Hop pillows are lovely.

Making hop pillows.

One of the most common questions people ask me as an herbalist is “What can I take to help me sleep?” Since the underlying cause of insomnia is usually stress, working with the appropriate calming and comforting herbs is a good place to start.

In my post on comforting herbs, I mentioned that hops can be taken as tea or tincture to help with stress and insomnia—but my favorite way to use hops to encourage sleep is with hop pillows. The aroma of good quality hops is a gentle, effective soporific (so effective that people who pick hops all day sometimes get sleepy on the job).

Here’s how to make a hop pillow:

Make or find a small cloth bag. I generally make mine out of two 3×5 inch pieces of quilting cotton, but a large muslin teabag works well.

Fill the bag with good quality hops. Good hops should be fresh, more green than brown, and very aromatic. If you have trouble finding good hops, try a brewing supply store. Most bulk dried hops you find in herb stores are old and sad. (Herb stores often don’t take very good care of their bulk dried herbs, but that’s a topic for another post.)

After you’ve filled the bag with hops, sew or fasten it closed—tight enough so that if you roll over on it at night, you won’t wake up to a bed full of hops.

Sleep with the pillow close enough to smell it. (I like to give mine a few good squeezes to release the aroma when I get in bed.)

Sweet dreams!

(N.B. Most herbalists consider hops to be contraindicated in cases of depression. I think this is less of an issue with hop pillows, but it’s definitely something to consider. Always pay close attention to your reactions to any herb—if your instinct says something isn’t good for you, don’t use it!)


  1. Henriette said,

    January 14, 2007 @ 5:45 am

    Note though that hops is depressive. A herbalist in the UK thought that this was hogwash and gave hops to two already depressed clients; both got much worse.
    She stopped giving hops to the depressed.
    Thing is, a lot of morning insomnia (you wake up a few hours before you should and can’t go back to sleep) is due to depression. Bummer, that.

  2. crabappleherbs said,

    January 14, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

    Thanks, Henriette.

    Do you have any information on what kind of depression was involved? I.e., was it the excess kind (intense sadness) or the deficient kind (feeling flat and numb)? I’m developing a theory that hops is contraindicated for the second kind but not necessarily the first.

    Yes, morning insomnia is often associated with depression — and I don’t give hops for morning insomnia, I tend to use it for people who have trouble falling asleep due to agitation.

  3. Henriette said,

    January 14, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

    Sorry, she didn’t say. You’re probably on the right track, though.

  4. pdxJules said,

    May 4, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

    When Hops emerge in Spring, cut and cook the tops – just like Asparagus. Tasty eating, and by harvesting tips you’ll get a stronger vine – to produce more Hops. If you grow a lot offer these to a Chef – they can brong a nice price per pound.

    You can also divide crowns and share the rhizomes – or sell, if you know the variety – your Hops plants with Home-Brewers.
    A Hops shortage will greatly raise prices the next couple of years…so these pleasant vines are valuable to some of us.

    Store Hops flowers in a Freezer Bag after harvest – best used for brewing fairly Fresh…before the next season’s harvest.

  5. MARY said,

    May 11, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

    Okay- I have always had trouble waking up in the morning. Now that I am a senior citizen, I also have trouble going to sleep and staying asleep. The fact is, I am totally exhausted all the time, yet the Doc says I am healthy. Is there any hope for Grandma?

  6. crabappleherbs said,

    May 16, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

    Hi Mary.

    I think there’s plenty of hope for grandma! 😉

    I would suggest looking up an herbalist in your area for a personal consultation — there are so many things that can affect sleep that I don’t think you’re likely to get much useful advice online.

    I would ask around about local herbalists, or look online. (The American Herbalists Guild is one resource, though they only list herbalists who are professional members of their organization.)

  7. Peter D Tripp said,

    June 14, 2008 @ 9:24 am

    What’s all this about Stattins? Are they really as needful as is presented? What effect do they have on our Colesterol, (the good one i.e.) Can it really be maintained that lack of the good Col. does effect the Dementia issue?

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  9. Kelly said,

    February 5, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    To Grandma Mary, I am 32 and I feel this way too. Where do you charge your cellphone? Hopefully far away from your nightstand. Do you have other electromagnetic factors in your home such as a microwave, computer wifi, even a cordless telephone emits more than your cellphone! Let’s see, powerlines? cell phone tower nearbye?

    I feel like my mind is always tired, yet I don’t do anything extraordinary. Like there is a hamster in there, the wheel is spinning but he’s not going anywhere. I believe this to be an emerging feeling and problem brought on by our new technologies. Cell phone towers are really scary.

    This might sound crazy, but it has helped me sleep SO WELL. I was told by an intuitive to put three clear drinking glasses in an equilateral triangle around my bed or in a larger space in which my bed is inside the triangle. Must be equilateral (equal length of sides and angles) and the glasses must not have any markings and must be empty. The silica and crystal in the glasses actually creates a force-field of protection from these harmful waves that excite our brain cells. I know, I know i just said force-field, but we are venturing in on different times. Things we thought impossible are becoming the norm.

    I have been sleeping very peacefully ever since I put the glasses there. I also use my cell phone a whole lot less after learning about the harmful effects.

    P.S.-when you are inside your vehicle, you are protected from cell phone tower microwaves because of the extra layer of metal car deflecting a lot of the waves. however, using your cell phone while you are inside the car magnifies the waves and they deflect back to you and bounce around the space in the car. This was upsetting to know. At first I was inconvenienced by the no cell phones while driving rule because I got most of my calling done on the road. But now, even more bummed that I have been subjecting myself to extra microwaves and now i know my rebellion of using my phone in the car actually harms me so its a double whammy.

  10. Rowena said,

    September 8, 2012 @ 5:50 am

    Can you use the hops as they are straight from the bush or do you need to dry them first when making pillows?

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