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Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus.
They are used primarily as a bittering, flavouring and stability agent in beer, to which they, beyond bitterness, impart floral, fruity, or citric flavours and aromas; though they are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine.
Hops is a vigorous, climbing, herbaceous perennial, usually trained to grow up strings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden (nomenclature in the South of England), or hop yard (in the West Country and U.S.) when grown commercially.
Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with different types used for particular styles of beer.
The first documented use of hops in beer is from the 9th century, though Hildegard of Bingen, 300 years later, is often cited as the earliest documented source.
Before this period, brewers used a "gruit", composed of a wide variety of bitter herbs and flowers, including dandelion, burdock root, marigold, horehound, ground ivy, and heather. Early documents include mention of a hop garden in the testament of Charlemagne's father, Pepin III.
Hops are also used for its soothing effect. It is great at getting people to relax and fall asleep. It has an ability to calm the mind and steady the stomach.
It is only recently that modern research has discovered the full range of healing potential of this quint little flower.