What does Kombucha mean and what is Kombucha made of

kombucha

green tea kombucha

noun
kom·​bu·​cha | \ ˌkäm-ˈbü-chə  -shə\ /kômˈbo͞oCHə/

Definition of kombucha

Kombucha tea is a living somewhat effervescent health drink. It is made by fermenting tea and sugar (sweat tea), with the kombucha culture. To say it differently, kombucha is a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria. The result can taste like something between sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on what kind of tea you use. It’s not what you’d imagine fermented tea to taste like.
Lemon, Mint and Lavender Homemade Kombucha
The tea gets it’s name from the culture so both the tea and the culture used are called kombucha. Today bottled kombucha is available in many natural food stores but it’s a rewarding venture to make it at home.
The rise in kombucha tea‘s popularity is part of a larger trend in “probiotic” foods containing bacteria, which some studies suggest benefit digestion and boost the immune system
Three cultures or scobys
Kombucha culture is a gelatinous mass of symbiotic culture of bacteria (as Acetobacter xylinum) and yeasts (as of the genera Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces). It looks like a beige or white rebbery pancake.  The culture is often called a ‘scoby’ which is the acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (scoby).
The kombucha culture is grown to produce a fermented beverage held to confer health benefits. This mass of yeasts and bacteria is often called a mushroom due to it’s beige mushroom-like appearance.
The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea and turns a bowl full of sweet tea into a bowl full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids.

You might wonder if fermenting tea with yeasts would produce an alcoholic beverage. It’s a good question. The yeasts do produce alcohol but the bacteria in the culture turn the alcohol to organic acids. Only minute quantities of alcohol, typically 1% by volume remains in the kombucha brew.

Kombucha Scoby

With every brew you make the kombucha forms a new layer or scoby on the surface of the liquid. These can be left to thicken the scoby or can be divided, giving you spare cultures that you can store in some sweet tea in the fridge in case something should happen to your active culture. Or you might want to pass on spare Kombucha cultures to friends or use a new scoby to start another batch of kombucha.

As the Kombucha culture digests the sugar it produces a range of organic acids like glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, malic acid and usnic acid; vitamins, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C; as well as amino acids, enzymes. And of course there are all the benefits of the probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.
The Origin of Kombucha

The word kombucha probably misapplication of Japanese konbucha, kobucha “tea made from kelp,” from kobu, konbu meaning “kelp” + cha meaning “tea”

The origins of Kombucha have become lost in the mists of time. It is thought to have originated in the Far East, probably China, and has been consumed there for at least two thousand years. The first recorded use of kombucha comes from China in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It was known as “The Tea of Immortality”.

Japan Tea Ceremony

It has been used in Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan for several centuries. It’s from Japan in 415 AD that the name kombucha is said to have come. A Korean physician called Kombu or Kambu treated the Emperor Inyko with the tea and it took his name, “Kombu” and “cha” meaning tea. Russia has a long tradition of using a healing drink called “Tea Kvass” made from a “Japanese Mushroom”.

From Russia it spread to Prussia, Poland, Germany and Denmark but it seems to have died out during World War Two. After the war Dr Rudolph Skelnar created renewed interest in kombucha in Germany when he used it in his practice to treat cancer patients, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes

The Organic Acids

Beta-D-Glucoronic Acid

Glucuronic acid
The body’s most important detoxifier. When toxins enter the liver this acid binds them to it and flushes them out through the kidneys. Once bound by glucuronic acid toxins cannot escape. A product of the oxidation process of glucose, glucuronic acid is one of the more significant constituents of Kombucha. As a detoxifying agent it’s one of the few agents that can cope with pollution from the products of the petroleum industry, including all the plastics, herbicides, pesticides and resins. It kidnaps the phenols in the liver, which are then eliminated easily by the kidneys. Kombucha can be very helpful for allergy sufferers. Another by-product of glucuronic acid are the glucosamines, the structures associated with cartilage, collagen and the fluids which lubricate the joints. It is this function that makes Kombucha so effective against arthritis.

Lactic Acid
Essential for the digestive system. Assist blood circulation, helps prevent bowel decay and constipation. Aids in balancing acids and alkaline in the body and believed to help in the prevention of cancer by helping to regulate blood pH levels.

