Chadds Ford Historical Society

Revisiting History

The Sweet Sleep of Hops!

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Have you ever wondered what people could actually do with hops besides just using them in beer? Sleep. The answer is, sleep.

You can also join us this Thursday April 21st,  for our monthly “Tavern Talks” to learn more!

Hops are an incredibly wonderful addition to our modern day beer. Without hops, beer can take on a very different flavor. However, you may not realize that hops are also a sleep inducing agent that cause the person using them to fall into a slumber that can probably only cause the sweetest of possible dreams, to drink beer. But in any case, colonial people were known, just like us modern folk, to have tried to remedy the nuisance of insomnia.

Hops have an incredible ability to have the theraputic benefit of calming, relieving stress, and inducing sleep in some people. Oftentimes, sachets (smaller than your average bed pillow) were made and stuffed with hops and sometimes lavender or other flowers and herbs for the benefit of a good nights rest. Sometimes “sweet bags”, “scented pillows”, “dream pillows”, were stuffed into pillows or even mattresses in order to release the aroma and act as a sedative to the person laying on top or near it. A complete list of how to make some of the earliest American “scented bags” comes from the Compleat Housewife that was published in 1742. These “sleep pillows” seemed to have worked so well that George Washington was known to have benefited from its slumber inducing properties!

There is also some more history to the regular use of hops in America.

Hops were known to have been brought into America along with some of the first settlements in the early 1600s. Hops were then later used in commercial production through homegrown American crops since the mid 1800s and used as an ingredient used in the beer brewing process.

Prior to the 1800s, the plant was a relatively important one for the families that grew it. So important, in fact, that they would often take the vine along with them if they had to move into a new residence. The individuals that grew this plant knew it served many utilitarian purposes to the user.

Hops can be used to make a sleep inducing tea or used on the body to calm muscle spasms and arthritis pain and even help in milk production for women who breastfeed (not for pregnant women though!). These were not only recipes for the colonial period. People are still swearing by the many uses for hops, even today.


There is a disclaimer for those who suffer from depression symptoms. Although there is evidence mounted on two sides of the spectrum, it is a good idea to talk to a doctor or ask a professional who handles your health care needs about whether hops would be beneficial to you for sleep and non-oral use or oral use through the ingestion of tea, beer, or in other culinary endeavors.

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Published by: Sarah Krykew, Guide Specialist



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