GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Perennial creeping, twining herb up to 8 metres high, which bears male and female flowers on separate plants. It has dark green, heart-shaped leaves and greeny-yellow flowers. A volatile oil, called lupulin, is formed in the glandular hairs of the cones or strobiles.
DISTRIBUTIONS: Native to Europe and North America, cultivated world-wide, especially in the USA (California and Washington), Yugoslavia and Germany. The oil is mainly produced in France, UK and Germany.
HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION: Best known as a nerve remedy, for insomnia, nervous tension, neuralgia, and also for sexual neurosis in both sexes. It supports the female neurosis in both sexes. It supports the female oestrogens, and is useful for amenorrhoea (heavy periods). ‘A mild sedative, well known in the form of the hop pillow where the heavy aromatic odour has been shown to relax by direct action at the olfactory centres… it is the volatile aromatic component that appears to be the most active.’ It has also been used for heart disease, stomach and liver complaints, including bacterial dysentery. In China it is used for pulmonary tuberculosis and cystitis. It is used to make beer. Current in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a specific for restlessness with nervous headaches and/or indigestion.
ACTIONS: Anodyne, an aphrodisiac, antimicrobial, antiseptic, bactericidal, astringent, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, emollient, oestrogenic, properties, hypnotic, nervine, sedative, soporific.
EXTRACTIONS: Essential oil by steam distillation from the dried cones or catkins, known as ‘strobiles’. (An absolute is also produced by solvent extractions for perfumery use.)
CHARACTERSTICS: A pale yellow to reddish-amber liquid with a rich, spicy-sweet odour. It blends well with pine, hyacinth, nutmeg, copaiba balsam, citrus and spice oils.
PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS: Mainly humulene, mycrene, caryophyllene and farnesene, with over 100 other trace components.
SAFETY DATA: Generally non-toxic (narcotic in excessive amounts) and non-irritant, may cause sensitization in some individuals. Should be avoided by those suffering from depression.
AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE: Skin care: Dermatitis, rashes, rough skin, ulcers. Respiratory system: Asthma, spasmodic, cough. Digestive system: Indigestion, nervous dyspepsia. Genito-urinary and endocrine sys.: Amenorrhoea, menstrual cramp, supports female oestrogens, promotes feminine characteristics, reduces sexual overactivity. Nervous system: Headaches, insomnia, nervous tension, neuralgia, stress-related conditions.
OTHER USES: Employed as a fragrance ingredient in perfumes, especially spicy or oriental types. Used in flavour work in tobacco, sauces and spice products, but mainly in alcoholic drinks, especially beer.