The Hop (Humulus lupulus) belongs to the Nettle tribe (Cannabineoe)
of plants, and grows wild in our English hedges and copses; but
then it bears only male flowers. When cultivated it produces
the female catkins, or strobiles which are so well known as
Hops, and are so largely used for brewing purposes.
The plant gets its first name Humulus from humus, the rich
moist ground in which it chooses to grow, an
its affix lupulus
from the Latin lupus a wolf, because (as Pliny explained), when
produced among osiers, it  strangles them by its light climbing
embraces as the wolf does a sheep.
The word Hop comes from the Anglo-saxon hoppan to climb.
The leaves and the flowers afford a fine brown dye, and paper has
been made from the bine, or stalk, which sprouts in May, and soon
grows luxuriantly; as said old Tusser (1557):--
Get into thy Hop-yard, for now it is time
To teach Robin Hop on his pole how to climb.
The Hop, says Cockayne, was known to the Saxons, and they called
it the Hymele, a name enquired-for in vain among Hop growers
in Worcestershire and Kent.
Hops were first brought to this country from Flanders, in 1524:--
Turkeys, Carp, Hops, Pickerel, and Beer,
Came into England all in one year.
So writes old Izaak Walton! Before Hops were used for improving
and preserving beer our Saxon ancestors drank a beverage made
from malt, but clarified in a measure with Ground Ivy which is
hence named Ale-hoof. This was a thick liquor about which it was
Nil spissius est dum bibitur; nil clarius dum mingitur,
Unde constat multas faeces in ventre relinqui.
The Picts made beer from heather, but the secret of its manufacture
was lost when they became exterminated, since it had never been
divulged to strangers. Kenneth offered to spare the life of a father,
whose son had been just slain, if he would reveal the method; but,
though pardoned, he refused persistently. The inhabitants of Tola,
Jura, and other outlying districts, now brew a potable beer by
mixing two-thirds of heath tops with one of malt. Highlanders think
it very lucky to  find the white heather, which is the badge of
the Captain of Clan Ronald.
At first Hops were unpopular, and were supposed to engender
melancholy. Therefore Henry the Eighth issued an injunction to
brewers not to use them. Hops, says John Evelyn in his
Pomona, 1670, transmuted our wholesome ale into beer, which
doubtless much altered our constitutions. This one ingredient, by
some suspected not unworthily, preserves the drink indeed, but
repays the pleasure with tormenting diseases, and a shorter life.
Hops, such as come into the market, are the chaffy capsules of the
seeds, and turn brown early in the autumn. They possess a heavy
fragrant aromatic odour, and a very bitter pungent taste. The yellow
glands at the base of the scales afford a volatile strong-smelling oil,
and an abundant yellow powder which possesses most of the virtues
of the plant. Our druggists prepare a tincture from the strobiles with
spirit of wine, and likewise a thickened extract.
Again, a decoction of the root is esteemed by some as of equal
benefit with Sarsaparilla.
The lassitude felt in hot weather at its first access, or in early
spring, may be well met by an infusion of the leaves, strobiles and
stalks as Hop tea, taken by the wineglassful two or three times in
the day, whilst sluggish derangements of the liver and spleen may be
Lupulin, the golden dust from the scales (but not the pollen of the
anthers, as some erroneously suppose), is given in powder, and acts
as a gentle sedative if taken at bedtime. This is specific against
sexual irritability and its attendant train of morbid symptoms, with
mental depression and vital exhaustion. It contains  lupulite,
a volatile oil, and a peculiar resin, which is somewhat acrid, and
penetrating of taste.
Each of the Simples got from the Hop will allay pain and conduce to
sleep; they increase the firmness of the pulse, and reduce its
Also if applied externally, Hops as a poultice, or when steeped in a
bag, in very hot water as a stupe, will relieve muscular rheumatism,
spasm, and bruises.
Hop tea, when made from the flowers only, is to be brewed by
pouring a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the Hops, and letting
it stand until cool. This is an excellent drink in delirium tremens,
and will give prompt ease to an irritable bladder. Sherry in which
some Hops have been steeped makes a capital stomachic cordial. A
pillow, Pulvinar Humuli, stuffed with newly dried Hops was
successfully prescribed by Dr. Willis for George the Third, when
sedative medicines had failed to give him sleep; and again for our
Prince of Wales at the time of his severe typhoid fever, 1871, in
conjunction then with a most grateful draught of ale which had been
heretofore withheld. The crackling of dry Hop flowers when put
into a pillow may be prevented by first sprinkling them with a little
Persons have fallen into a deep slumber after remaining for some
time in a storehouse full of hops; and in certain northern districts a
watery extract from the flowers is given instead of opium. It is
useful to know that for sound reasons a moderate supper of bread
and butter, with crisp fresh lettuces, and light home-brewed ale
which contains Hops, is admirably calculated to promote sleep,
except in a full-blooded plethoric person. Lupulin, the glandular
powder from the dried strobiles, will induce sleep without causing
constipation, or headache. The dose is from two to four grains at
bedtime  on a small piece of bread and butter, or mixed with a
spoonful of milk.
The year 1855 produced a larger crop of cultivated Hops than has
been known before or since. When Hop poles are shaken by the
wind there is a distant electrical murmur like thunder.
Hop tea in the leaf is now sold by grocers, made from a mixture of
the Kentish and Indian plants, so as to combine in its infusion, the
refreshment of the one herb with the sleep-inducing virtues of the
other. The hops are brought direct from the farmers, just as they are
picked. They are then laid for a few hours to wither, after which
they are put under a rolling apparatus, which ill half-an-hour makes
them look like tea leaves, both in shape and colour. They are finally
mixed with Indian and Ceylon teas.
The young tops of the Hop plant if gathered in the spring and
boiled, may be eaten as asparagus, and make a good pot-herb: they
were formerly brought to market tied up in small bundles for table
A popular notion has, in some places, associated the Hop and the
Nightingale together as frequenting the same districts.
Medicinally the Hop is tonic, stomachic, and diuretic, with
antiseptic effects; it prevents worms, and allays the disquietude of
nervous indigestion. The popular nostrum Hop Bitters is thus
made: Buchu leaves, two ounces; Hops, half-a-pound; boil in five
quarts of water, in an iron vessel, for an hour; when lukewarm add
essence of Winter-green (Pyrola), two ounces, and one pint of
alcohol. Take one tablespoonful three times in the day, before
eating. White Bryony root is likewise used in making the Bitters.