Lactic Acid Fermentation

Acetic Acid
A powerful preservative and it inhibits harmful bacteria.

Usnic Acid
A natural antibiotic that can be effective against many viruses.

Oxalic Acid
An effective preservative and encourages the intercellular production of energy.

Malic acid
Helps detoxify the liver.

L-Malic Acid

Gluconic Acid
Produced by the bacteria, it can break down to caprylic acid is of great benefit to sufferers of candidiasis and other yeast infections such as thrush.

Butyric acid
Produced by the yeast, protects human cellular membranes and combined with Gluconic acid strengthens the walls of the gut to combat yeast infections like candida.

Types of Tea for Kombucha

Fresh tea leavesKombucha requires tea for its fermentation (Camellia Sinensis). That’s real tea not herbal tea. It can be also be sensitive to strong aromatic oils. A tea like Earl Grey that contains Bergamot oil, can sometimes kill or badly affect the culture. There are several different kinds of tea that give different results from lighter tastes to stronger more cider like tastes.

Black Tea
Black tea is made from leaves that have been fully fermented. The leaf is spread out and left to wilt naturally, before being fired, producing a deep, rich flavour and an amber brew.

Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is half way between green tea and black tea. It’s gently rolled after picking and allowed to partially ferment until the edges of the leaves start to turn brown. Oolong combines the taste and colour of black and green tea.

Oolong Tea

Green Tea
Green tea is withered then steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried. It is characterized by a delicate taste, light green colour. The Japanese tea Sencha makes an especially fine kombucha.

White Tea
White Tea is the rarest and most delicate of tea. Plucked forty-eight hours or less between the time the first buds become fully mature and the time they open. Unlike black and green teas, white tea isn’t rolled or steamed, but simply aired dried in the sun, this preserves more of its antioxidant properties. White tea has about three times as many antioxidant polyphenols as green. White tea represents the least processed form of tea.

White Tea

What are the Benefits of Drinking Kombucha

Many health claims are made for kombucha but there is less research on the benefits of kombucha than there is on fermented milk products. It has certainly been shown to have similar antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties in lab tests. In rats it’s been shown to protect against stress and improve liver function. There is a lot of experiential evidence from people who have been using kombucha over many years. Many of the benefits reported include improvements in energy levels, metabolic disorders, allergies, cancer, digestive problems, candidiasis, hypertension, HIV, chronic fatigue and arthritis. It ‘s also used externally for skin problems and as a hair wash among other things.

Kombucha Tea

  • Kombucha is a good source of probioticsDuring the fermentation process, bacteria and yeast form a mushroom-like film on the surface of the liquid. This is why kombucha is also known as “mushroom tea.”

This blob is a living symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or a SCOBY, and can be used to ferment new kombucha.

The fermentation process produces acetic acid (also found in vinegar) and several other acidic compounds, trace levels of alcohol and gases that make it carbonated.

Pre, Pro and Postbiotics

A large amount of bacteria also grow in the mixture. Although there is still no evidence for the probiotic benefits of kombucha, it contains several species of lactic-acid bacteria which may have probiotic function.

Probiotics provide your gut with healthy bacteria. These bacteria can improve many aspects of health, including digestion, inflammation and even weight loss.

For this reason, adding beverages like kombucha to your diet might improve your health in many ways.

SUMMARY Kombucha is a type of tea that has been fermented. This makes it a good source of probiotics, which have many health benefits.

Red Green tea with Fruits
  •  Kombucha Provides the Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.

This is because green tea contains many bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols, which function as powerful antioxidants in the body.

Kombucha made from green tea contains many of the same plant compounds and presumably boasts some of the same benefits.

Green Tea leaves

Studies show that drinking green tea regularly can increase the number of calories you burn, reduce belly fat, improve cholesterol levels, help with blood sugar control and more.

Studies also show that green tea drinkers have a reduced risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers.

SUMMARY Kombucha made from green tea may offer many of the same health benefits as green tea itself, such as weight loss and blood sugar control.

  • Kombucha Contains Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals, reactive molecules that can damage your cells.

Many scientists believe that antioxidants from foods and beverages are better for your health than antioxidant supplements.

Antioxidants Free Radicals Neutralization

Kombucha, especially when made with green tea, appears to have antioxidant effects in your liver.

