Kombucha

By now you’ve probably heard of kombucha or seen it in the grocery stores. What is this crazy stuff anyways? Kombucha is a popular beverage and natural folk remedy made by fermenting tea.
The Kombucha mushroom is thought to have originated in Asia during the Chinese Tsin dynasty in 212BC. It was referred to as the ‘Remedy for Immortality’ or the ‘Tea of Immortality’.

The kombucha or fermented tea is made from a culture or ‘mushroom’. This culture feeds on the sugar and tea and in exchange produces other substances: enzymes, various acids, vitamins, antibiotic substances, and small amounts of alcohol. The ‘mushroom’ is not really a mushroom at all, but a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).

If you really want to geek out, here is a list of the actual ingredients in the fermented tea: various enzymes, Acetic acid, Carbonic acid, Folic Acid, Gluconic acid, Glucuronic acid, Lactic acid, Usnic acid, Amino acids (various), Hydroxy acids (various), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin, niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin, cyanocobalamin), Vitamin C (from Lactic acid).

There are many health benefits that come from drinking kombucha. My favorite is that it is a much healthier alternative to sugar-laden sodas, not to mention super-duper refreshing.

Here’s a list of how kombucha does a body good:
Detoxification – Glucuronic acid is normally produced by the liver in sufficient amounts to neutralize toxins in the body. However, if the liver becomes overloaded, additional glucuronic acid from kombucha can aid in our body’s natural cleansing process.

Digestion– Kombucha contains high levels of beneficial acids, probiotics (healthy bacteria) and enzymes. For optimal health, the intestinal microflora must be carefully balanced between good and bad bacteria. Foods we eat, stress and especially antibiotics can all disrupt our bacterial balance because they can kill off the bad bacteria as well as killing off the good bacteria. Probiotics taken regularly can help maintain levels of good bacteria by altering the pH of the large intestine to a slightly more acidic level and the unhealthy bacteria tend to be inhibited or destroyed.

Energy – Kombucha has the ability to invigorate people which may be credited to the formation of iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process.  It also contains some caffeine and B vitamins, which can energize the body.

Immune Health – Kombucha is full of antioxidants and probiotics. Antioxidants control free radicals and probiotics keep our GI tract healthy, which both support the immune system.

Joint Care – Kombucha can help heal, repair and prevent joint damage. It is loaded with glucosamines, which increase synovial hyaluronic acid production. This supports the preservation of collagen and can help prevent arthritic pain.

Cancer Prevention – Kombucha has been linked to cancer prevention and recovery.  A study published in Cancer Letters found that by consuming glucaric acid found in kombucha reduced the risk of cancer in humans.

If you’re feeling adventurous, here is the recipe!

Kombucha

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: approx. 1 gallon

4-5 16 oz. bottles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons loose organic black or green tea, without flavorings
  • 1/4-12 cup kombucha from previous batch (if available)
  • 1 kombucha mushroom (SCOBY)
  • 1 gallon glass jar
  • dishtowel/cloth napkin and rubberband

Instructions

  1. Boil about 5 cups of water and pour over tea leaves. (Allow to steep for several hours to make a very strong tea).
  2. Strain out tea leaves with a mesh strainer or nut milk bag so the liquid is clear.
  3. Add sugar and room temperature, filtered water to fill your glass jar to about 3-4 inches from top.
  4. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then add your kombucha from previous batch and scoby.
  5. Cover and seal with cloth and rubberband. (This allows air in and keeps bugs out).
  6. Let sit for about 7-10 days, ideally in a semi-dark place about 70-80 degrees fahrenheit. When ready, it should be sour and possibly fizzy, without the taste of tea remaining.
  7. Remove scoby, pour liquid into bottles, cap tightly and store in the refrigerator. Alternatively, just remove scoby and seal the gallon jar with a lid and refrigerate. The kombucha usually gets more fizzy once sealed.

Notes

Your scoby will grow a second spongy ‘pancake’ on top once the kombucha is ready. You can use this to make more or give to a friend. Store in the refrigerator in glass or stainless steel container (not plastic) and cover it completely with some of the kombucha so it stays moist. Your scoby can be used many times, it will get thicker and darker with each use. It actually makes the kombucha better as the scoby matures! If it turns black or the kombucha does not sour properly, it may be contaminated, so throw it out and start with a new one.

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For more information on kombucha, including research, references, and recipes check out these sources:

http://www.draxe.com/7-reasons-drink-kombucha-everyday/
http://www.kombuchacultures.com/
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon