The Chinese called it the “elixir of immortality.” Healthy food advocates call it just good sense. A fermented tea containing probiotic properties, Kombucha’s first documented use was 221 B.C. in China during the Tsin Dynasty. However, the name was coined in Japan in 415 AD when a Korean physician called Kombu or Kambu treated Emperor Inyko with the tea: “Kombu” + cha, which means tea.
How is it made? The effervescent drink is created through the process of fermentation when the yeast from kombucha bacteria eat sugar within a brewing tea. The bacteria releases beneficial acids and enzymes and creates an environment in which more beneficial bacterial cultures thrive. At its base is a SCOBY culture, which is an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts.” A SOCBY looks very much like a rubbery white or beige pancake and is placed in sweetened tea to start the process. As the SCOBY digests the sugar it produces a plethora of organic acids, including glucuronic, lactic, acetic, butyric, malic and usnic acids. It also produces vitamins, including B and C, amino acids and other beneficial enzymes. [i] The upshot? The acids, vitamins and enzymes combine to produce healthy benefits. One of the greatest is its probiotic benefits.
Most brewers use high quality black tea or milder tasting green tea along with raw sugar. Some of the best brews contain less than 2% sugar. It can also be infused with flavors via juices or fresh fruit and herbs, which produces a second fermentation.
Probiotics: foods or dietary supplements that contain live microorganisms (bacteria) that add or increase beneficial bacteria found in the human gastrointestinal tract or gut.[ii]
What are the Health Benefits of Probiotics? The health benefits of Kombucha as a probiotic are numerous. Most notable among its probiotic impact is improved digestive tract health and a boost to the immunity system. Other healthy benefits found in research studies include[iii]:
- Helps treat gastrointestinal (GI) complications
- Increases calcium absorption
- Increases metabolism and aids weight reduction
- Reduces joint pain and inflammation
- Helps prevent certain cancers, such as pancreatic, breast and colon cancer
- Aids detoxification of the human body
- Helps lower cholesterol
- Helps control blood pressure
Will it really make you immortal? Due to a special process called chelation, which occurs when iron found in the brewing teas (primarily black and green teas) Kombucha has the added benefit of creating an energy boost.[iv] Chelate iron helps boost blood hemoglobin, which improves oxygen supply and stimulates energy on a cellular level. As a result, Kombucha is particularly useful in the treatment of chronic fatigue associated with anemia. According to a study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, iron amino acid chelates are better absorbed, less toxic and have fewer side effects than other forms of iron.[v] So while it may not make you immortal, when consumed regularly, it provides life-giving energy.