Hops are what gives beer its bitter taste. Hops are the flowering cone of a perennial vining plant and a cousin of the cannabis. Hop plants are dioecious, meaning the males and females flower on separate plants, and the female flower cones are what's used in the brewing process.You might also be surprised to learn that hops are not only used in beer. Hops have been an integral part of herbal healing, supported by today's modern science. First a little history. Hops originate in China. The first documented instance of hop cultivation was in 736, in the Hallertau region of present day Germany, although the first mention of the use of hops in brewing in that country was 1079. In Britain, hopped beer was first imported from Holland around 1400, but hops were condemned in 1519 as a "wicked and pernicious weed". In 1471, Norwich, England, banned use of the plant in the brewing of ale. Hops were imported from France, Holland and Germany and naturally import duty was raised on them. It wasn't until 1524 that hops were first grown in the southeast of England (Kent) when they were introduced as an agricultural crop by Dutch farmers. Hops were then grown as far north as Aberdeen as they were soon grown near breweries because of the production infrastructure.
It was another century before hop cultivation began in the present-day United States, around 1629 by English and Dutch farmers. Hops production is concentrated in moist temperate climates, with much of the world's production occurring near the 48th parallel north. Hop plants prefer the same soils as potatoes, the leading potato growing states in the United States are also major hops-producing areas. The hop plant is normally trained so they grow up strings in commercial fields known as hop gardens, hop fields, or hop yards. The oils and extracts found in the hops plant are used in a variety of different products. These oils and extracts are used to flavor candy, gelatin, and yeast. They're also used in pudding, ice creams chewing gum, baked goods, and a variety of condiments. There are quite a few documented health benefits from hops also. A sedative chemical was found in the hops plant in 1983. There are small traces of this sedative chemical located in the fresh leaves of the plant. As the leaves dry and age, the concentration of the chemical actually increases.
A sedative is different from a sleep aid, as a sedative is designed to relax you and not put you to sleep. Sedatives are used to relieve anxiety. Along with anxiety, hops are also good for cardiovascular disorders, hyperactivity, ulcers, and toothaches. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, that can help arthritis patients. Another unique benefit of using hops is it's ability to treat dandruff. In extract form, hops can be rubbed into the scalp to help treat the problem. Oregon State researchers extracted flavonoids from hops and tested it in the treatment for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer. The researchers found some evidence that suggests the flavonoids found in hops may cut a person's risk of getting these types of cancers. These flavonoids also neutralize free radicals in the body. Free radicals, as you know if you follow this blog regularly, destroy healthy cells in the body, and promote early aging onset. Wrinkles are a sure sign that your cells are in decay.
Now while there are many health benefits of hops and it's extracts, there are also some precautions when consuming the herb. Hops can lower blood sugar levels by a significant amount that could cause hypoglycemia in diabetics. Hop supplements should never be given to young children. The FDA has deemed hops as being safe for healthy women who are not pregnant or nursing, and adults who are not using another type of sedative. Always, talk with a doctor before experimenting with this herb, or making changes in your diet especially if you're taking other medications. The best way I know of getting some hops in your diet is to tip a couple beer's back once in a while, if you are of age and don't have a problem with alcohol, but remember there are non-alcoholic beers and they contain hops also. Otherwise you can purchase the extracts from your health food store, in powder or liquid form, and add it to your food or protein shake. Good Luck...
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