Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hops in the Pharmacy

By: Kajsa Sabatke, Interpretive Projects Coordinator
We don’t just use hops to make beer and yeast at the museum. The pollen from hops, which you can see in this picture (the yellow dots), also contains useful medicinal properties. In Thrall Pharmacy, Patrick uses the hops to make an extract – or tincture – of hops. Making tinctures is a technique that can be traced back to 13th-century France. To create it, Patrick adds hops to alcohol in a jar and lets it sit so the oils in the pollen dissolve into the liquid. He uses a tincture because it stores very well, lasting between 3-5 years. Pharmacists used hops for a couple of medicinal purposes. Hops contain Lupilin, a bittering agent that acts as a digestive stimulant to help treat digestion problems. It also contains valerianic acid – the same chemical that is in chamomile –a natural sedative. For this reason, hops were sometimes an ingredient in nerve tonics. Pharmacists usually purchased hops that were left over from previous seasons and they classified them into three categories: “yearlings,” “olds,” and “old olds.” The yearlings had about 2/3 the potency of fresh hops, the olds were about half as strong, and the old olds were very weak, according to A Cyclopaedia of Six Thousand Practical Receipts, published in 1845. A pharmacist had to take this potency into account when preparing treatments for his patients.

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