Hops are a key element of beer. First and most obviously, hops offer a growing catalog of many wonderfully unique flavors, providing brewers with a wide palette of different options to build creative recipes. And because hops are bacteriostatic and actively inhibit the growth of Gram-positive organisms, they help to keep some bacteria and other unwanted agents at bay during fermentation as well as storage. Hops also lend a helping hand to stabilizing beer foam and of course blend a bitter balance into the sweetness of an otherwise quite grainy and malty beverage. Finally, hops may even provide some mental health benefits as well. A 2017 study at the School of Health Science and Education at Harokopio University in Athens measured the self-reported stress, anxiety and depression levels of 36 participants and concluded that the application of dry hop extract over a four-week period provided significant meaningful improvements in perceived outlook and experience. In other words, hops can help!
Folk remedies throughout history indicate a lot of options for common herbs and plants, some of which have been verifiably backed by scientific studies. But most remain folk remedies and merely congregate anecdotal evidence, and some ideas have yet to be studied, or studied properly. So it’s exciting to hear about scientific professionals (outside the brewery, that is!) exploring the health potential of hops. There are rumors of hops helping with insomnia–or even seen so-called “hop pillows” containing hops and other herbs helpful for aiding sleep. Unfortunately the jury is still out on whether hops actually help with sleep, although after a six-pack you may feel quite sleepy for other reasons.
While this particular published study on stress and anxiety reduction didn’t mention the dosage of hop extract provided, I’m going to assume it was greater than what you’d find in a pint or two of beer (although with the current hazy IPA craze, perhaps not…). With that thought in mind, you’d likely have to drink a very large quantity of beer to see meaningful physical or mental results, and that has other probably negative effects, which you don’t need me to mention here. Basically, don’t go trying to drink beer for health reasons alone. Drink beer because you enjoy it and can imbibe responsibly, and if there happen to be some mental wellness benefits…well awesome. Even better. I feel more relaxed just thinking about it.
Cheers to beer, health, wellness and to the future knowledge of what hops can do for you!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional and the information provided above is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Always strive to drink responsibly and with moderation.