What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a cold beverage presumed to be of Chinese origin. It is believed to be in use for more than 2000 years among different populations of the world like, china, Russia Europe etc. In recent times it is also manufactured commercially and used in United States of America It is prepared from sweetened dark tea made from the normal tea or green tea with sugar. The tea thus prepared is fermented by using SCOBY. Based on the duration of fermentation it becomes an alcohol containing beverage. Normally the duration of fermentation is restricted so as to maintain the alcohol level at just 1%. (1) We discuss here the benefits of Kombucha tea, how it is made and its side effects.
SCOBY means Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. It is a kind of yeast exclusively used in brewing kombucha tea (2). Scoby can be homemade or can be sourced as any other yeast from stores.
Fermentation is a metabolic process which consumes sugar and produce gases, alcohol and organic acids. SCOBY is added to the well sweetened tea and allowed to ferment for the required time in order to complete the brewing process.
How to make Kombucha tea?
- Prepare normal tea or green tea.
- After removing the stain add a good quantity of normal sugar or refined sugar and allow it to be completely dissolved.
- Once the tea is cooled down add Kombucha mushroom or kombucha culture (sourced from stores or others who have already prepared it) and cover the container with a clean cloth and keep it in shadow or poor light and allow it to sufficiently ferment, generally for about a week or so (3).
- The fermentation process must be terminated once the tea gets acid flavor and is no sweeter.
- The kombucha culture with a rubbery texture which may float or remain at the bottom can be removed, water washed and used for preparation of more quantities of Kombucha tea.
Nutrition in Kombucha tea
Upon completion of the fermentation process the tea gets converted into a rich source of nutrition. It becomes richer in sodium and other minerals, various enzymes, a number of B vitamins including riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid and cobalamin. It also provides vitamin C, fructose, lactic acid, oxalic acid and many other beneficial chemical compounds beneficial to health.
Experiments have established that fermented kombucha contains many by-products which are enhancers of the metabolism and are highly beneficial in providing relief from vvarious health disorders. Some of the acids are lactic, glucuronic, hyaluronic, butyric, ascorbic, pyruvic, tartaric, malic, citric, and acetic and usnic acids. In addition to this the tea contains a good number of yeast strains and useful antibiotic subbstances.
The tea thus prepared will have a slightly sour taste. It is a beverage that boosts the energy level of the person
A number of health benefits are attributed to Kombucha tea. But there are no scientific findings to confirm the benefits. Before going into the stated health benefits of this tea one must understand that benefits of kombucha tea is yet to be scientifically established. With this word of caution in mind we can look at some of the health benefits of the beverage.
Kombucha is primarily a stimulant, mood enhancer like green tea and a rich source of probiotic food. Both prebiotic and probiotic foods are essential for the overall gut health.
Live microbial dietary supplements which promotes the microbial balance of the intestines. Probiotic foods are full of healthy bacteria. Kombucha tea is one such easy to make probiotic food.
Kombucha prepared from green tea is far healthier as it provides the benefit of green tea in addition to Kombucha.
Even as the tea enhances the overall health conditions of the consumer, it provides a number of significant benefits.
Benefits of Kombucha tea
Improves gut health
Being a probiotic beverage containing good amount of live bacteria and yeast Kombucha tea improves the digestive system and enhances the gut health. In the process it prevents both constipation and diarrhea by facilitating easy bowel movement. It improves the quality of metabolic process by detoxifying the body and by enhancing digestion (4). Moreover by detoxification it helps in removing waste from the body by neutralizing and eliminating the free radicals produced by the metabolic process. The tea triggers the metabolic process by removing the clogs and blockages in the intestines (5).
Prevents gastric ulcers
Presence of phenols and antioxidants in the tea protects the gastric tissues and prevents the excessive production of gastric acids that are responsible for conditions like ulcers in the stomach.
Protects the joints
Glucosamine present in the tea improves the health of the joints by stimulating the production of hyaluronic acid which strengthens the cartilage and prevents arthritis. Joints of the body, more particularly the knees are affected on account of development of arthritic conditions causing pain in the joints and resisting free movement of the joints. The detoxifying property in the tea which eliminates free radicals and the glucosamine present supplement each other in reducing arthritis of all types. Hyaluronic acid present in the tea lubricate the tissues and improve flexibility around the joints (6). This a very significant property as in any arthritic condition flexibility is reduced preventing free movement of the joints. Anti-inflammatory character of the tea reduces the inflammation around the joints and provide relief from arthritic pain.
