Wínakapo — Hops

A common request I get, as someone who works with the plant medicines from the Dakotas, is for help managing sleeplessness or anxiety – but not with anything that will knock the patient out too long, leave them woozy, or be addictive.

The flowers of this plant are my best solution.

Wínakapo (Wild hops, Humulus lupus) is a vine that’s indigenous to North America as well as Eurasia. And yes, it’s the same plant that’s used to produce beer, although brewers do not harvest it wild – they have developed particular strains of it that they farm domestically to suit their needs.

The way I use this plant for insomnia is to make a tea from some flowers. It has a very yeasty smell (or cheesy, according to some people), and a somewhat bitter taste. So it is not the most delicious remedy, from an olfactory or gustatory standpoint – but it is certainly effective. You can mix it with more aromatic plants or flowers (such as lavender), and/or add honey, if that helps make it go down more easily. In my experience, it will allow you a good night’s restful sleep, without leaving you groggy in the morning.

This picture was taken in the early spring, during a maple sugaring trip. You can see a few of the flowers, which look a bit like shaggy pine cones, clinging to dead hops vine that grows up between the branches.

While there may still be some medicine in these dried flowers, spring is not the ideal time to harvest – at this point, it has been exposed to the elements too long, and with all of the water and sunlight that has filtered through it, these flowers have lost a lot of their medicinal value. The best time to harvest wínakapo is the fall.

A note about anxiety: My mentor, Linda Black Elk, has suggested this plant medicine tea for people with anxiety. I have not personally used it this way, so I am not qualified to give advice on dosage or effectiveness – but she reports that she has seen positive results.

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