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A Chemical in Beer Hops Might Be Used to Fight Cancer

“Beer-inspired compounds” could have a wide range of practical applications, like treating cancers and inflammatory diseases.

If you're one of the millions of people drinking an estimated 4.2 billion pints of beer (and 166 billion gallons of water) on March 17, there may be a new way to rationalize your fundamentally irrational St. Patty's day beer binge, beyond the worn-out "Everybody's Irish on St-Patrick's Day!" catchphrase.

But the answer lies not in the four-leaf clover, and instead in a little green flower—hops. That's because hops don't just make beer bitter and give you man boobs; they can also curb bacterial growth and various forms of disease.


READ: A Compound in Beer Might Save Your Brain from Degeneration

According to research presented earlier this week at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), chemists claim to be on the verge of synthesizing all of the healthy compounds of hops, in hopes of one day creating medical treatments from them.

"When researchers extract healthful chemicals from hops, they first have to determine whether they have separated out the specific compounds they're interested in," said Kristopher Waynant, Ph.D., who is leading the hops project, in a press release. "But if you can figure out how to make these compounds from scratch, you know they are the right ones."

Waynant and his team are focusing on compounds called humulones and lupulones; acids which are known to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. He and his team hope to eventually be able to produce humulones in the lab and then synthesize them into a pharmaceutical product.

"But before humulones and lupulones can be turned into effective pharmaceuticals, scientists must confirm that they are extracting the proper acids from hops," the press release stated, adding that these "beer-inspired compounds" could have a wide range of practical applications, like treating cancers and inflammatory diseases.

While consuming synthesized humulones would technically take the fun out of drinking your hops out of a pint, this may be one of the last St. Patrick's Day where you don't have to make that choice.