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What Is Kombucha? 6 Benefits to Know About

Kombucha is a "new" popular health drink that has started appearing in more and more stores. It also happens to be an ancient beverage that has been enjoyed for thousands of years.

A fermented beverage, kombucha has some major potential health benefits and is a great swap for sugar-laden drinks that aren't so good for you.

Here's more about this up-and-coming drink and the good things it can do for your body.

What Is Kombucha?

If you've never tried kombucha (or even if you have), it's easy to feel a little confused about what exactly it is.

Basically, kombucha is a fermented, non-dairy beverage. It's made out of sweetened black or green tea and beneficial bacteria and yeast. The good bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar in the tea as they work their fermenting magic.

The end result is a tea drink that's still slightly sweet (although much of the sugar has been converted into healthy acids) as well as tart and bubbly.

In some ways, kombucha can be compared to other fermented products, like yogurt and kefir, which are both made from fermented dairy. The biggest obvious difference is that kombucha is dairy-free, which is great for those who are sensitive to dairy or choose not to consume it.

While kombucha does have a lot of positive health benefits, it's important to realize that they will differ slightly from drink to drink.

For example, kombucha is most often made from black tea but can also be made using green tea, which has some extra antioxidant power and other unique benefits.

The sugar used to make kombucha can also differ. It might be pure cane sugar, or it could be an alternative like honey or fruit juice.

Some brands will add extra sugar and flavoring into the final product, so keep an eye out for that as you decide which kombucha to try.

Top Benefits of Kombucha

Contains Gut-Boosting Probiotics

probiotics gut health

Just like many other fermented products, the beneficial bacteria and yeast found in kombucha have high potential to act as probiotics. Each individual drink will have a slightly different probiotic makeup, but Lactobacillus is one of the strains often found. (1)

There are many potential benefits of probiotics, but they are most known for their gut-boosting properties. They can combat the negative effects of antibiotics, improve intestinal health, and even boost your immune system. (2)

Full of Antioxidants

Alongside probiotics, kombucha is also rich in antioxidants, which are a very important plant compound for overall health.

Both black tea and green tea are good sources of antioxidants, although green tea contains more. This gives kombucha a good start as far as antioxidant power, but research also indicates that the fermentation process actually increases the antioxidant capacity of kombucha. (3)

Drinking kombucha is a great way to up your antioxidant intake, which is something you really want to do.

Not only are antioxidants considered one of the best anti-aging defenses, they can also lower inflammation within your body and may be an important piece of preventing many common chronic diseases.

Good Nutritional Profile

Once again, the nutrients found in kombucha will vary because each drink is unique, but overall this fermented beverage can provide you with some good nutrition.

One of the biggest vitamin boosts kombucha can give you is a range of B vitamins.

An average bottle of kombucha contains somewhere around 25% daily value (DV) of folate (vitamin B-9), 20% DV of riboflavin (B-2), 20% DV of B-6, 20% DV of thiamine (B-1), 20% of DV niacin (B-3), and 20% DV of B-12. (4)

This makes kombucha an especially good drink for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet where vitamin B-12 (an essential nutrient) can be hard to come by.

Has Antimicrobial Properties

fermenting kombucha

The good bacteria and yeast that kombucha contains gives it some powerful properties against potentially pathogenic bacteria and yeast.

Studies have shown that it can specifically have action against common harmful microbes like E. coli, a few staph strains, Listeria monocytogenesCampylobacter jejuni, and two strains of Salmonella. Most of these bacteria can cause digestive illness and food poisoning, making kombucha that much more protective of gut health. (5)

Other research shows that kombucha also has action against Candida species, which are the yeast most often responsible for yeast infections. (6)

Supports a Healthy Heart

From some early studies, kombucha appears to support heart health, specifically by lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol levels and raising "good" HDL cholesterol levels. (7)

Kombucha made with green tea may be even better for heart health because it's associated in quite a few studies with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. (8)

Some research also indicates that kombucha may be able to help prevent or manage diabetes because it can reduce blood sugar levels and slow down the digestion of carbs. Diabetes is considered a risk factor for heart problems.

Supports Liver Health and Detoxification

According to research, the antioxidants in kombucha seem to be especially beneficial for the liver. Multiple lab studies have documented that kombucha helps to protect the liver and decrease toxicity. (9)

Because your liver is a major organ involved in the natural detoxification process of your body, kombucha has also shown benefits for aiding detox and helping your body get rid of toxins. (10)

How to Make Kombucha

making kombucha with scoby

At this point, kombucha is widely available and comes in many different flavor options. However, if you are interested in the art of fermenting, it's also something you can make at home.

The beneficial microbe mixture that creates kombucha is known as a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (or SCOBY, as most people call it). To get your kombucha started, you'll need to buy a SCOBY disk, which many health stores carry.

Here's a full list of what you'll need:

  • SCOBY disk
  • 8 cups of distilled or filtered water
  • 4 bags of green or black tea
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of premade kombucha (from the store or a friend)
  • Large glass jar or bowl
  • Clean cloth or towel

Instructions:

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Remove it from the heat and add your teabags and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Allow it to steep for at least 15 minutes before removing the teabags and letting the tea cool to room temperature.
  2. When cool, pour the sweetened tea into your jar and stir in the premade kombucha. Drop in the SCOBY disk, and cover the jar with a cloth secured by a rubber band.
  3. Let your mixture sit for 7-10 days at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. The longer it sits, the stronger it will become, so you may need to experiment with this step to find your perfect flavor.
  4. Remove the SCOBY and bottle up your kombucha. (You can set aside a cup of it at this point to make another batch.) Refrigerate your kombucha or let it sit another 1-3 days to become carbonated.

Precautions

Kombucha can cause digestive upset, bloating, and nausea in a small percentage of people. It does contain acid from the fermenting process and may cause irritation in large amounts for those who are sensitive to acidity.

Though the amounts are small, kombucha does contain alcohol and caffeine.

Standardized kombucha (like you would find at the store) only has 0.5% alcohol, which technically makes it a non-alcoholic drink. Homemade kombucha has the potential to contain more alcohol.

The amount of caffeine is lower than what you would find in tea.

Experts still disagree about whether kombucha is safe for pregnant women to drink, even though the alcohol amount is very low. Consult your midwife or healthcare professional before consuming if you are pregnant or have compromised immunity.

There is the potential for contamination to occur with homemade kombucha. Always use clean equipment and a clean working space and buy your SCOBY from a reputable seller.

Enjoying the Benefits of Kombucha

Overall, kombucha is an excellent drink for gut health and overall wellness. It's not hard to see why this ancient beverage has been around for a few thousand years and is surging in popularity today.

If you enjoy the taste, kombucha is a great replacement for other very sugary drinks and can help you get your daily "dose" of probiotics.

 

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice.  Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.