Rat studies consistently find that drinking kombucha regularly reduces liver toxicity caused by toxic chemicals, in some cases by at least 70%.

While no human studies exist on this topic, it does seem like a promising area of research for people with liver disease.

SUMMARY Kombucha is rich in antioxidants, and studies have shown that it protects rats’ liver from toxicity.

Antioxidant Defense Stratification

  • Kombucha Can Kill Harmful Bacteria

One of the main substances produced during the fermentation of kombucha is acetic acid, which is also abundant in vinegar.

Like the polyphenols in tea, acetic acid is able to kill many potentially harmful microorganisms.

Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth

Kombucha made from black or green tea appears to have strong antibacterial properties, particularly against infection-causing bacteria and Candida yeasts.

These antimicrobial effects suppress the growth of undesirable bacteria and yeasts, but they do not affect the beneficial, probiotic bacteria and yeasts involved in kombucha fermentation.

The health relevance of these antimicrobial properties is unclear.

SUMMARY Kombucha is rich in tea polyphenols and acetic acid, which have both been shown to suppress the growth of undesirable bacteria and yeasts.

  • Kombucha May Reduce Risk of Heart DiseaseHuman Heart
    Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death

Rat studies show that kombucha can greatly improve two markers of heart disease, “bad” LDL and “good” HDL cholesterol, in as few as 30 days.

Even more importantly, tea (especially green tea) protects LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation, which is thought to contribute to heart disease.

In fact, green tea drinkers have up to a 31% lower risk of developing heart disease, a benefit that may also apply to kombucha (28Trusted Source29Trusted Source30Trusted Source).

SUMMARY Kombucha has been shown to improve “bad” LDL and “good” HDL cholesterol levels in rats. It may also protect against heart disease.

  • Kombucha May Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes
    Stop Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes affects over 300 million people worldwide. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.

A study in diabetic rats found that kombucha slowed down the digestion of carbs, which reduced blood sugar levels. It also improved liver and kidney function.

Kombucha made from green tea is likely to be even more beneficial, as green tea itself has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels.

Homeostasis of blood sugar

In fact, a review study of almost 300,000 individuals found that green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic.

Further human studies are needed to investigate the benefits of kombucha for blood sugar control.

SUMMARY Kombucha improved several markers of diabetes in rats, including blood sugar levels.

  •  Kombucha May Help Protect Against CancerCancer cells spreading into the blood stream

Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death. It is characterized by cell mutation and uncontrolled cell growth.

In test-tube studies, kombucha helped prevent the growth and spread of cancerous cells due to its high concentration of tea polyphenols and antioxidants.

How the anti-cancer properties of tea polyphenols work is not well understood.

However, it’s thought that the polyphenols block gene mutation and growth of cancer cells while also promoting cancer cell death.

For this reason, it is not surprising that tea drinkers are much less likely to develop various types of cancer.

Drink Kombucha

However, whether kombucha has any anti-cancer effects in people has not been confirmed. Further studies are needed.

SUMMARY Test-tube studies show that kombucha may suppress the growth of cancer cells. It is unknown whether drinking kombucha has any effects on cancer risk in people.

  •  Kombucha Is Healthy When Made Properly

Kombucha is a probiotic-rich tea with many potential health benefits.

You can purchase it in stores or make it yourself at home. However, be sure to prepare it properly.

Lemon, Mint and Lavender Homemade Kombucha

Contaminated or over-fermented kombucha can cause serious health problems and even death. Homemade kombucha may also contain up to 3% alcohol.

The safer option is to buy kombucha at a store or online. Commercial products are tasty and considered alcohol-free, as they must contain less than 0.5% alcohol.

However, check the ingredients and try to avoid brands that are high in added sugar.

Kombucha sold here

SUMMARY Improperly prepared kombucha may have adverse health effects. A safer option is to buy bottled kombucha at the store.

The Bottom Line

Many believe that kombucha helps treat all sorts of chronic health problems.

However, human studies on the effects of kombucha are few and the evidence for its health effects limited.

In contrast, there is ample evidence for the benefits of tea and probiotics, both of which are found in kombucha.

Making Kombucha

If you decide to try homemade kombucha, make sure it’s properly prepared. Contaminated kombucha may cause more harm than good.

 

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