Hops is IHA 2018 Herb of the Year

By Kathleen Gips, Western Reserve Unit

Kathleen GipsIn 1995, when I was a member, the International Herb Association (IHA) designated Herb Education Week to be the week before Mother’s Day. For that week members were charged with educating the public about herbs and their varied uses. As leaders of herbal businesses we were to explore the designated herb of the year with products, written materials, seminars and workshops.

I loved researching the history, horticulture, culinary, craft and medicinal properties of all the chosen herbs. I treasured learning about my favorite herbs: lavender, scented geraniums, sage. I learned so much about some less common herbs like fennel, calendula and bergamot. Even mundane herbs such as lemon balm and mint gained new knowledge and respect. I became immersed in building my herbal expertise on each Herb of the Year.

Some years challenged my level of excitement more than others. When it was horseradish and elderberry, I thought these were unworthy of my passion. As I studied each, I learned how wrong I was. Every herb has magical properties, rich history and many uses. I was rewarded with even more knowledge in my special world of herbs.


This year when I learned hops was designated as the Herb of the Year for 2018, I thought, “Oh no! Not hops!” I’m not even a beer lover. But I thought I’d learn more about them this year.


My introduction to hops came when I invited Jim Long to be a guest speaker at my Chagrin Falls herb shop to discuss his new book, “Making Herbal Dream Pillows.” I ordered hops to make his sweet dreams pillows in our workshop.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and the entire room smelled like stinky feet. Ewww!  But Jim explained the powerful relaxation properties of hops, despite the aroma. And, we made the pillows.


My next introduction to hops was a golden hops plant that Mark Langan from Mulberry Creek Herbs, Huron, Ohio, gave me to sell. Because my customers knew little about hops,

I had leftover plants that year.  So I put them near an iron arch at the entrance to our herb garden. The vine grew quickly and prolifically covering the entire arch in a single season.

It created a magnificent show of beautiful chartreuse leaves and stunning green pendant flowers. It attracted attention and everyone wanted to grow these beautiful golden hops.  Imagine my surprise when hops became my favorite landscape herb.

When we pulled the vines down after the first frost, I learned about the tenacious prickly tendrils and came away with scratches and a skin rash. I also learned about the very hardy nature of the hops plant as it came back each spring from nothingness. It spread its tendrils far and wide and even needed some restraint.


What a resilient, tenacious, and beautiful herb plant.  It is beautiful in the garden landscape, good for flavoring beer and offers calming medicinal properties.  I look forward to seeing them again this year.

Restful Sleep Pillow Herbal Mixture
Herbs under the pillow have long been used to produce restful sleep. Research shows that certain herbs and flowers help to relax the muscles and calm the mind This herbal blend combines hops and other herbs with the properties of relaxation. The addition of rosemary produces pleasant dreams and the pinch of thyme gives quiet dreams and may even enable one to see fairies in their dreams.
1/4 cup lavender
1/4 cup rose petals
1 tablespoon dried hops
1 teaspoon rosemary
Pinch of thyme
This mix makes 1/2 cup which is enough for one sleep pillow. Put mixture into a drawstring bag and tuck into your pillow case.

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