Get Hip to Hemp (& Hops)
Close your eyes and think about your favorite way to unwind. If you’re anything like us, that usually includes an ice cold brewski and a perfectly rolled joint. There’s just something about hops and hemp that takes you back to simpler times. But have you ever wondered why these humble plants are so powerful (or pair so well together?)
Hemp and hops (most commonly consumed in beer) have been used to wind down or lighten up for generations. Healthline says that “alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions and promote feelings of relaxation,” (duh). And there’s a growing body of research that CBD can similarly reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and pain.
Think Cousins, Not Twins
That’s because what’s in your pint and your joint actually have some pretty deep familial ties. So deep in fact that beer hops and hemp buds come from the same group of flowering plants called the Cannabaceae family. Hops or Humulus lupulus are a crucial ingredient in any good beer, as your local IPA aficionado or microbrew expert will be quick to remind you. They impart the beloved bitter flavor to beers while preserving the brew, and, like the Cannabis Sativa, is covered with a fragrant resin. Not only do they look alike in their iconic leaves and flowers and bud-like shape, they share fundamental chemical constituents resulting in similar and complementary aromas, taste and effects.
But before we get too deep into the science stuff, why not jump back in time and explore the similar, ancient use cases of these two iconic party-starters?
A couple months back, we wrote a bit about the history of hemp and its original use as a powerful medicinal remedy across the ancient world, favored by our forefathers (and mothers) for easing strain and encouraging rest. Hops have a similar start as a sleep aid when they were stuffed into ancient pillowcases (in more modern times, hops are most often used and consumed in beer, sometimes even in the shower). And, according to Thorne “Native American, traditional Chinese, and Ayurvedic medicines all described its uses for anxiousness, restlessness, and insomnia.” Looks like sweet dreams are made of trees.
Into The Weeds
Beyond having a similar look, why are hemp and hops so similar in their effect on the human body? Well, we need to step back into the 21st century and turn to modern science to answer that question. Two of the common (and most fun) compounds that hemp and hops share are terpenes and flavonoids.
- Terpenes: Terpenes are a complicated molecule; think macro impact in a micro vessel. Basically, terpenes equal flavor. Both hops and hemp (including other favorite plants like tea leaves, citrus fruits and thyme) are rich in terpene molecules, giving them their beloved aroma, along with flavor and health properties. While there’s not many similarities between thyme and tea, hops and hemp share many of the same types of terpenoid compounds which give them their iconic aroma and flavor. Specific terpenes that could show up in both your 5 Pack and 6 Pack include myrcene, humulene, pinene and beta-caryophyllene (which is the terpene that is linked to maintaining gut health and of having anti-inflammatory properties). Check out our full blog on the ins and outs of terpenes if you really want to get in the weeds.
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids are, well, complicated. They are defined as “any of a large class of plant pigments having a structure based on or similar to that of flavone.” But all you really need to know is that flavonoids impact the plants aroma and flavor, plus their pigment to protect them against UV rays (see, all the cool kids wear sun-block). Recent studies and research suggests that some flavonoids found within hemp and hops show potential chemoprotective, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties. Turns out those ancient experts were on to something.
On A Personal Note
Now that we know about the “ins” of our two favorite floral cousins, let’s consider the “outs.”
According to Smithsonian Magazine, hops have been brewed into beer since the 8th century thanks to some saucy monks. And we know that hemp has been chillin’ people out since around 2800 bce (that’s like, way before people knew what cannabinoids and polyphenols were.
So why have these plants kept popping up?
Easy answer: they make humans feel good. That’s why we’ve incorporated them into our rituals since day one. What used to be used as offering to the gods has turned into a way to connect with our friends, our earth and ourselves.
So whether you’re pouring a perfect pint or rolling a joint for the ages - remember that the two are a lot closer than would appear.