Thought to have originated in China or Japan, kombucha is a rich source of probiotics. It is made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast, and sugar to black or green tea. Then, it is allowed to ferment for a week or more. During this process the bacteria and yeast form a mushroom-like blob on the surface. This is why kombucha is known as “mushroom tea.”
That blob is actually a living, symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). It may be used to ferment new batches of kombucha. The fermentation process produces vinegar and several other acidic compounds, as well as trace levels of alcohol and gases that make it carbonated. A large amount of probiotic bacteria is also produced during fermentation.
Probiotics provide your gut with healthy bacteria. These bacteria improve many aspects of health, including digestion, inflammation, and even weight-loss.
An article published in a journal called Food Microbiology established that the following probiotics make up this healthy drink:
In research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (2014), researchers from the University of Latvia said 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, energising potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.”
The detoxifying capacity of kombucha is immense. A great example is its ability to counteract liver cell toxicity. In one study, the liver cells were protected from oxidative injury and maintained their normal physiology, in spite of their exposure to a 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.”
Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals – reactive molecules that may damage body cells. Antioxidants offered by foods and beverages are much better for your health than antioxidant supplements. Kombucha, especially when made with green tea, appears to have powerful antioxidant effects on the liver.
Studies on rats consistently found that drinking kombucha regularly reduces liver toxicity by at least 70%. Unfortunately, there are no human studies on this topic. However, kombucha seems like a promising area of research for those with liver disease.
One of the main substances produced during the fermentation of kombucha is acetic acid. This is also found abundantly in vinegar. Like the polyphenols in tea, acetic acid is able to kill many potentially harmful micro-organisms. Kombucha made from black or green tea appears to have strong antibacterial properties, particularly against infection-causing bacteria and Candida yeasts. One study on chickens found that kombucha had anti-microbial effects and growth-promoting effects similar to antibiotics. The researchers suggested that kombucha tea could be used as an alternative to the antibiotic growth-promoters typically fed to these chickens.
The antioxidant prowess of this ancient tea counteracts the free radicals that create mayhem in the digestive system. However, the greatest reason for kombucha’s support of digestion is its high levels of beneficial acid, probiotics, and enzymes.
Some research has shown that kombucha is able to prevent and heal leaky guts and stomach ulcers. Kombucha can also help to stop candida yeast from overpopulating within the gut. That’s because it contains live probiotic cultures that help the gut to repopulate with good bacteria, while crowding out the candida yeast. Kombucha does have bacteria, but these are not harmful pathogen bacteria. Instead, they are the beneficial kind known as apathogens. They compete with pathogen bacteria in the gut and digestive tract.
Candida and other digestive problems are sometimes complicated issues to fix. Symptoms may worsen before improving. This doesn’t mean that kombucha isn’t effective, or is exacerbating the problem. It is simply the case that gut-related issues are complex and require patience.
Kombucha’s ability to invigorate people is credited to the formation of iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process. It also contains some caffeine in small amounts, as well as B vitamins that are known to energise the body.
Through a special process known as chelation, the iron released helps to boost blood’s haemoglobin, improving oxygen supply to tissues and stimulating the energy-producing process at the cellular level. In other words, by helping the body to create more energy, the ancient tea can help those who regularly drink it to stay energised.
Kombucha’s power to modulate the immune system is best seen in its ability to control free radicals through antioxidant measures. Clinically proven to decrease oxidative stress and related immune-suppression, a powerful antioxidant known as D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone (DSL) was discovered during the kombucha fermentation process. It’s not found in black tea alone. Scientists suspect that DSL and the vitamin C present in kombucha are the primary components which offer protection against cell damage, inflammatory diseases, tumours, and depression of the immune system.
Kombucha heals, repairs, and prevents 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 also supports collagen of the entire body and reduces the appearance of wrinkles on the skin.
Kombucha may be beneficial in cancer prevention and recovery. A study published in Cancer Letters found that 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.
Data from a study in 2005 demonstrated that kombucha improves metabolism and limits fat accumulation. Though more evidence is required before results can be conclusively confirmed, it makes sense that kombucha supports weight loss owing to its high volume of acetic acid and polyphenols. These are proven to help increase weight-loss.
Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death. Studies on rats show that kombucha greatly improves two markers of these diseases: LDL and HDL cholesterol. This is achieved in as little as 30 days. Crucially, 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 31% less risk of developing heart disease – a benefit that should also be enjoyed by drinking kombucha.
Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death. In test-tube studies, kombucha helped to prevent the growth and spread of cancerous cells due to its high concentration of tea polyphenols and antioxidants. How the cancer-fighting properties of tea polyphenols work is not well-understood. However, it is thought that they block gene mutation and the growth of cancer cells, while promoting cancer cell death. For this reason, it would not be surprising to learn that tea drinkers are much less likely to develop various types of cancer.
Kombucha may help to manage type-2 diabetes, a condition that effects more than 300 million people worldwide. A study on diabetic rats found that kombucha slowed down the digestion of carbs, which reduced blood sugar levels. It also improved liver and kidney functions.
Kombucha made from green tea is likely to be even more beneficial, as green tea itself has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels. A study of almost 300,000 individuals found that green tea drinkers had an 18% lower risk of becoming diabetic. Kombucha improved several markers of diabetes in rats, including blood sugar levels.
Kombucha is loaded with organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenol anti-oxidants. The most common components include various organic acids, such as acetic acid, butyric acid, usnic acid, oxalic acid, malic acid, gluconic acid, and lactic acid. It also contains active enzymes and probiotics.
Kombucha is typically produced in a sweetened green, white, or black tea. The best fermentation process uses an organic, evaporated cane juice, or honey. However, too much honey may disturb the stability of the culture. Most of the sugar will be remade into organic acids that blunt the blood sugar response.
Kombucha helps the body to cleanse itself. That’s because the beverage is packed with enzymes and organic acids that help to detoxify the body. This reduces the load on the pancreas, liver, and kidneys. It also helps the body to rid itself of unwanted wastes. Kombucha is rich in glucaric acid.
The Nobel Prize winning Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn credited drinking kombucha daily with helping him to beat stomach cancer. Ronald Reagan was so moved by Solzhenitsyn’s testimony that he used kombucha to help stop the spread of his cancer in 1987.
Kombucha may be purchased or made at home. When you decide to prepare it at home, be extremely careful during the preparation process. Contaminated or over-fermented kombucha can and has caused serious health problems and even death. Homemade kombucha may also contain up to 3% alcohol.
The much safer option is to purchase kombucha at a local shop, or online. Commercial products are considered alcohol-free as they contain less than 0.5% alcohol. Always check the ingredients to avoid products that are high in added sugar.