Got Beer? Five Insane Facts About Hops

The humble hop flower cone is without a doubt the ultimate key to modern craft beer. Whether you’re an IPA-guzzling hop-head, or you just want an accurate representation of some classical beer styles, hops are your bread and butter. But there are a number of very interesting things about this little bud that are worth mentioning, especially with this being the Cannabis Issue, the first little factoid on the list is particularly relevant.

5. Hops are a cousin of Cannabis – While no doubt an extremely different breed, the two plants do share a certain heritage being part of the Cannabaceae family. Some varieties of hops can carry over a particular flavor similar to our friend Mary Jane, and hop cones can have a superficial resemblance to buds, but as far as anyone knows the similarities end there. There have been attempts over the years to cross-breed the two plants, but as yet no one has successfully done so (or they just can’t remember doing it).

4. Hops are a natural sedative – Unlike the euphoric wonder of our favorite green smokable, hops have a different effect. Hops are a non-narcotic natural sedative. For decades holistic medicine has used hops in various teas and herbal supplements for sleep aids and to lower stress. So an extremely hoppy, extremely high ABV IPA might put you to sleep for more than one reason. Hops are also reputed to combat hypertension, improve appetite, soothe indigestion, and much more.

3. Hops help breastfeeding mothers – Yes, you read that correctly. New mothers can actually boost their milk production by having half a glass of hoppy beer every day. What’s that? Beer while breastfeeding? Am I crazy? No! As it happens, the problem with alcohol and breastfeeding is that alcohol will dry up the milk in large doses. In small doses the effects are negligible, but the hops in a nice session IPA are very beneficial. Hops contain natural compounds that can boost progesterone and therefore assist in milk production. This same property makes it effective in easing menopause symptoms as well. Who knew? Well, apparently, midwives have known this for centuries, and have been prescribing moderate beer consumption for breastfeeding mothers for a very long time.

2. Hops are toxic to dogs but great for chickens – Seriously, don’t give your dog any IPAs anytime soon. Spuds McKenzie was a terrible idea for a mascot since hops can cause malignant hyperthermia and even kill the poor pup. But if you’ve got chickens, then good news! Hops mixed into chicken feed can actually help prevent bacterial infections from developing in your favorite fowl. Hops have a natural antibiotic, antiseptic property, which is why they were used in beer to begin with as a natural preservative.

1. Hops fight cancer – Before I even start, take this claim with a shaker of salt. It’s true that scientists are looking at hops as cancer-fighting agents, but I wouldn’t start quaffing beer just yet. Xanthohumol, a natural compound found only in hops, is a better defense against cancer-based cellular damage than the antioxidants you find in green tea, red wine, or soy products. Sadly, the natural concentration is extremely low, but with the way hop breeders are always experimenting, it might be possible to breed a variety of hops that has a significantly higher concentration of this compound. Could you imagine if beer cured cancer? Big pharma would excrete masonry for weeks – luckily, they probably have a pill for that.

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