November 2021

Growing Interest in Hops & Non-Alcoholic Beer as Medicine

Hops have been a central ingredient in beer for centuries. Their cone-like flowers are known for their distinct flavor and smell – and when brewed with barley, water, and yeast, produce a wide variety of beer. Interest in using both beer and hops for therapeutic reasons isn’t new, but you might start getting more questions about this. An increasing number of hops-based products promoted for specific uses, particularly related to relaxation and sleeping problems, are hitting the market. What should you tell patients?

Traditionally, hops have been used for sedative effects. It’s believed that these effects are due to bitter acids, which contributes to hops’ distinct bitter flavor. Taking certain products containing hops in combination with valerian root extract seems to help with sleeping problems, but it’s not clear if taking hops alone will offer the same benefits. Even so, there’s a growing trend of hop waters, hop sparkling waters, and hop teas that are promoted as alcohol-free relaxation drinks. Some of them simply contain water and hops; others incorporate other ingredients such as ashwagandha and are promoted for specific health uses. While it’s not clear if these products will offer any benefits, there aren’t any major safety concerns related to hops if patients want to give them a try.

Beer, on the other hand, is traditionally thought of as an alcoholic beverage. And much of the evidence of health benefits with beer relates to its alcohol content. For example, research shows that light to moderate consumption of alcoholic drinks, including beer, reduces the risk for heart disease and diabetes. But there’s growing interest in non-alcoholic beer as well – the non-alcoholic beer market in general is booming. One very small study shows that drinking one non-alcoholic beer at dinner for 2 weeks reduces how long it takes to fall asleep and also modestly reduces anxiety. Larger studies are needed to confirm any benefits, but non-alcoholic beer seems to be well-tolerated in most people.

Learn more about the potential benefits of both hops and beer in our recently updated monographs.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.