Hops Strobile for Insomnia and SleepJun 24, 2021
What is Hops Strobile?
Hops is most famous for its role in beer. But, hops is actually one of the oldest, most commonly used sedatives of all time. Interestingly, it may have been hops reputation as a sleep aid and nerve-calmer that inspired its addition to grain fermentation. It also explains why early brewery workers, part of whose compensation was free beer during work hours, napped frequently during the day (or maybe it was the alcohol).
Benefits of Hops Strobile
Hops is known as a “nervine,” or an herb that supports the nervous system (read more about nervines in this article). It is primarily a calming agent, used for conditions that reflect over-activation, restlessness, or nervousness. Its main clinical uses are for sleep problems, including those related to anxiety, but also for people who tend to wake in the middle of the night. It's also used for all types of anxiety, but especially when it is due to excessive worry or a nervous nature.
Hops has also been used for depression, though in my experience I don’t think it’s very effective, unless the depression is primarily stress related. There is some evidence that it may reduce stress and anxiety that are often related to depression, and in that way it might have some impact on shortening the depressive episode.
Hops Strobile and Insomnia
In my practice, I use hops primarily for insomnia, and usually in combination with other herbs. That approach is borne out by the research on hops and insomnia. A 2010 review of studies on the combination of hops and valerian found that 12 of the 16 studies reviewed found clear improvement in both the quality of sleep and in reducing the time it took to fall asleep. Another study looked at a combination of hops and other herbs and found it to be as effective as the popular sleeping medication Ambien.
Interestingly, I also use hops to treat daytime anxiety. I find it to be very gentle, and sedation is not usually a problem when one is highly anxious to begin with—it helps take the edge off without clouding one’s thinking or causing sleepiness.
Hops Dosage and Use
When used alone as a liquid extract, the dose can be quite high, typically 1.5-2 grams taken before bed. If used for daytime anxiety, the dose should be lower, somewhere in the 300-500 mg range.
When it is combined with other herbs, the dose of hops can be much lower, around 100 mg for sleep, or 50 mg for daytime anxiety.
I prefer using hops in combination with other herbs. I believe there is a synergy that one gets from herbal combinations, and I find that hops alone is often not quite strong enough to be really effective.
Hops Side Effects
Guess what the most common side effect of hops is—you’ve got it—sedation! Like many medications used for sleep, in this case we are trying to take advantage of a potential “side effect” by using it in the right dose at the right time. So, if it makes you sleepy during the day, just use it at bedtime and tweak the dose until it helps your sleep without causing morning drowsiness.
If you’re allergic to birch pollen, you could potentially have an allergic reaction to hops, too (though you may have already found that out by having a reaction to beer).
I also think that anyone with depression needs to be careful when using sedatives of any kind, even natural ones. Still, hops is very mild and gentle, and it is unlikely to cause much problem with mood or otherwise.
*Note: Some of the supplements discussed in this article can cause side effects, but many people tolerate them much better than prescription medications. They are generally considered safe, however, they should not be started without your doctor’s knowledge and supervision. If you are taking medication already, be sure to talk with your doctor before adding any of these items. If you are considering going off medication, remember never to stop your medication suddenly—always consult with your doctor about how to safely taper off any psychiatric medication. See terms.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Anxiety, Depression, and Rhodiola
Rhodiola is often recommended over the winter months (October through April) for anyone with a tendency toward seasonal affective disorder, as it also seems protective against winter depression.
- Kyrou,I., et al. “Effects of a hops (Humulus lupulus L.) dry extract supplement on self-reported depression, anxiety and stress levels in apparently healthy young adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover pilot study,” HORMONES 2017, 16(2):171-180
- Salter S, Brownie S. Treating primary insomnia. Aust Fam Physician. 2010;39(6):433–7. doi:10.1556/APhysiol.101.2014.3.10
- Maroo N, Hazra A, Das T. Efficacy and safety of a polyherbal sedative-hypnotic formulation NSF-3 in primary insomnia in comparison to zolpidem: A randomized controlled trial. Indian J Pharmacol 2013;45:34-9