Known as the "Immortal Health Elixir" by the Chinese and originating in the Far East around 2,000 years ago, kombucha is a beverage with
tremendous health benefits
Kombucha is a fermented beverage of
and sugar (from various sources including cane sugar, fruit or honey) that's used as a functional
. It contains a colony of bacteria and yeast that are responsible for initiating the fermentation process once combined with sugar. After being fermented, kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, b-vitamins, enzymes,
and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic and lactic), which are tied with the following effects:
The sugar-tea solution is fermented by bacteria and yeast commonly known as a
(symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Although it's usually made with black tea, kombucha can also be made with green tea too.
Beneficial Probiotics in Kombucha
An article published in the journal Food Microbiology established that the following probiotics make up this health elixir:
(>85 percent in most samples)
(up to 30 percent in some samples)
Ultimately, this cocktail of good bacteria interact together in a unique way to produce some unbelievable health benefits for those who drink it.
7 Kombucha Health Benefits
In research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food 2014, researchers from the University of Latvia say the following about the health benefits of kombucha:
It is shown that [kombucha] can efficiently act in health preservation and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.
According to research there are five main health benefits of kombucha.
The detoxifying capacity of kombucha is immense. A perfect example is in its ability to counteract liver cell toxicity.
In one study, the liver cells were protected from oxidative injury and actually maintained their normal physiology, in spite of being exposed to a toxin! According to researchers, this was "probably due to its antioxidant activity and could be beneficial against liver diseases, where oxidative stress is known to play a crucial role."
prowess of this ancient tea counteracts free radicals that create mayhem in the digestive system. However, the greatest reason kombucha supports digestion is because of its high levels of beneficial acid,
Some research has shown kombucha's ability to prevent and heal
. No surprise to us, in some instances it's even proven to be as effective as drugs like Prilosec, which are commonly prescribed for heartburn, GERD and ulcers.
Kombucha can also help heal candida yeast from overpopulating within the gut because it helps restore balance to the digestive system. Kombucha is a great way to fight candida because it contains live probiotic cultures that help the gut to repopulate with good bacteria while crowding out the candida yeast. Kombucha does have bacteria, but these are not harmful pathogenic bacteria, instead they are the beneficial kind (called "apathogens") that compete with "bad" pathogen bacteria in the gut and digestive tract.
One thing to mention here is that candida or other digestive problems can sometimes be complicated issues to fix and symptoms might actually get worse before getting better. This doesn't mean that kombucha isn't effective or is exacerbating the problem, just that gut problems aren't always a straight path to healing and at times some patience or trial and error is needed.
Kombucha's ability to invigorate people is credited to the formation of
that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process. It also contains some caffeine (although in very small amounts) and b-vitamins, which can energize the body.
Through a special process known as
, the iron released helps boost blood hemoglobin, improving oxygen supply to tissues and stimulating the energy-producing process at the cellular level. In other words, by helping the body create more energy (ATP), the ancient tea can help those who regularly drink it stay energized.
4. Immune Health
The overall effect that kombucha has to modulate the immune system is best seen in its ability to control
through antioxidant measures.
Clinically proven to decrease oxidative stress and related immunosuppression, a powerful antioxidant known as
D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone
(DSL) was discovered during the kombucha fermentation process that's not found in black tea alone.
Scientists suspect that DSL and the
present in kombucha are its main secrets in protecting against cell damage, inflammatory diseases, tumors and overall depression of the immune system. Also, we know the probiotics found in kombucha support the immune system.
5. Joint Care
Kombucha can help heal, repair and prevent
in a number of ways. Kombucha is loaded with glucosamines, which increase synovial hyaluronic acid production. This supports the preservation of
. In the same way it supports joint collagen, it also supports collagen of the entire body and reduces the appearance of wrinkles on the skin.
6. Cancer Prevention
Kombucha is also beneficial for
prevention and recovery. A study published in Cancer Letters found that consuming glucaric acid found in kombucha reduced the risk of cancer in humans.
President Reagan even reportedly drank kombucha daily as part of his regimen to battle stomach cancer.
7. Weight Loss
Data from a study in 2005 showed evidence that kombucha improves metabolism and limits fat accumulation. Though we need to see more studies before we can confirm these results, it makes sense that kombucha supports weight loss since it's high in acetic acid (just like apple cider vinegar is) and polyphenols, which are proven to help increase
Kombucha's Potential Side Effects
Most people experience great benefits drinking kombucha and have no negative side effects. However, there are possible interactions and side effect symptoms to be aware of, mostly in populations that already have weakened immune systems and digestive problems. Side effects seem to be more of a risk when making homemade kombucha because contamination is possible and the SCOBY disk and finished products both aren't tested for quality control, like they are when larger manufacturers produce them. If you're going to brew your own, pay careful attention to using sterile equipment, clean working spaces and high-quality ingredients.
A small percentage of people have experienced stomach upset, infections and allergic reactions when drinking kombucha. Because kombucha has a high level of acidity, it's possible that this can cause problems for people with digestive problems like stomach ulcers, heartburn, or any sensitivity to very acidic foods.
It's a good idea to start with a small amount in moderation and gradually work your way up to drinking more in order to see if you have any negative reaction to it. Stick to about 8 ounces per day, especially in the beginning. To limit your risk, buy pre-made kombucha that's been tested for bacterial contamination.
Other groups that might want to limit their kombucha consumption include: people with leaky gut syndrome, those with very poor immune systems and pregnant women. More information can be found below about risks related to those groups:
Use caution if you have a weakened immune system
People who have compromised immunity due to certain viruses like HIV/AIDS need to be careful about consuming kombucha, since there is always a possibility that the yeast can grow harmful bacteria that can cause illness. This is especially true of homemade kombucha, where contamination is more likely to happen if it's brewed in an unsanitary environment.
Women who are pregnant or nursing
While kombucha hasn't been studied much at all in pregnant women, there is always concern that
shouldn't consume alcohol or caffeine, both of which are present in kombucha in small amounts. Before more formal research is conducted showing that it's completely safe, pregnant women are advised to err on the safe side and avoid kombucha, or at least to enjoy it in small quantities.
Those who cannot tolerate even low levels of sugar, caffeine or alcohol
Kombucha is brewed using black tea and sugar, which when fermented turn into alcohol is very small amounts (only about 1 percent of kombucha is believed to be alcohol). For people with existing
, kombucha likely won't cause much of a problem considering it's very low in sugar (about 2 grams per 8 ounce), but it's worth being careful and monitoring blood sugar levels and related symptoms. For those with digestive problems like
or anxiety disorders, the low level of caffeine in kombucha is also something to be conscious of, since caffeine can sometimes aggravate these conditions.