What is kombucha and where did it come from?

kombucha scoby in jarWhen you see your first kombucha culture it is easy to imagine that it might be some ancient creature from a forgotten civilization. The kombucha beverage itself defies exact description as it can be both tart yet somewhat sweet, effervescent yet not really carbonated. The mystique surrounding kombucha only grows when you inquire about its health-giving properties. From the Russian provinces come reports of certain kombucha-drinking districts that appeared to be immune to the cancer and alcoholism plaguing other parts of the country. Asiatic populations have used it for centuries to combat fatigue, tension, hardening of the arteries, gout, rheumatism, hemorrhoids and diabetes. Other people find kombucha to be effective against headaches, constipation, arthritis, and irritability.

Yet kombucha is fairly new to the US. Trendy Hollywood starlets have been photographed with bottles of kombucha as they stroll around town. Pricey bottles with fancy labels line the refrigerated shelves in upscale health food stores. Still many Americans have never even heard of it. Before commercial brewers made the beverage widely available, kombucha developed a wide following in the 1990s by immune-compromised people looking for alternative treatments to conventional drugs. Kombucha’s low-carb qualities helped boost it into the mainstream in the early 2000s as dieters began looking for sugary soda alternatives.

Kombucha truly is ancient. According to Tom Valentine of Search for Health magazine ( http://www.kombu.de/val-gwf.htm ), kombucha derives its name from a Korean physician, Kombu,apple kombucha who was called to treat the Japanese Emperor Inkyo back around the year 415 A.D. Longstanding Russian tradition calls the beverage “tea kvass” made from “Japanese mushroom”. Even the culture itself goes by several names. Names include tea fungus, sponge, mushroom and SCOBY. This last name is an acronym, and is probably the most accurate. It stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.

How does the culture work and what does it really do? The kombucha SCOBY takes tea and sugar and ferments it, or cultures it, to make a powerful probiotic beverage full of beneficial acids, helpful enzymes and a wide spectrum of vitamins. The culture feeds on the sugar and tea producing these wonderful acids and vitamins. Star among the acids is glucuronic acid. Additional acids include lactic acid, acetic acid, usnic acid, oxalic acid, malic acid, gluconic acid and butyric acid. These various acids aid in digestion and assimilation of nutrients, provide antiviral properties, inhibit harmful bacteria, work synergistically with other nutrients, and aid in cell energy production. The main benefit of kombucha may come from the detoxifying effects of all of these components working together. Our bodies profit from kombucha due to these detoxifying effects.

Healthy livers make plenty of glucuronic acid in order to bind it to toxins that come from day-to-day metabolism and also from our environment. These toxins bind with glucuronic acid and are then sent to the excretory system and eliminated from our bodies. Toxins bound to glucuronic acid cannot be reabsorbed, so once they are bound up we are rid of them. Perscription drugs and antibiotics, pesticides, painkillers, even just eating too much sugar are all things that can damage a healthy liver. This begins a vicious cycle when our body’s detoxification system is damaged and we begin to suffer more disease and so we need more perscriptions to combat them which causes more damage and so on. The support received from the kombucha’s supply of glucuronic acid can be just what our bodies need to break free from this cycle.
kombucha ingredientsKombucha is easy to make at home. You can make gallons of refreshing, probiotic kombucha that cost less than one pint jar purchased from a health food store. You can flavor your home brewed kombucha in any way you like making custom-flavors not available in stores. Well Fed Family offers classes on home brewing kombucha. These classes include a starter jar and a SCOBY for each class participant. Contact us at healthyeating@wellfedfamily.net to schedule a class with your friends or to find out if we have an upcoming class available.

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