A little walk around my village had me looking at the hedgerows as I do, for signs of what nature is doing in a particular month. Among the ivy growing in one spot, I looked up to see what appeared to be hops growing. Upon some research with my trusty app ‘PlantNet', it was indeed hops! We all associate hops with beer making and as lovely as a drop of beer is, I knew that there must be more to them than that.
Hops or Humulus Lupulos is a tall perennial plant which can grow to a height of 5 metres or more. Hop plants need support to grow to the height they do – the ones I found were among the ivy, so I’m not sure who was supporting who. This plant is known as a dioecious plant meaning the male plant is a completely separate plant from the female plant and it is she which produces the hops (or cones as they are known) needed for brewing. The growing takes place from spring until July when it will start to flower. The cones are a lovely pale green colour and have a tissue paper like consistency to their petals. These petals contain the grains or ‘lupulin glands’ which are needed for the beer. They have a complex array of oils and acids which give the beer its flavour. The cones are harvested in September and dried before being sent off to various breweries. A hop plant can remain productive for around 10-20 years, which is amazing!
Hops have been documented as an ingredient in beer from the 9th century. Other ingredient used previously included dandelion, burdock, ivy, heather and marigold.
Hops have a lot of healing properties. They are well known as a sleep aid. They are a sedative herb and are extra effective when combined with Valerian. Hop tea can be sipped before bedtime or a sachet containing dried hops, lavender and chamomile either hung by your bed or popped under your pillow.
Hops can help with anxiety and stress and aid with the digestive system. Hops are antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antibiotic – this little lot packs quite a punch, so is a powerful concoction for the immune system.
Hops are good for the hair and skin. We’ve all heard of beer shampoo as a hair tonic for shiny hair! Add hops to an oil for infusion or herbal salve for calming inflamed and irritated skin.
Magically, hops can be used in dream pillows and in rituals for healing, incense for healing and meditation. They can be worked with in colour magic for prosperity, healing, luck and fertility.
Planet – Mars
Deities – Inanna, Hel, Cerridwen, Hecate
Festival – Samhain and Imbolc
Other names – Wolf of the Woods
Wings in the Night