What is Kombucha?
Known as the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese and originating in the Far East around 2,000 years ago, kombucha is a beverage with tremendous health benefits.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage of black tea and cane sugar that is used as a functional food. Kombucha contains b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic, and lactic), which have the following effects:
- Improving Digestion
- Weight Loss
- Increasing Energy
- Cleansing and Detoxification
- Immune Support
- Reduces Joint Pain
- Cancer Prevention
The sugar-tea solution is fermented by bacteria and yeast and is commonly known as a“SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).
You can make kombucha yourself at home or buy it for $3-5 a bottle at most health food stores and some coffee shops. An article published in the journal Food Microbiology has established that the following probiotics make up this health elixir.
Personally I use Aqua Vita because it’s local and comes on tap with different flavors I can mix. I like to mix the ginger with the turmeric for the health benefits of the ginger and turmeric in addition to the benefits of the kombucha. I refill a gallon jug once a week. For those of you who have never had it, it is fuzzy like soda but do not classify this with soda by any means no, no, no!
Beneficial Probiotics in Kombucha
- Gluconacetobacter (>85% in most sample)
- Acetobacter (<2%)
- Lactobacillus (up to 30% in some samples)
- Zygosaccharomyces (>95%)
Ultimately, this cocktail of good bacteria interact together in a unique way to produce some unbelievable health benefits for those who drink it.
In the newest research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food 2014, researchers from the University of Latvia say the following about the health benefits of kombucha:
It is shown that [kombucha] can efficiently act in health preservation and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.
We agree! In fact, according to research there are 5 main health benefits of kombucha.
#1 Detoxification – The detoxifying capacity of kombucha is immense. A perfect example has been observed in its ability to counteract liver cell toxicity.
In one study, the liver cells being evaluated were protected from oxidative injury and actually maintained their normal physiology, in spite of being exposed to the toxin! According to researchers, this was “probably due to its antioxidant activity and could be beneficial against liver diseases, where oxidative stress is known to play a crucial role.”
#2 Digestion – Naturally the antioxidant prowess of this ancient tea counteracts free radicals that create mayhem in the digestive system. However, the greatest reason kombucha supports digestion is because of its high levels of beneficial acid, probiotics and enzymes.
Extensive work has even been conducted to test kombucha’s ability to prevent and heal leaky gut and stomach ulcers. No surprise to us, it was proven to be as effective as drugs like Prilosec, which are commonly prescribed for heartburn, GERD, and ulcers.
#3 Energy – Kombucha’s ability to invigorate people has been credited to the formation of iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process. It also contains some caffeine and b-vitamins, which can energize the body.
Through a special process known as chelation, the iron released helps to boost blood hemoglobin, improving oxygen supply to tissues and stimulating the energy producing process at the cellular level. In other words, by helping the body create more energy (ATP), the ancient tea can help those who regularly drink stay energized for extended periods of time.
#4 Immune Health – The overall effect that kombucha has to modulate the immune system is best seen in its ability to control free radicals through unbelievable antioxidant measures.
Clinically proven to decrease oxidative stress and related immune-suppression, a powerful antioxidant known as D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone (DSL) has been discovered during the kombucha fermentation process that is not found in black tea alone. Also, we know the probiotics found in kombucha support the immune system.
Scientists suspect that DSL and the Vitamin C present in kombucha are its’ main secrets in protecting against cell damage, inflammatory diseases, tumors and overall depression of the immune system.
#5 Joint Care – Kombucha can help heal, repair and prevent joint damage in a number of ways. Kombucha is loaded with glucosamines, which increase synovial hyaluronic acid production. This supports the preservation of collagen and prevents arthritic pain. In the same way it supports joint collagen it can also support collagen of the entire body and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
#6 Cancer Prevention – Kombucha has also been proven beneficial for cancer prevention and recovery. A study published in Cancer Letters found that by consuming glucaric acid found in kombucha reduced the risk of cancer in humans.
