The hop is a member of the Cannabaceae family, traditionally used for relaxation, sedation, and to treat insomnia. A number of methodologically weak human trials have investigated hops in combination with valerian (Valeriana officinalis) for the treatment of sleep disturbances, and several animal studies have examined the sedative properties of hops alone. However, the results of these studies are equivocal, and there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend hops alone or in combination for any medical condition.
Hops are also sometimes found in combination products with passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), skullcap (potentially damaging to the liver), or with a high percentage of alcohol (up to 70% grain alcohol), confounding the association between the herb and possible sedative or hypnotic effects.
Hops contain phytoestrogens that may possess estrogen receptor agonist or antagonist properties with unclear effects on hormone-sensitive conditions, such as breast, uterine, cervical, or prostate cancer or endometriosis.
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These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Animal studies report that hops may have sedative and sleep-enhancing (hypnotic) effects. However, little human research has evaluated the effects of hops on sleep quality. Further study is needed in this area before a strong recommendation can be made.
When used in combination with other products, hops may help alleviate menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and difficulty sleeping, because it has estrogen-like activity. However, until more well-designed studies are performed, a strong recommendation cannot be made.
Early clinical research suggests that a combination formula containing hops may help reduce symptoms of rheumatic diseases, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. However, well-designed human trials using hops alone are needed to determine if these positive effects are specifically the result of hops.
Hops have been used traditionally as a sedative, for relaxation and reduction of anxiety. Although some animal studies suggest possible sedative properties, there is limited human research in this area. Better studies are needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.