Hops have been known for their calming abilities for centuries. This is thought
to be partly due to the xanthohumol it contains, which induces mental and physical wellbeing, and enables sound and healthful sleep*.
Menopause, also known as the second puberty, is an important stage of women’s life associated with various complaints and distresses. Vasomotor symptoms (VMS), such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and fatigue, are the most common menopause symptoms affecting about 50% to 80% of middle-aged women. Although VMS generally subside after five-seven years, some women have to deal with these symptoms for much longer. Along with psychological and physical effects, menopause can also cause VMS and these symptoms can affect the quality of life. Obviously, these symptoms, resulting from oestrogen deficiency during menopause, can exert negative effects on women’s health and quality of life and thus require to be managed through approaches such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, according to the Women’s Health Initiative and other clinical trials, HRT can increase the risk of various health issues in postmenopausal women. Oestrogen deficiency is associated with complaints that may increase the risks for both illness and early death, including increased cognitive changes and osteoporosis. For this reason HRT for menopausal women seems the most appropriate answer. However, other health conditions may result during its use.
During the past decade, growing attention has been paid to the use of herbal medicines for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Many herbal treatments for menopausal symptoms contain hops (Humulus lupulus L.) and its components such as 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN; a potent phytoestrogen), 6-PN and isoxanthohumol (two well-known flavanones), and xanthohumol (a prenylated chalcone). The high oestrogenic potency of 8-PN has the ability to interact with oestrogen receptors. For this reason it must be avoided by anyone with an oestrogen receptor breast cancer. On the other hand 6-PN showed a very weak estrogenic activity as isoxanthoumol did, while xanthohumol is inactive.
Hops containing terpenoid, flavonoid glycoside and catechin are widely used to treat tension, headache, sleep disorders (through impact on the central nervous system), activating the stomach and appetite. Other beneficial effects of this plant are for reducing joint pain, anxiety and nervousness, thus reducing and effect on kidney’s. Despite its confirmed benefits, the mechanisms through which hops relieves menopausal symptoms are not clearly understood. Considering possible negative effects of HRT, prenylated flavonoids extracted from hops can serve as a useful alternative treatment for the alleviation of sleep problems during the menopause.
*EFSA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list.