An article published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety examines the potential health benefits of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus).
Although female cones of the hop plant are known primarily as raw material supplying characteristic bitterness and aroma to beer, their equally significant health-promoting effects have been known to mankind for several thousand years.
The researchers provide a summary of the scientific knowledge on the effects of all three major groups of secondary metabolites of hops: polyphenols, essential oils, and resins. Because of their chemical diversity, it is no coincidence that these compounds exhibit a wide range of pharmacologically important properties. In addition to antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer-related properties, the researchers pay particular attention to prenylflavonoids, which occur almost exclusively in hops and are considered to be some of the most active phytoestrogens known.
Hop oils and resins are well known for their sedative and other neuropharmacological properties, but in addition, these compounds exhibit antibacterial and antifungal effects. Recently, alpha bitter acids have been shown to block the development of a number of complex lifestyle diseases that are referred to by the collective name “metabolic syndrome.”
The authors concluded that there is significant potential for the use of hops in the pharmaceutical industry.