What Is Kombucha and Does It Live Up to Its Hype?

Kombucha used to be a niche beverage associated with health-conscious living.

It was first used in China around 200 B.C., before the recipe spread all across the globe. This beverage was likely brought to the US by Russian immigrants.

It became widely known in the US during the 1990s, and it was generally used as a homebrewed health drink that could improve the immune system. But it still wasn’t easy to get a hold of this beverage, and many people were skeptical of its effectiveness.

The public’s approach to kombucha went through a change over the past few years. Since 2015, kombucha has become widely available in supermarkets. People from all walks of life have discovered its effects.

But what does it really do? Here’s a brief guide that can help you decide if you want to join the ranks of kombucha enthusiasts.

Kombucha 101

Let’s start with the basics. What is kombucha?

Kombucha (or kombucha tea) is a fermented drink made with sugar, tea, yeast, and bacteria. It is somewhat alcoholic and tastes of vinegar. Properly fermented kombucha shouldn’t taste too sweet.

The fermentation comes from the so-called tea fungus or Manchurian mushroom. These terms don’t actually refer to a mushroom. A tea fungus is a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria. The culture is also referred to as a SCOBY. The exact species of bacteria and fungus may vary from culture to culture, but their role remains the same.

  • How to Brew Kombucha

This colony is added to a jar of tea and sugar and then left to ferment for around 10 days. You cover it with a clean porous cloth to keep away insects. During the incubation period, the jar should be kept at 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the fermentation is complete, remove the cloth from your jar. A new SCOBY will have formed on the top of the fermented liquid. Now you should carefully remove this and store it in a different container along with a little of the fermented tea.

The remaining tea is then bottled. The fermentation process will continue to some extent even in the absence of a macrobiotic culture.

  • Where to Purchase Kombucha

The homebrewing process isn’t particularly complicated. However, there is always a chance that your new tea fungus will fail to grow. It takes a while to find the right proportions for your SCOBY, so your kombucha may end up too acidic at first. Some find the process inconvenient or unappealing.

Hence, you can opt for ready-made kombucha instead.

Not to mention that homemade kombucha comes with a risk of infection. It’s important to create a sterile environment for the fermentation process, and not everyone succeeds at it.

It might be better to go with the commercially bottled version instead. Compared to the nineties, bottled kombucha has become much easier to purchase over the last few years.

It’s also safer to buy this product than it used to be. In the summer of 2010, many retailers, including Whole Foods, stopped distributing this beverage because the alcohol levels were unregulated and unacceptably high. Today, kombucha manufacturers adhere to stricter standards that call for low alcohol levels.

  • How to Serve Kombucha

This drink is best served cold, ideally with ice and a slice of lemon. Note that bottled kombucha may have added sugar.

What Is Kombucha Good for?

Unfortunately, many people associate kombucha with fad diets and fake cures. This is because the drink has been linked to a wide variety of health treatments, and many of these claims are false. Kombucha doesn’t have miraculous life-changing properties.

At the same time, it is a refreshing beverage that can improve your overall health in a few different ways. Here’s a quick look at the scientifically-backed benefits of kombucha.

  • It Can Improve Your Digestion

This drink has probiotic properties, which means that it contains useful gut bacteria that can improve your digestion.

In a healthy digestive system, there exists a balance between useful and harmful gut bacteria. However, this can get disrupted by a host of factors such as stress, medications, and poor nutrition. People who have to take antibiotics are especially likely to have this balance disrupted.

Drinking kombucha regularly can help restore the balance in your gut bacteria. It can help you reduce gut inflammation, and some people even use kombucha for weight loss.

  • It Contains Antioxidants

Research shows that kombucha also has an antioxidant effect. This means that it can reduce the damage caused by free radicals in your body. In particular, it can reduce the levels of toxicity in the liver. This was proved through experimentation on rats.

Antioxidants can improve your immunity and protect your body from the signs of aging. Green tea is a very efficient antioxidant, so you can use it to brew your kombucha.

Green tea-based kombucha can help keep your blood sugar levels in check and may also improve your cholesterol levels. It may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some people drink kombucha to prevent heart disease, as rat studies have confirmed that it has a positive effect on cardiovascular health.

  • It Kills Harmful Bacteria

Since kombucha is rich in vinegar, it can help get rid of harmful microorganisms in your body. This greatly reduces your chances of developing a bacterial infection. Scientists have also shown that it could help your body combat the Candida yeast. Once again, you will get the best effect if you use green tea to make your kombucha.

Are There Any Risks?

When it’s properly prepared, there are no risks associated with consuming this beverage. But doctors say that over-fermented kombucha can be dangerous. It puts you at risk of fungal and other infections, so you may want to look up a few trusted brands of kombucha to be safe.

The Takeaway

Kombucha is well-loved for a reason – it really can improve your health. It’s also an energizing drink, and many finds its unique taste agreeable. However, there are limitations to take into account. If you don’t feel confident about preparing it at home, buying commercially-bottled kombucha is a good option.

References:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12073
https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinatroitino/2017/02/01/kombucha-101-demystifying-the-past-present-and-future-of-the-fermented-tea-drink/#ba8e6ea4ae24
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/kombucha-scoby
https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/consumer_protection/FoodSafety/manufacturing-packing-holding-distribution/Documents/Guidelines for brewing-bottling Kombucha.pdf
https://www.bevnet.com/news/2013/kombucha-crisis-fuels-progress/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24290641
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5079149/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11723720
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25856715
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1745-4514.2011.00629.x
https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-538/kombucha

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