Now before you go down to your favorite package store and buy a case of your favorite brew, I am not talking about drinking beer for better sleep. We are discussing a compound in beer that gives it its heady flavor, hops.
The herbal remedy known as hops is prepared from the female flowers of the hop plant, Humulus lupulus. Hops are commonly used as a stabilizer and flavoring agent in beers to which it impacts a bitter, tangy taste.
As an herb, hops share a similar medicinal profile to Valerian. This means that it is also a sedative and a hypnotic herb. It is, therefore, used in the treatment of insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety.
Although it is a popular folkloric remedy for sleep problems, there are fewer studies on the sedative and hypnotic effects of hops than for Valerian. However, animal studies have confirmed that hops are indeed effective for inducing sleep.
These studies indicate that the relaxing effect of hops is partly due to a compound is known as dimethylvinyl carbinol. This compound produces a sedative effect when ingested or inhaled. When freshly dried, the hops retain these chemicals for a while, but eventually, over time they will deplete. For this reason, when using hops as a relaxing remedy for insomnia.
The good news is that all three of these medicinal plants are readily available, and can be easily grown in a back garden. But bear in mind that when freshly dried, hops will have soothing oils, but eventually, over time they will deplete. For this reason, when using hops as a remedy for insomnia, it’s always best to grow your own and dry from fresh.
A 2012 study published in the journal, Acta Physiologica Hungarica, investigated the sedative effects of hops on a group of common quail. Quail was chosen because its sleep cycle closely resembles the typical human sleep-wake rhythm.
The researchers first pointed out that the sedative effect of hops was due to its bitter resins. The most active phytochemical in this resin was identified as the compound, 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol. This compound is believed to induce sleep by promoting the activity of GABA in the central nervous system.
For this study, the researchers divided the quails into 4 groups. While one group was given a placebo, they gave the other 3 groups different doses (1mg, 2 mg and 11 mg per day) of hops for 1 week.
The results of the study showed that the group given 2 mg/day of hops extract (the concentration normally found in beers) had the most significant reduction in night activity and the highest improvement in sleep duration.
The researchers, therefore, concluded that hops are an effective and safe sleep aid.
In addition, they recommended non-alcoholic beer for improving nighttime sleep because of the sedative effect of its hops content.
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