Hops: A Little Commentary

Hops is native to Europe and West Asia, growing as a perennial vine, it inhabits thickets on forest margins in the wild, but is heavily cultivated. Hops is one of the most consumed herbs in the world, next to tea and coffee, because of its use in the production of most beer. Hops is a warm, acrid, and bitter herb but most people find it pleasant to consume, so it is easily incorporated into formulas or even given as a simple. Hops makes both a good addition to a decoction as well as a good tincture.
Culpeper says of hops, “This, in physical operations, is to open obstructions of the liver and spleen, to cleanse the blood, to loosen the belly, to cleanse the reins from gravel, and provoke urine.” This statement seems to support the second function I have applied to this medicinal. While the phrase, “cleanse the blood,” is quite nebulous I think it speaks to hops’ bitter nature, which helps to move the liver qi. Since the liver stores the blood, when the liver qi becomes depressed this may be viewed as a situation where there is “unclean blood” by physicians such as Culpeper.
He also says, “A syrup made of the juice and sugar, cureth the yellow jaundice, easeth the head-ache that comes of heat, and tempereth the heat of the liver and stomach, and is profitably given in long and hot agues that rise in choler and blood.” Here we have a clear sense that Culpeper was discussing heat pattern, even from the Chinese point of view, which leads us to consider why we would use a medicinal that is warm in such patterns. This is when it is important to remember we always work in formulas. Warm herbs move, as a general rule, and Culpeper seems to be discussing a condition where heat has cause qi to either become stagnant or is moving in a counter-flow direction. Thus, even he understood that by using a medicinal such as hops would help to create a situation where relief from such a pattern could be effected.

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