President Reagan reportedly drank kombucha daily as part of his regimen to battle stomach cancer.
#7 Weight Loss – Data from a study in 2005 showed evidence that kombucha can improve metabolism and limit fat accumulation. Though we’ll need to see more studies before we can confirm these results, it makes sense that kombucha supports weight loss since it’s high in acetic acid and polyphenols which have in other studies been proven to increase weight loss.
WARNING, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH, KOMBUCHA CAN GET CONTAMINATED IF NOT HANDLED PROPERLY WHEN MAKING IT YOURSELF!!!
How to Make Kombucha
Kombucha is simple to make yourself, and because it can be a bit costly to buy bottled kombucha almost every day, we recommend you give it a shot.
Here is a simple recipe for making your own kombucha at home. This recipe makes about 8 cups of kombucha, but you can also double the recipe to make more and you will still only need 1 SCOBY disk.
Yields: 8 cups
You will need:
- 1 large glass/ceramic/metal jar or bowl that has a wide opening. You want to avoid using a plastic jar or bowl because the chemicals in the plastic can leach into the kombucha. Look for a big jug/jar/or bowl online or in large kitchen stores and make sure the opening is wide enough to allow a lot of oxygen to reach the kombucha while it ferments.
- Either 1 large cheese cloth (which is a cloth that allows air to pass through it) or you can use a thin dish towel
- 1 SCOBY disk. You will need to purchase a “SCOBY” disk and can find one either in health food stores or online at very inexpensive prices. A SCOBY disk can be vacuumed sealed in a small pouch and shipped directly to your house for only a few dollars, while still preserving all of the active yeast ingredients.
- 8 cups of water (preferably that is filtered, but don’t people that have used tap water feel this works fine too)
- 1/2 cup organic cane sugar. *You do not want to substitute this for another kind of sugar, honey, stevia, or anything else. Yes- this is one of the few times we will tell you to use real sugar! Most of it is actually “eaten” by the yeast during the fermentation process, so there is very little sugar actually left in the recipe by the time you will consume it.
- 4 black tea bags (preferably organic)
- 1 cup of pre-made kombucha, which you can either buy or use from a previous kombucha batch that you or a friend has made.
1. Bring your water to boil in a big pot on the stove top. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add your teabags and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
2. Allow the pot to sit and the tea to steep for about 15 minutes, then remove and discard tea bags
3. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature (which usually takes about one hour). Once it is cooled, add your tea mixture to your big jar/bowl. Drop in your SCOBY disk and 1 cup of pre-made kombucha.
4. Cover your jar/bowl with your cheese cloth or thin kitchen towel and try to keep the cloth in plate by using a tie. You want the cloth to cover the wide opening of the jar and to stay in place, but to allow air to pass through.
5. Allow to sit for 7-10 days depending on the flavor you’re looking for. Less time will produce a weaker kombucha that tastes less sour, while a longer sitting time will make the kombucha ferment even longer and develop more taste.
Usually the warmer your home is, the less time the kombucha needs to ferment. Taste your kombucha after 7 days to see if it needs more time. If you are happy with the taste, put your kombucha into smaller glass bottles (or whatever type of bottle will fit into your refrigerator) and refrigerate the kombucha for at least 24 hours to allow it to cool and finish carbonating. Once it is cooled, you are ready to drink your homemade kombucha!
*Note that as the fermentation process happens, you will notice that the SCOBY disk “grows” a second SCOBY disk. Many people call the SCOBY that you purchased and used to make the kombucha the “mother” SCOBY, and the second SCOBY that grows the “baby”. The mother SCOBY is located on top of the baby.
You can actually use the newly formed baby SCOBY to create a whole new batch of kombucha, so you don’t want to throw out the baby disk. Store the baby SCOBY in a bit of already-made kombucha in a glass jar while you are not using it, so you have it on hand to start a new batch when you want it (it will stay “active” for several weeks). Throw away the mother SCOBY once your kombucha is finished fermenting.
