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Beer hops picture.jpg
Scientific Classification
  • Humulus lupulus
  • Humulus japonicus

Hops are the species of agricultural plants belonging to the taxonomic genus Humulus. They are perhaps best known for their use in beer production. Because of its unique alcoholic properties hops are produced in hundreds of thousands of pounds and the farming and harvesting of hops is a multi-million dollar industry. Hops grow in the northern hemisphere and can grow to over twenty-five feet in length. It is also used in other practices such as medicine. Hops are harvested all over the world, but they are commonly produced and harvested in the United States. Over the years new methods of harvesting have become popular methods for reducing effort and increasing output.

Historical backround

Hops aren't actually a new addition to our society. A long time ago there wasn't a way to clean or filter properly so beer was used commonly as an alternative. Beer has natural alcoholic properties which are good for killing bacteria. Because of this, beer was a good substitute in contrast to the unfiltered, infected water. Since we have filtered water now, beer is less needed, but some people still drink it for other purposes anyways.[2]

Body Design

The basic structural composure of a Humulus Lupulus

Humulus lupulus or more commonly known as hops are perennial plants, meaning they come back on a yearly basis and therefore, don't need to be replanted each year. The roots of a hop branch in all directions both horizontally and vertically as well. The roots grow from about 7 inches up to about 11.8 inches on the horizontal plane and about 59.84 inches downward. Also, the stems can grow up to nine meters in length. The roots have hooked hairs and opposite leaves that are cordate and three to five lobes. The petioles are a little fleshy-feeling with stout hooked hairs, an they also have serrate margins. The hops themselves resemble cones and are about 2.5 to 5 cm long.[3] The plant itself can grow up to 22 feet in height and tend to be tied to an towering object for support. The leaves are dark green and are heart-shaped in nature. The edges of the leaves are rigid and sharp looking like spines. Unlike the male hops which aren't currently used in drinks, the female hops are actually harvested for use in beer and other things. [4]

Life Cycle

Because hops are most commonly used for beer, they are not grown or reproduced like they would normally by standard reproduction. Normally, hops produce male and female flowers to perform reproduction. Unfortunately, the flavor is taken away and made weaker in the process of fertilization. For this reason, most hops are reproduced by root cutting and softwood cuttings to preserve the flavor. If fertilized, the hop's stem will grow downwards and may grow to 25 feet or even longer. The hops will grow upwards and are usually linked to trellis's to give them support and to also make them easier to harvest. Hops are perennial(come back year after year) plants, but they can also be replanted to ensure a better harvest and growth time. The stem will only die after the actual hop flowers(female reproductive part in hops) are mature. The plants are rotated every 10-15 years or so. Although hops naturally produce both female and male reproductive parts needed to reproduce on its own, only the pine cone-shaped female reproductive part is actually used in alcoholic beverages such as beer.[5]


Humulus or hops tend to live in Boreal Wet climates to Subtropical Dry Forest Life Zones. Based on averages, hops can tolerate 42.08 to about 70.23 degrees Fahrenheit and are very durable plants overall. If the plant is developed and dormant, it can live through freezing temperatures, but if it is a young plant, frostbite will set in and kill it. The plant needs about eleven inches between March and August to survive. Because of their moisture holding capabilities, hops can live in a variety of different places. Supposedly, hops have about 6-12% moisture levels. Hops are fertilized and largely cultivated in the United States in order to meet the large quantities of beer produced each year. Most prominently harvested in the Pacific Northwest area, millions of pounds of hops are produced annually. Hops produce their own food by performing photosynthesis(the process of turning sunlight into energy. [3]

Different uses of Humulus

Because of its commonly known drugging effect, hops are used for its sedative properties on the central nervous system. In addition to these things, hops have been studied for anti-viral purposes as well as anti-micro bacterial properties. These properties are seen in the digestion of food which can stimulate gastric juice creation. Because of its restrictive properties pertaining to growth, hops can also be used as an anti-cancer treatment. The calming and relaxing properties of hops can also relax muscles that are cramped or tensed. Hops contain an estrogen substitute which can be used as an alternative to help breast enlargement and other things as well. The earliest recorded documents of hops being used in certain cases date back as far as 2500 years ago when the Romans and Greeks used it for menstrual problems. Hops are reputed to be beneficial as a herbal pain reliever, diuretic, and to expel intestinal parasites.[4]

Like most medicines and alcohols, hops have side effects that can be both expected and unexpected. People with high depression should avoid hops since it is already a sedative and children should also avoid hops. Likewise, you should not use hops with other sedatives since this may have unexpected results or excessive effects.[4] Interestingly, hops also have hypnotic effects on people in addition to their drugging effect. Supposedly, hops also have properties that are good for the skin and can soften it. Some of the leaves and heads of the flowers are also being used to create brown dyes for coloring purposes. [3]

Besides being used as medicines and relaxers, hops can also be used for making beer products. Because of its unique blend of bitterness and sweetness, hops are one of the key components to brewing a good beer. Malt is commonly used to sweeten the bitter taste of the hops and keeps the IBU down. The IBU is the bitterness measurement in beer and usually ranges from 10-40 IBUs.[6]


A video on wild hops, its description, and some purposes as well.



  1. USDA, gov. [1] Plants profile. Web. accessed 5-08-12.
  2. Henning, John. [2] Web. Accessed 5/23/12.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Duke, James[3] Web. Accessed 5-08-12.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sweeny, Matt. Health Benefits of Hops and Side Effects The Herbal Resource. Web. Published July 14, 2011.
  5. Barbour, Jim. [4] University or Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Web. Published September 1999.
  6. Ale, House. Humulus Lupulus (hops) DOgfish Head Alehouse'. Web. Published July 26, 2009.