Known as the “Immortal Health Elixir” by the Chinese, kombucha is a beverage with tremendous health benefits extending to your heart, brain and gut. What does it taste like? Kombucha is generally fizzy, tart, and slightly sweet. [2]

Kombucha is a fermented and sweetened tea that is often made with green or black tea. The process of preparing kombucha can vary, but it generally involves a double fermentation process, wherein a SCOBY, (a pancake or mushroom-like, Symbiotic Culture of Bacterial Yeast) is placed in the sweetened tea mixture and left to ferment at room temperature for 1-3 weeks. [1] After the first fermentation, the SCOBY is removed, liquid poured through a strainer, where it is then bottled, often with fruit or fruit concentrate. The second fermentation lasts 5 days to two weeks to encourage carbonation.

 

History
Kombucha originated in Northeast China around 2000 years ago, and prized for its healing properties. It’s name reportedly was derived from Dr. Kombu, a Korean physician who brought the tea to Japan. Eventually the tea made its way to Europe. Despite a dip in popularity during WWII, due to a tea shortage and sugar supplies, kombucha regained popularity in the 1960’s.

Kombucha has continued to gain momentum, mostly due to consumer awareness of its health benefits. For a short time in 2010, production and distribution of kombucha was halted as a result of an inspection by the Maine Department of Agriculture Consumer Protection at a Whole Foods, where it was discovered that the alcohol content of some bottles and tap kombucha were over 2.5%, which was above the 0.5% regulation (that naturally occurs during the second fermentation). This resulted in new regulations. Some manufacturers created kombucha beer brands (above 0.5% alcohol), while others used de-alcoholizers and alterations to their recipes, sugar and yeast manipulation to keep the alcohol under 0.5%. Many kombucha fans thought the de-alcoholizers negatively impacted the taste and health benefits. [1] The de-alcoholizers in the store-bought kombucha may explain why my own family says that my home-made kombucha has more flavor, and isn’t as flat-tasting.

 

Health Benefits
In the fermentation process, kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics. These bacteria line your digestive tract and support your immune system. Since 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, and the digestive system is the second largest part of the neurological system, the gut is considered the “second brain.” The B vitamins in kombucha are known to increase energy levels and improve mental function. Studies have shown that probiotics could aid in the treatment of depression, anxiety, autism spectrum and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

According to a review published by the University of Latvia, kombucha tea consumption can be beneficial for many infections and diseases due to four main properties: detoxification, energizing properties, anti-oxidation and promotion of depressed immunity. Kombucha naturally contains powerful antioxidants from the green or black tea, but in the fermentation process, the other antioxidants are created.

Some may think that that drinking kombucha may promote candida but moderate consumption of the low-sugar varieties may help stop candida from overpopulating within the gut by restoring balance to the digestive system. The live probiotic cultures can help the gut repopulate with good bacteria and crowd out the candida yeast.

Although some medical practitioners warn against kombucha for diabetes, some research suggests that consuming the low sugar varieties could actually be beneficial by supporting the liver and kidneys, which is generally poor in those with diabetes. Although few studies have been done related to the heart, kombucha may help lower triglyceride levels and regulate cholesterol naturally. Another study shows promising results in healing gastric ulcers in an animal model.

 

Cautions
If you have a sensitivity to acidic foods, some may experience heartburn or other problems, and you may want to err on the side of caution. It is also a good idea to rinse your mouth out with water after drinking kombucha due to naturally occurring acidity. Kombucha contains a small amount of caffeine, but significantly lower than the tea that is made to produce it. If you are pregnant, keep in mind there is that small amount of caffeine and naturally occurring alcohol, so you may want to check with your doctor prior to consuming it. [2]

 

Try Making Your Own Kombucha!
Kombucha is easy to make. If you are going to brew your own, you must make sure your equipment and working space is clean, and you must use high quality ingredients [2]. A large glass jar is needed, along with a SCOBY, organic sugar, tea bags, and clean filtered water.

The first time I tasted kombucha, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but trying different flavors got me hooked, and I felt better when I consistently drank it. It is especially refreshing in the summer-time. I have made my own kombucha for nearly three years. A funny story comes to mind that I would like to share with you.

My son was attending college at the University of South Dakota. Each week he would request a couple of gallons of kombucha to take back with him to college. I knew he liked it, but two gallons a week? At his graduation party, his fraternity brothers came up to me and said, “you must be the “booch-making mom.” My son apparently became the popular guy at the frat when he started inviting his friends over each week to chat over a glass of “booch.” (I was glad to provide them with a healthier beverage…rather than what they could have been drinking)! The guys told me they were going to miss their weekly “booch fix” and had looked forward to trying a different flavor each week! Last week I made a chicory tea base with chocolaty undertones. On the second fermentation I added some montmorency cherry concentrate with a hint of ginger. My husband said the recipe was a keeper! It is fun to experiment!

Herbs4You carries kombucha kits that includes the SCOBY and all the basic essentials, along with a recipe, plus our own formulation of tea flavors to add a unique and tasty twist to the “second” fermentation. Do not let two fermentation processes scare you away. It sounds more complicated than it really is! If you have any questions, I would be glad to help you get started!

 

We’re here to help YOU!
Sue Froschheuser, M.H.

 

Sources:

[1] C. Troitino (food & drink contributor) (2/01/2017) Kombucha 101: Demystifying the Past, Present and Future of the Fermented Tea Drink. Retrieved on 2/25/2020 from forbes.com

[2] Link, R. MS, RD (8/13/2019) 8 Kombucha Benefits, Plus How to Make This Gut-Friendly Beverage. Retrieved on 2/25/2020 from draxe.com.

 

About the Author

Sue Froschheuser M.H.

Sue Froschheuser M.H.

Master Herbalist
Sue received her certification as a Family Herbalist from the School of Natural Healing, and Master Herbalist certification from Trinity School of Natural Health. Sue is also continuing her Herbalism training in the areas of wound management, first-aid, and animal care.