Free radicals formed in the body causes formation of cancer cells. Kombucha tea, by eradicating free radicals prevent formation of cancer cells. Antimicrobial and anti-oxidant properties in the tea not only enhances the immune system but also take of the cellular health (7). It has the potential to prevent many types of cancers including pancreatic, colon, stomach and breast. This benefit is attributed to the presence of glucaric acid in the tea. Moreover, the polyphenols in the tea prevents mutation of genes and blocks formation of cancer cells.
Protects the liver
The detoxifying property of the tea removes the toxins from the liver by eliminating through kidneys. The tea is effective in maintaining glutathione which in turn reduce the hepatotoxicity (Toxicity of the liver is called hepatotoxicity- Hepato means liver). Antioxidantts in this tea is superior to normal black or green tea in removing the toxins from the liver and protecting its health (8). The tea protects the liver from oxidative stress.
Balances the cholesterol level
The tea has anti-lipid emic properties. It has the potential to reduce the absorption of bad or LDL cholesterol and enhance the absorption of good cholesterol in the body.
Protects the heart
By maintaining the cholesterol balance at the permissible levels, it protects the heart by lowering the triglycerides. Heart diseases are caused by oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Kombucha tea, particularly the one prepared from green tea prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol thereby safeguarding against heart diseases.
Balances blood sugar levels
By slowing down digestion of carbs, the tea controls spiking of blood sugar levels. In addition to preventing type 2 diabetes, the tea has the potential to protect other organs like the liver and pancreas which are easy target of adverse conditions in a diabetic patient (9). It heals the pancreas and protects the kidneys and liver by reduction in concentration of urea.
Acetic acid present in the tea kills harmful bacteria in the body. It is also helpful in eliminating candida yeast which are responsible in causing various types of infections. Regular consumption of the live kombucha culture completely kills the bad bacteria that cause infections. The bacteria present in kombucha are not harmful or pathogens but are beneficial bacteria known as apathogens.
Protects the lungs
When the lungs are exposed to silica properties repeatedly they are affected by a particular disorder called silicosis. Regular consumption or inhalation of kombucha can treat the lungs from this disorder. It is preferable to drink the tea than inhaling for better results even though both forms are recommended.
Promotes weight loss
By burning carbs slowly and by preventing spiking of sugar in the body, the tea is an appropriate beverage in weight reduction program. Strengthening the immune system and the gut are vital for reduction of body weight (10). Kombucha tea does exactly that. It is also a low calorie drink when compared to other beverages.
B vitamins, particularly B12 present in the tea enhances the status of the mind. It stimulates the body as well as the mind. It facilitates increased energy levels and provide relief from depression and fatigue.
Acne and pimples are cured by regular consumption of the tea. Unlike skin creams Komucha tea relieves the skin from internal disorders besides making the skin glow. It refreshes the skin and also prevent formation of age related wrinkles on the face.
In comparison with a normal tea which also contain anti-oxidants, Komucha tea is richer in many anti-oxidants present in it due to the process of fermentation.
The pertinent point to be noted here is that it is the fermentation that makes the tea more beneficial to the health. Hence appropriate system of fermentation must be adopted to make kombucha at home.
Is Kombucha tea toxic?
Some research studies show that Kombucha tea could have side effects. Some test subjects who consume Kombucha tea showed symptoms of allergic reactions. One person showed symptoms of jaundice. Certain other side effects could also be nausea, vomiting, and head and neck pain. In all these cases, the use of Kombucha tea was seen to have some relation to the symptoms. When the subjects stopped drinking the tea, symptoms alleviated. Thus, although the tea could be beneficial for many, it could also be harmful if the person is allergic (11). A specific case of lead poisoning was also noted when Kombucha tea was brewed in a ceramic pot (12).
It is suggested to consume the tea in a very very small quantity and then drink it if there are no side effects seen.