Spring Forward

Spring Forward

Happy day to you, you budding Herbalist! Spring fever has officially settled in.  March has been very warm and dry, and the plants are starting to awaken from their winter slumber.  Pictured above is the beautiful bloom of the Magnolia Tree planted here at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

The next five posts will be dedicated to medicinal plants that can be grown rather easily and efficiently in your home garden.  These plants are perfect for Colorado's hot and sunny summer and yield high amounts of plant material for medicine making. 

Hops

Humulus lupulus

Who doesn't love hops?  This twining herb has been used as a bittering agent for beer for hundreds of years.  Hops provides a floral aroma and a bitter, citrusy flavor so beloved by those snobby IPA connoisseurs.  The first mention of the use of hops in brewing in Germany was 1079. Due to its preservative qualities and taste, hops phased out Gruit over time. Gruit was an old fashioned herb mixture used for bittering and flavoring beer. Brought to North America in 1629, Hops became an important field crop in 1800.  In the United States today, most hops are grown in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California.

Hops is much more than a flavoring agent for beer.  It's powerful medicine, most notably as a sleep aid and sedative.  Field workers have reported how quickly they tire after a day in a sunny hops field.  Abraham Lincoln and King George III reportedly placed sachets of Hops under their pillows at night to induce pleasant dreams and restful sleep.  Sipping on a bitter Hops infusion can help stimulate appetite, and can be good for digestion.  Due to its anti-bacterial properties, Hops may be applied as a poultice to minor cuts, acne spots and other forms of dermatitis. 

Family: Cannabaceae

Parts Used: Strobiles (flowers) fresh or dried

Medicinal Actions: Nervine, sedative, hypnotic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and cooling

Medicinal Uses: Anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, loss of appetite and indgestion.

Culinary Uses:  In early spring, young shoots can be prepared and eaten like asparagus.  The male flowers can be parboiled, cooled and tossed into salads.  Young leaves can be blanched and added to soups and salads. 

Medicinal Preparation: Tincture, Infusion and Poultice

Cautions:  May cause dermatitis when harvesting.  Careful when using with Anti-depressants. 

Tips for Growing Hops: Pick an open and sunny location . Healthy hops can grow up to one feet per day so plan accordingly (use a fence, a trellis, or string) and thin out as needed. Plant when there is no threat of frost. Add plenty of compost/manure to produce a rich soil. As growth begins, trim back unhealthy shoots to promote strength of larger shoots and the rhizome. Powdery mildew is an issue, keep the watering to the base of the plant, and clear out any unhealthy foliage, weeds, other debris to prevent an environment fit for mildew. Hops need at least 120 frost free days to produce the flowers.  When harvesting, wear a long sleeve shirt and gloves!

Hops garden arch