What does Kombucha mean and what is Kombucha made of
Definition of kombucha
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.
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.
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”.
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
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.
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.
A powerful preservative and it inhibits harmful bacteria.
A natural antibiotic that can be effective against many viruses.
An effective preservative and encourages the intercellular production of energy.
Helps detoxify the liver.
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.
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
Kombucha 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 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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 Disease
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.
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
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.
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 Cancer
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.
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.
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.
SUMMARY Improperly prepared kombucha may have adverse health effects. A safer option is to buy bottled kombucha at the store.
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.
If you decide to try homemade kombucha, make sure it’s properly prepared. Contaminated kombucha may cause more harm than good.