7):e37290. ↩