The recipe above is for a basic unflavored kombucha. You can try adding unique flavors like fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, ginger root “juice” made by blending ginger and water, blended berries, fresh squeezed orange, pomegranate or cranberry juices, or many other natural and low sugar flavors.
Kombucha Side Effects
Most people experience great benefits drinking kombucha and have no negative side effects. However there are possible interactions and side effect symptoms to be aware, mostly in populations that already have weakened immune systems and digestive problems:
Use caution if you have a weakened immune system-
People who have compromised immunity due to certain viruses like HIV/AIDS will need to be careful about consuming kombucha, since there is always a possibility that the yeast can grow harmful fungus and bacteria that can possibly cause illness. This is especially true of homemade kombucha where contamination is more likely to happen if it’s brewed in an unsanitary environment.
Women who are pregnant or nursing-
While kombucha hasn’t been studied much at all in pregnant women, there is always concern that pregnant women should not consume alcohol or caffeine, both of which are present in kombucha in small amounts. Before more formal research is conducted showing that it’s completely safe, pregnant women are advised to air on the safe side and avoid kombucha.
Those who cannot tolerate even low levels of sugar, caffeine or alcohol-
Kombucha is brewed using black sea and sugar, which when fermented turn into alcohol is very small amounts (only about 1% of kombucha is believed to be alcohol). For people with existing diabetes, kombucha likely won’t cause much of a problem considering it is very low in sugar (about 2 grams per 8 oz.) but it’s worth being careful about and monitoring blood sugar levels and related symptoms. For those with digestive problems like IBS or anxiety disorders, the low level of caffeine in kombucha is also something to be conscious of, since caffeine can sometimes aggravate these conditions.
As you can see kombucha boasts many health benefits and you can even make it yourself for a very low cost, so you always have some kombucha within arm’s reach! So drink up for your health.
Have you ever made or consumed kombucha? Do you consume it for the health benefits or for the taste?
Personally, I buy my Kombucha from my local health food store and it comes on tap fresh from a Vermont company. I refill my gallon jug once a week as I noted in the beginning of the article. I’ll admit, I’m too scared to make it myself.
References: article, Dr. Axe, Food is Medicine
- American Cancer Society. Kombucha Tea. Available at: http://www.cancer.org
- Bhattacharya S, et al. Protective effect of kombucha tea against tertiary butyl hydroperoxide induced cytotoxicity and cell death in murine hepatocytes. Indian J. Exp Biol 2011; 49: 511–524.
- Bhattacharya S, et al. Hepatoprotective properties of kombucha tea against TBHP-induced oxidative stress via suppression of mitochondria dependent apoptosis. Pathophysiology 2011; 18:221–234.
- Banerjee D, et al. Comparative healing property of kombucha tea and black tea against indomethacin-induced gastric ulceration in mice: possible mechanism of action. Food Funct 2010; 1: 284–293.
- Danielian LT. Kombucha and Its Biological Features. Meditsina, Moscow, 2005.
- Dufresne C, et al. Tea, kombucha and health: a review. Food Res Int 2000; 33: 409–421.
- Fu NF, et al. Clearance of free silica in rat lungs by spraying with chinese herbal kombucha. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2013; 2013:790792.
- Marsh AJ, et al. Sequence-based analysis of the bacterial and fungal compositions of multiple kombucha (tea fungus) samples. Food Microbiol 2014; 38:171-8.
- Rashid K, et al. An update on oxidative stress-mediated organ pathophysiology. Food Chem Toxicol 2013; 62:584-600
- Sai Ram M, et al. Effect of kombucha tea on chromate(VI)-induced oxidative stress in albino rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2010; 71: 235– 240.
- Vīna I, et al. Current Evidence on Physiological Activity of Kombucha Fermented Beverage and Expected Health Effects. J Med Food 2013; [Epub ahead of print]
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