Although there have been no clinical studies to support hops as a stand-alone sedative agent, several studies have demonstrated formulas combining hops with other sedative herbs are effective for insomnia.
Two randomised double-blind studies have investigated the effects of an oral preparation of hops and valerian in sleep disorders (Gerhard et al 1996, Schmitz & Jackel 1998). One study observed equivalent efficacy and tolerability of a hops-valerian preparation comparable to benzodiazepine treatment, with withdrawal symptoms only reported for benzodiazepine use (Schmitz & Jackel 1998). Improvement in subjective perceptions of sleep quality was confirmed in another study, which also reported that a hops-valerian combination was well tolerated compared with flunitrazepam (Gerhard et al 1996).
A pilot study (Fussel et al 2000) tested a preparation containing a fixed combination of valerian extract (500 mg) and hops extract (120 mg) known as Ze 91019 in 30 subjects with mild-to-moderate, non-organic insomnia. The treatment was used at bedtime and found to reduce sleep latency and wake time as diagnosed by polysomnography examination.
Hops has also been used as a bath additive for sleep disturbances. A randomised double-blind study involving 40 patients found that taking three hops baths (4 g hops in a concentrated extract) on successive days significantly improved both objective and subjective sleep quality (Bone 1996).
Commission E and ESCOP support the use of hops for sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling asleep and insomnia (Blumenthal et al 2000).
Based on the available evidence, further investigation is required to determine whether hops acts as a mild sedative independently, as a synergist, or does not have sedative action.
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