Hops are at present used almost exclusively as a basic ingredient for the brewing of beer, since hop acids and essential hop oil are crucial for the taste and smell of beer. However, the hop has been extensively used throughout history as a health-promoting medicine. Hops have always occupied a prominent place in pharmacopoeia and scientific reference works. The hop is described as a sedative used to treat agitation, fear and nervous sleep disturbances. This concerns, by preference, hop cones containing at least 0.35% essential oils. In Germany there are more than 50 products and preparations that contain hops for these indications on the market. Dried hop cones(‘strobuli’) in powder form are used as a starting material for these medicines. The pharmacological nomenclature knows them as ‘Strobuli lupuli’. 

In the past the hop was reputed to have yet other therapeutic properties. The plant was used to treat hypersensitivity, nervous anxiety, depression, cramps, neuralgia, migraine and even obesity. Hops were also supposed to produce antiseptic, antibiotic, analgesic, moisture repellant, tuberculostatic and anaphrodisiac effects. The use of hops in modern medicine is limited to the sedative effect of the hop cones. Although the mechanism of this effect remains unexplained, various studies have shown that hops do in fact have a mildly tranquillizing effect and induce sleep. Hops and essential hop oil are so complex that the effect probably cannot be ascribed to one single component, but rather to an interaction between different components. Hop extracts examined in the laboratory do not necessarily react in the same way as in a natural environment. One more reason why the health-giving effects of hops are so difficult to investigate in traditional clinical studies as we know them.