By now you’ve probably heard about the health drink kombucha, which is a fermented tea. And you’ve probably seen more and more brands pumping out their own kombucha and charging a pretty penny for it too. So what exactly is this kombucha?
Kombucha is fermented and lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea. The fermentation is a result of bacteria and yeast cultures. There have been claims that kombucha aids in digestion, boosts the immune system, detoxifies the liver, improves skin and nails, and even, on the more extreme side, is believed to aid in serious health conditions, like HIV or diabetes.
Kombucha is made by adding SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to steeped tea. Acetic acid bacteria is the main strain commonly found in SCOBY. Once it’s added to the tea, it is left to infuse and ferment.
To get the perfect cup of kombucha, it takes about seven to 14 days, but if you don’t want to wait you can simply head out and buy a bottle of the ready-to-consume drink. The finished product after the fermentation process is a fizzy and slightly alcoholic beverage. If you make your own kombucha, the SCOBY can be reused time and time again.
Although there isn’t much scientific research available on kombucha, dieticians suggest that the bacteria found in the beverage do contain probiotic qualities which are well known to aid in digestion. Numerous health studies have documented that much of our immune system is found in our gut. Having a healthy gut can translate to a stronger immune system, but this isn’t to say that you will never catch a cold (though it may help reduce the risk).
There are many health claims surrounding the benefits of kombucha, but unfortunately these claims are not proven. This doesn’t suggest they aren’t possible, heck, you may very well feel better by making kombucha a part of your diet, but all I’m saying is, you shouldn’t be getting your hopes up that it is some miracle tonic for good health.
So far, there have been small studies that have looked at the healing and health properties of kombucha. One study has found a drop in blood sugar in rats with diabetes, and another study observed that the tea did have antioxidant effects in the liver detoxification. Still, these studies were too small. Large clinical trials on humans would be required in order to confirm such effects.
I actually have a friend who has made her own kombucha and it was quite delicious, but that is because she knew what she was doing. If you drink homemade kombucha from someone who is inexperienced it can make you ill. This is because sometimes making kombucha at home can lead to bad bacteria entering the tea. Overfermentation can make the tea too acidic, resulting in metabolic acidosis (a condition when the body produces too much acid or when the kidneys cannot effectively remove excess acid from the body). If you want to lower your risk of illness and complications, your best bet is to purchase kombucha at the store.
If you’re still deciding whether you should jump on the health trend of drinking kombucha, my take on this is that it doesn’t really hurt. I wouldn’t personally buy a supply of kombucha to drink it every day, but every once in a while I’d treat myself with a bottle. If you’re hoping to use kombucha as a cure-all for your health ailments, well, that is still up in the air. There are plenty of other things you can eat and drink to benefit your health without a daily dose of kombucha. For example, other fermented foods like sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir, and yogurt can help support a healthy digestive system.
Until next week,