WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?
Kombucha is a non-alcoholic, lightly fermented, effervescent, tea-based drink. It is made by adding a SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts, to tea and sugar.
The outcome is a drink that is naturally low in sugar (the sugar gets consumed during the fermentation process), and is packed with probiotics, organic acids, polyphenols (antioxidants), active enzymes, amino acids, and a spectrum of B-vitamins!
Though the drink is technically a tea, it tastes more like a slightly sour soda. Many companies make their kombucha more palatable by adding juices and other flavors.
Kombucha consumption was first recorded in 220 BC in Manchuria. It spread throughout the Far East, Pacific, India, Russia, Germany, ultimately to the rest of Europe, to Africa and now across the world.
IMPROVES DIGESTION (A Huge Benefit for Celiacs)
Digestive relief is the primary reason I drink kombucha. When kombucha is made, the SCOBY (which is alive) consumes the caffeine and sugar in the tea, producing a beverage that contains billions of probiotics!
The probiotics in kombucha help fight harmful yeast in your system (such as candida) and promote the proliferation of healthy bacteria in your gut.
In addition, the natural acids in kombucha (specifically butyric and glucuronic) protect cell membranes, strengthen the lining of your digestive tract, and protect against parasites (providing another line of defense against candida).
Glucuronic acid is a natural acid your liver produces. Kombucha provides the body with more of this and thus assists the detoxification process. Of note, glucuronic acid is one of the few agents that can remove petroleum-based products from your system. Acetic acid (also found in kombucha) similarly binds with toxins, helping you detoxify.
IMPROVES RESISTANCE TO CANCER
Dr. R Sklenar successfully treated early-stage cancer and a key element of his treatment was kombucha. Sklenar said:
“Kombucha effects an outstanding detoxification of the organism. Through enjoying this beverage there is, additionally, a noticeable invigoration of the entire glandular system and enhancement of the metabolism. For cancer patients, this detoxification process that is triggered by the ingestion of glucuronic acid is good news indeed, for many medical specialists feel that there is a direct link between the overall toxicity of the body and the potential for the onset of tumors and other malignant growths.” (Fasching R, M.D., Krebsdiagnose aus dem Blut und die Behandlung von Krebs und Prakanzerosen mit der Kombucha und Kolipraparaten, 1983)
There are also more recent studies recommending kombucha for cancer treatment and cancer prevention.
JOINT & ARTHRITIS RELIEF
A by-product of glucuronic acid is glucosamines which (in conjunction with chondroitin) are associated with cartilage, collagen, and joint lubricating fluid. These have shown significant benefit in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Glucosamines also increase hyaluronic acid production and hyaluronic acid helps preserve cartilage structure and prevent arthritic pain. (McCarty M, et al, Med Hypotheses 54(5), 2000)
ADDITIONAL HEALTH BENEFITS
If you want more information, there is an excellent scientific health literature review done by Stuart Thompson here.
Mr. Thompson states: “Contrary to public health and medical ignorance or propaganda, the beneficial properties of kombucha have been rather well documented for a full scientific century and is still contemporarily so for such a relatively obscure natural food product.”
About half of what I list below is documented in early 20th century German medical research and the other half is from Russian research around the 1950’s. All of it is cited on the website referenced above.
You’ll see this is a very broad scope of items. It appears to me that kombucha likely provides your body with tools it needs to self-correct and balance systems. Here’s what it’s been documented to help with:
- Blood pressure
- Furnunculosis (skin infection)
- Gall bladder problems
- Glandular system
- Gout (and gouty eczema)
- High blood pressure
- Immune system
- Infantile stomatitis
- Infantile toxic dysentery
- Intestinal diseases/intestinal typhus
- Kidney stones
- Pain thresholds
- Pediatric dysentery
- Stomach catarrh due to deficient acid production
- Stomach ulcers
- Toxic dyspepsia
- Wound healing
There are a number of reported benefits that have no human evidentiary support (being either anecdotal or demonstrated with rats). However, I feel inclined to mention them because you never know—just because it’s unstudied doesn’t mean it’s meritless.
- Prevents gray hair
- Reduces hunger
- Gets rid of acid reflux
- Improves skin
- Soothes hangovers
- Reduces stress
- Enhances cognition
- Enhances longevity
High probiotic foods and beverages such as kombucha, kefir, yogurt, etc. can cause short-term symptoms called a healing crisis. Rebalancing your gut health necessitates not just an infusion of good microbes, but also the die-off of bad microbes which can cause temporary, amplified symptoms.
If you experience this, reduce the amount you’re drinking daily to a tolerable level and slowly increase how much you ingest until you reach the desired amount.
Kombucha is not one-size-fits-all in terms of taste preference. You may have to try several different kinds before you find one that you really like. I currently drink and recommend High Country.
I like this brand because it tastes good, their flavors are low in sugar (only 4 grams of sugar in a 16 oz bottle), and some of the flavors have great ingredients. I always watch out for “natural flavors” on ingredient labels and some of High Country’s drinks have natural flavors (like the grape and goji berry).
Natural and artiﬁcial ﬂavors aren’t that diﬀerent. Artiﬁcial ﬂavors are created in a laboratory from scratch, while natural ﬂavors must be derived from plant or animal material.
However, natural ﬂavors can, and often do, contain synthetic chemicals. In fact, artiﬁcial ﬂavors typcially have less chemicals than natural ﬂavors do. Natural ﬂavors are sometimes comprised of hundreds of chemicals. And ironically, many of these chemicals are binned as artiﬁcial if they are not augmenting a naturally derived ﬂavor.
High Country kombucha Elderberry Hibiscus has great, simple ingredients: Organic Kombucha tea and the following herbs: elderberry, hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, and vanilla bean.
A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION
Kombucha is very fashionable right now and many companies are trying to capitalize on its popularity. Read the ingredients on any kombucha you’re considering—if it has natural flavors, artificial flavors, sugar added after fermentation, processed fruit juice, etc.—it’s just a glorified soda.
Some companies are even adding caffeine. So if your’e deliberate in your health efforts, you need to read the label—all kombucha is NOT created equal.
Also, be careful if you decide to make or try homemade kombucha. Creating a drink full of bacteria is a delicate balance. If kombucha is overly fermented or if the workspace and equipment aren’t totally sterile, it can be dangerous to drink.
Also be aware that while commercial kombucha is regulated and non-alcoholic (less that 0.5%), homemade kombucha is not regulated and may exceed this threshold and be alcoholic.
Disclaimer: These statements regarding Kombucha benefits have not been evaluated by the FDA. This is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the advice or attention of heath-care professionals. This information is for educational purposes only. Kombucha is not intended diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and nothing here should be taken as a claim of specific kombucha benefits for any person. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions.