Hop is a plant identified with the scientific term Humulus lupulus and is part of the Cannabaceae family. It is a herbaceous plant with flowers, typical of the temperate climate regions. It grows up to seven meters in height, its stems are long and supple and, thanks to the small spines that cover them, they can easily cling to any handhold, wrapping themselves in a spiral shape. Its leaves are heart-shaped, have toothed margins and are rough at the top. Its flowers have a yellowish-green color and grow together in many small hanging spikes. The female inflorescences present small resinous glands, from which a bitter and yellowish substance comes out, rich in acids, polyphenols and essential oils. Of the hop plant, the smaller leaves are used to flavor the soups, the stems to make baskets and the flowers to obtain the aroma. In the spring months the sprouts are collected which are used in the kitchen in the same way as the asparagus, with the sprouts of hops in fact excellent risotto and tasty omelettes are prepared.
The hop plant grows luxuriantly in many European countries, it is also very present in Italy where it grows spontaneously both in the plains along hedges and near woodlands.
In industry these plants are widely used in the conservation and flavoring of beer, the classic bitter aftertaste of this alcoholic drink is given by the presence of hops among its main ingredients.
The main components of hops are resin, essential oil, polyphenols including tannin, valerinic acid and flavonols. The medicinal properties are concentrated in the cones, that is, in the female inflorescences of the plant. Phytotherapy gives hops sedative, toning and aphrodisiac properties. The hop plant is also recognized for its ability to stimulate the flow of blood in some areas of the female genital system. It is in fact used to improve the regularity of the menstrual cycle. Hops also have an effective anti-inflammatory and antibacterial action.
Hops, in synergy with verbena and valerian, is an excellent adjuvant for those suffering from insomnia. It is also considered a valuable aid for those who experience a condition of stress and excessive anxiety. Hops are also recommended to combat various forms of headache and to speed up the healing of small wounds and superficial skin abrasions.
It is important to underline that the use of hops can interact negatively in people who take psychotropic drugs. It is recommended to use hops, in any case, under close medical supervision.