Kombucha is a type of fermented beverage that has been consumed by people for over 2000 years. Other similar drinks include milk kefir, water kefir, and kvass. It originated in Manchuria, China around 220 B.C. and was associated with the Japanese physician Kombu who lived around 400 A.D. It later travelled to Russia where it was consumed by the population on a regular basis.
Kombucha has a base of black or green tea and sugar. It is fermented by means of a scoby, which is an acronym for “Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast”. The scoby looks somewhat like a mushroom, therefore it is sometimes called a kombucha mushroom. After fermentation various fruit juices, herbs or spices are often added to give additional flavor.
Health Benefits from Kombucha
Recently kombucha has become popular among many people who promote natural foods because of its reported health benefits. Some of these benefits have been investigated and published in articles as listed in PubMed, the most widely reputed database of medical research in the U.S. A 2014 study published in Food Microbiology examined the strains of bacteria and yeast in kombucha and found the major bacterial genuses present were Gluconacetobacter, (present at >85% in most samples) and Lactobacillus (up to 30%) with a number of other genera in lesser quantities not previously associated with kombucha, also being revealed. The most prominate yeast was Zygosaccharomyces at >95%. Because of these high levels of good bacteria and yeast kombucha supports digestion and can be especially beneficial to people with digestive issues, when consumed in small amounts.
An article in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Medical Food summarizes the research on the health benefits of drinking kombucha. “It is shown that KT can efficiently act in health prophylaxis and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, antioxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of depressed immunity. The recent experimental studies on the consumption of KT suggest that it is suitable for prevention against broad-spectrum metabolic and infective disorders.” Several studies showed decreased cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and VLDL while simultaneously increasing the levels of HDL in rats fed kombucha tea. It also has been shown to have protective benefits when fed to diabetic rats.
Most importantly, though, kombucha tastes great! Kombucha is slightly effervescent and you can find flavorings to suit most taste preferences. It is a great healthy non-alcoholic substitute for both sodas and beer. Because of the large amount of probiotics found in kombucha, problems have been found in some people who consume excessive amounts or who have other health problems. There also can be strains of contamination with pathogenic bacteria or yeast, such as penicillium or candida, in some homebrewed kombucha.
If you have never drunk kombucha, I definitely encourage you to try it out soon! Comment below with your favorite fermented food or drink.