Another fermented beverage with many health benefits is a fermented tea called Kombucha. Kombucha is a living beverage made from tea, sugar and the culture colony known as SCOBY. SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. Kefir grains are actually SCOBYs too although not referred to as such.
Unlike kefir, Kombucha is primarily an acetic acid, rather than a lactic acid ferment, although it often contains some lactic acid.
The first recorded use of Kombucha tea was in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty in China. After World War II, Rudolph Skelnar revived its popularity when he used it in his clinical practice to treat things as varied as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and metabolic disorder.
Kombucha is claimed to be adaptogenic. This is a term used by herbalists to describe herbs and other natural substances which increase the body’s resistance to all types of stressors such as physical, emotional and environmental.
What sets these substances apart is their ability to balance hormones, the immune system, and help the body maintain homeostasis, which is perfect balance. In other words, it is believed that Kombucha tea will work differently in every individual who consumes it. Because of this, the tea is claimed to effectively treat everything from arthritis to cancer.
Kombucha tea is extremely helpful to cancer patients because it supports and enhances the immune system. Kombucha is said to be helpful in controlling blood sugar in diabetics, easing pain in those with rheumatoid arthritis, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and clearing skin conditions. The list is endless.
Kombucha is also said to help a person lose weight if consumed before meals, and gain weight if consumed during meals. There is one caveat if you want to lose weight or are diabetic. Kombucha tea that has been traditionally fermented about 8 days still has a fair amount of sugar. If you continue fermenting up to 3 weeks, nearly all the sugar will be gone, but the organic acids remain.
Along with drinking the tea, there are a huge variety of external uses, from a hair rinse to a general household cleaner when fermented to vinegar. You can dehydrate SCOBYs and give them to your dogs as chew toys. You can puree the extra SCOBYs in your blender and mix it into the soil of acid loving plants.
Making Kombucha tea
Making Kombucha is quite simple. Place tea (must contain at least some real tea, Camellia Sinensis), sugar and a SCOBY in a suitably sized container, cover with a cloth and let it go for at least 7 days. By 7 days, most of the beneficial acids are present. All the different elements are produced at varying times. Many recommend doing a continuous ferment which is a large container of Kombucha tea that you add tea and sugar to as needed. Doing a continuous ferment assures you get the greatest variety of beneficial products.
The resulting beverage is a cross between a sparkling apple cider and champagne. The longer you let it ferment, the more sour it becomes, eventually becoming Kombucha vinegar.
Kombucha produces a multitude of organic acids as well as amino acids, enzymes and vitamin C. These acids, enzymes and vitamins are what make Kombucha such a healing beverage. The most common beneficial compounds found in Kombucha are listed below along with their action in the body. Of course, you also get all the benefits of the probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse.
Acetic Acid: Acts as a natural preservative and inhibits growth of harmful organisms.
Lactic Acid: Essential for digestion. Believed to help balance acid/alkali in the body and possibly prevent cancer by helping regulate blood pH levels.
Gluconic Acid: Breaks down to caprylic acid which is a potent anti-fungal and can immensely help those suffering from Candidiasis. Gluconic acid also works in the liver, possibly as part of a detoxification pathway and why it is believed Kombucha can help the body detoxify from heavy metals and biotoxins.
Malic Acid: Has a role in helping the liver detoxify the body.
Usnic Acid: Has antibiotic, especially antiviral properties.
Oxalic Acid: Encourages intercellular production of energy. Many, if not most consumers of Kombucha report increased energy after drinking a glass.
Butyric Acid: Protects cellular membranes throughout the body. Butyric and gluconic acid together strengthen the gut wall and are believed to combat Candida albicans overgrowth.
There are many more organic acids and other trace substances in Kombucha. A fairly detailed listing of all possible contents can be found at the first source below. Please note that not every batch of Kombucha will contain all listed organisms and acids.
If you begin researching Kombucha, you will consistently find 2 things on the internet mentioned over and over which have been proven to be false.
Myth 1: Kombucha tea is so healing and detoxifying because it contains glucuronic acid. It has been proven that what was initially believed to be this acid is in fact something else. Yes, Kombucha definitely can help the body detoxify but not because it contains glucuronic acid.
Myth 2: Kombucha tea contains a lot of B vitamins. According to Michael Roussin, the amount of B vitamins in Kombucha can barely be measured.
For more myths and facts about Kombucha, visit Roussin’s site. He is probably the premier modern researcher of Kombucha and does an excellent job separating fact from fiction. His site is listed below in the Kombucha research link.
Also, join the yahoo Kombucha group (link below) if for no other reason than to access its archives. This group maintains a file of how Kombucha tea has helped people, and other uses for both Kombucha and SCOBYs. If you ask, many people will send you a SCOBY for the cost of postage. There is a fair possibility that you can find someone locally with one.