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Are Hops Effective for Treating Anxiety?
An Herbals Poster By: Tyler Jewkes, Paige Spriggs and Derek Young
“Hops” is a term used for portions of a vine called Humulus lupulus. Other names include “vigne du Nord ” or simply “common hops”. Historically, hops has been used as a main ingredient for beer brewing, as well as a treatment for things like poor digestion, GI upset, leprosy, and even tuberculosis. More recently, studies have been performed to associate the effectiveness of hops to treat anxiety and stress. We aim, through this poster, to provide insight into the results of these studies and bring to light the potential use of hops for these conditions.
Mechanism of Action:
The currently proposed mechanism of action on anxiety for this product is agonism/antagonism of GABA-a receptors in the CNS, which causes a benzodiazepine-like sedation, thereby relieving anxiety symptoms.
The common side effects for this product are dizziness and sedation, but there have been some reports of post menopausal bleeding.
No major drug interactions have been found with hops, however due to the mechanism of action, care should be taken when using in combination with alcohol or other CNS depressants.
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study conducted by Kyrou et al. recruited young adults that were enrolled as graduate or undergraduate students at a specific university in Greece. Each participant completed the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) to determine if they had any of those three mental illnesses – none of the participants had ever formally been diagnosed. Once that was determined, students spent either four weeks in the treatment group (two 0.2g capsules a day of a hops extract) or in the placebo group; they then had a two week washout followed by a four week period of the opposite intervention. After each intervention, participants again took the DASS-21 survey. The results showed a significant decrease in the DASS-21 scores for both the hops and placebo interventions – specifically for anxiety, the decrease in the hops groups was 9.2+/-7.3 while the placebo was only 8.3+/-7.1. While both groups showed a decrease in anxiety, the effect in the hops group was significantly greater. This led the authors to conclude that in otherwise young, healthy adults, daily supplementation of hops for a short amount of time can help decrease symptoms of anxiety as well as depression and stress.
Franco et al. conducted a longitudinal study that used participants as their own control. Participants included 17 female nurses that worked rotating and/or night shifts in high stress areas of the hospital. Treatment was 330mL of non-alcoholic beer that contained hops with dinner vs. not drinking hops with dinner. Interventions lasted for 14 days then were compared to a 14 day treatment with the other intervention. Results were determined to be an increase in overall quality of sleep (specifically noting an improvement in sleep latency, sleep efficiency and activity during sleep). Authors also measured state and trait anxiety before and after treatment through the State-Trait Anxiety Intervention (STAI). They found that state anxiety (anxiety at that specific time) also decreased to 18.09+/-3.8 compared to placebo 20.69+/-2.14. Authors concluded that by consuming a moderate amount of nonalcoholic beer, the hops content (through its sedative properties) helped to improve quality of sleep and through that also helped improve state anxiety.
Hops is a generally well tolerated supplement that has been demonstrated to have minimal amounts of side effects and interactions while showing a potential for anxiolytic activity. The most common side effects are dizziness, sedation and menstrual disturbances while showing no real major drug interactions. Research has shown that hops have the potential to be effective in treating anxiety as well as depression and stress and it can improve quality of sleep in an otherwise healthy population. Because of this, hops is a supplement that could be considered in treating certain disease states such as anxiety.
- Kyrou, I., Christou, A., Panagiotakos, D. et al. Effects of a hops (Humulus lupulus L.) dry extract supplement on self-reported depression, anxiety and stress levels in apparently healthy young adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover pilot study. Hormones 16, 171–180 (2017). https://doi.org/10.14310/horm.2002.1738
- Franco, Lourdes, et al. “The Sedative Effect of Non-Alcoholic Beer in Healthy Female Nurses.” PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 7, 2012, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037290.
- Western New York Urology Associates; accessed on 29 July 2021 (https://www.wnyurology.com/content.aspx?chunkiid=21755)
- Natural Medicines. (2021, July 21). Hops [monograph]. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=856
- Ceremuga TE, Johnson LA, Adams-Henderson JM, Mccall S, Johnson D. Investigation of the Anxiolytic Effects of Xanthohumol, a Component of Humulus lupulus (Hops), in the Male Sprague-Dawley Rat.