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Hops and pot: How they’re related

Beyond their heavy-handed use of hops, Lagunitas Brewing is linked to the origins of 4/20 as a pothead holiday

Hops are a resinous, green flower, and from what Snoop Dogg taught me, so too is that sticky icky icky.

But the similarities between hops and weed go well beyond how they look and feel. Not only did scientists confirm in 2012 that the two plants are genetically related, belonging to Cannabinaceae family, now further research is helping us understand the similar aroma and flavor characteristics these plants exhibit. Cousins Cannabis and Humulus, it turns out, share a key ingredient called terpenes.

Terpenes are a class of organic compounds produced by several types of flowers and trees, especially conifers, and are responsible for producing flavors and aromas in plants. Recently, a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia published a study on what gives marijuana its distinct flavors and aromas. According to a recent Forbes article, the researchers “found close to 30 terpenes in the cannabis genome, producing such ‘fragrant molecules’ as limonene, myrcene, and pinene when those genes are active, and thus give it an alternately citrusy, skunky, or earthy quality.”

It’s no coincidence that those descriptors—citrusy, skunky, or earthy—are just as often associated with the hoppy double IPA at the local taproom. Hops and marijuana share many of these terpenes in common, such as myrcene, beta-pinene, and alpha-humulene to name a few. Certain hop varieties like Summit, Eureka, 007, and Nelson Sauvin—though it varies on Nelson Sauvin harvests—are especially pungent with green onion, chive-like, and dank aroma and flavor characteristics.

While terpenes tie hops and marijuana close in flavor and aroma, they’re also responsible for key differences in the plants. In hops, the alpha acids that bitter beer are actually terpenoids (compounds that are derived from terpenes) called humulone. According to a Popular Science piece, the tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) in marijuana give the plant its psychoactive qualities.

While developments of new strains of hops are happening in the beer industry, research on marijuana is lagging behind. It is, after all, hard to research something and develop it for aroma and flavor if doing so can net you a felony drug charge. But even with what little research is available, concrete commonalities have appeared—and more will be discovered in the future.

With the eclectic variety of hops already available for use and constantly being produced, it is not hard to imagine that marijuana aromas and flavors could overlap even more if afforded with the same investment, dedication, and legal status that hops enjoy.

Undercover #420 operations are in place. Discreet traps have been set up throughout the city today. #Happy420 pic.twitter.com/Jo8mh0Z5lQ

So, how are Minnesota breweries and bars marking the holiday day today?

At 4:20pm on 4/20 in Big Lake, Lupulin Brewing is releasing Straight Hash Homie Double IPA, an experimental IPA brewed with 100 percent hop hash—concentrated lupulin glands which contain high levels of terpenes and terpenoids present in hops.

Forager Brewery in Rochester brewed its second batch of The Danqs, purposely utilizing a bevy of hops—including Eureka and 007—for a pungent, dank, piney, slightly citrusy, dry IPA.

#420day… Hemp Seed Pilsner, the cause and the cure for cotton mouth in one glass. $4.20 pints all day! @GullDam_Brewing @growlermag #beer pic.twitter.com/OzIaML39gA

A post shared by Insight Brewing Company (@insightbrewing) on Apr 20, 2017 at 9:36am PDT

Hops and pot: How they’re related Beyond their heavy-handed use of hops, Lagunitas Brewing is linked to the origins of 4/20 as a pothead holiday Hops are a resinous, green flower, and from

Take 5 Daily

Understanding the Relationship Between Hops and Hemp

The thing most people think about when they think of hops is beer. So if the first thing that popped into your mind when you read this blog title was a big glass of your favorite IPA, then you probably are not alone. But hops, a close relative of the hemp plant, is much more than something that gives beer its bitter bite – it’s actually a plant with a long history of human use.

Okay – we can start with beer

Hops (its botanical name is Humulus lupulus) was actually one of the first documented food additives, and its use to extend beer’s shelf life predates its uses for health purposes. In the Middle Ages (1100-1450 AD), after trial and error with many other herbs, it was found that brewing beer with hops preserved it much longer.

As a bonus, hops added a pleasant bitter flavor and aroma. It was so effective that by the 1500s the legal definition for beer in Germany included only the ingredients water, malt, and hops. 1

Although brewing techniques have advanced significantly over the centuries, hops has remained an enduring part of the recipe, with variations on the plant imparting a wide range of bitterness and variety of flavors – as well as preservative properties – to one of our favorite beverages.

Historical uses

The most well-documented use of hops in cultures around the world is as a sedative or sleep aid.* Native American, traditional Chinese, and Ayurvedic medicines all described its uses for anxiousness, restlessness, and insomnia.* 2

Hops-filled pillows were prescribed by herbal physicians in Europe as sleep aids. This use still prevails today, as the official German Commission E Monograph for hops discusses the approved indications for mood and sleep disturbances.* 3

Upset stomach and indigestion are also common traditional indications of use, although they are not supported by modern scientific data.* (But there are a lot of other things you can do to support digestion that are supported by science!)

A cousin of Cannabis

Just like humans, plants have relatives. For example, apples, blackberries, and roses are all related as part of the Rosaceae family, and the Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae) family, includes broccoli, watercress, kale, and cabbage. Hops and hemp both belong to the Cannabaceae family.

They actually look somewhat alike, especially the leaves and flowers, and – thanks to having some of the same chemical constituents, like terpenes – also smell and taste similar. Some of the common and complementary compounds in hops and hemp include:

  • Terpenes
    • Just like hemp, hops contains an array of terpenes that contribute to its aroma, flavor, and health properties. Terpenes shared by both plants include myrcene, humulene, pinene, and beta-caryophyllene (link here to beta-caryophyllene blog when published). Beta-caryophyllene in particular helps to maintain gut health and supports a healthy inflammatory response.*
  • Flavonoids
    • Hops contains a group of flavonoids that include prenylnaringenin, isoxanthohumol, and xanthohumol. These compounds have drawn interest based on early research showing potential chemoprotective and detoxifying properties.* Prenylnaringenin may also act as a phytoestrogen similar to those in soy.* 4
  • Alpha and Beta Acids
    • The alpha acids (humulones) and beta acids (lupulones) are best known for giving bitter properties to beer, but probably have the most health-supportive data. They have been shown to benefit immune and GI health, 5 support a normal inflammatory response and brain health, 6 and may be protective for the liver.* 7

Wanting to enjoy some of the benefits of hops? One option is to enjoy a good beer. The “hoppiest” beers tend to be the most bitter – India pale ales (IPA), American pale ales (APA), and extra special bitters (ESB). Even big ales, such as barley wines and imperial stouts, pack a hidden hop punch. You can also get some of the supportive health benefits of hops in Thorne’s Hemp Oil +, which contains a specialized hops extract providing alpha and beta acids.*

The thing most people think about when they think of hops is beer. So if the first thing that popped into your mind when you read this blog title was a big glass of your favorite IPA, then you prob…