Most of the harvested hops is used in brewing. Hop typically contains a lot of bitter substances, resins and essential oils, which also have antioxidant and antimicrobial effects.
In addition to its traditional use in the brewing industry, it has recently become widely used in cooking. Early spring shoots are added to salads. Dried, ripe hop cones have typical therapeutic effects, which can be used in tea preparations or extracts for different purposes. Hop cleans the blood. This means that it accelerates the process of digestion and excretion. It increases the formation of urine and acts as a sedative. It reduces anxiety and tension. It lowers the heart rate and reduces the symptoms of depression. It acts on sex hormones and the menstrual cycle. It is a mild disinfectant. Hops stuffed pillows and baths are in use as sedatives and sleeping aids. There are various pharmaceutical preparations of hops (tablets, tinctures etc.) already available on the market. Its other known effects are relieving cramps and preventing the onset and development of osteoporosis. Data from various surveys also show its potential use for the treatment of cancer.
Because of its potent antimicrobial action, it could potentially be used in animal nutrition, in which its addition to feed could potentially substitute for standardly used antibiotic additives.
Polyphenols in hop plant parts and their antioxidative and antimicrobial properties
Within the Research Programme Biochemical and Biophysical-chemical characterization of natural substances which is led by prof. Nataša Poklar Ulrih, PhD from the Biotechnical Faculty of the Ljubljana University and is financed by The Slovenian Research Agency, one of the research topics is also identification of bioactive components in hop plant. In collaboration with Barbara Čeh, PhD from IHPS, they are working on identification of polyphenols amount and their identification in different hop plant parts, as well as their antioxidative and antimicrobial potential.
With the growing interest in natural alternatives to synthetic antioxidants, over 980 naturally occurring antioxidants have been identified, with phenolic compounds being dominant, namely. Antioxidants containing phenolic groups are also the most widely used ones. They have the potential to counter or slow down oxidative damage caused by free radicals. You can read about what the research group of this programme found out on this topic in hop cones and leaves in the paper: Relationships between Xanthohumol and Polyphenol Content in Hop Leaves and Hop Cones with Regard to Water Supply and Cultivar – PMC (nih.gov) and also in the paper: A comparison of antioxidant and antimicrobial activity between hop leaves and hop cones. The researchers suggest for hop growing practise to take leaves after the hop harvest when they are collected in a pile next to the harvest hall and up to now represent unexploited plant waste.
The work was done also on white hop shoots; the contents are summarized in a paper: White Hop Shoot Production in Slovenia: Total Phenolic, Microelement and Pesticide Residue Content in Five Commercial Cultivars. These sprouts can be manually harvested in early spring and consumed as a delicacy, akin to asparagus. They are considered to be the first hop plant by-product, as they are removed during regular pruning of the top of the hop root system and are considered as waste. This is why their detected value by our research group is of very interesting importance.