Kombucha: Giving Fungus and Bacteria a Good Name!
Over the years, we’ve seen interest in Kombucha grow remarkably, so we thought to ourselves, “boy, our customers need to hear about this stuff!” Kombucha (occasionally called “kvass” or “Russian mushroom tea”) is a highly sweetened probiotic tea fermented using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (or “SCOBY”). This kombucha “mushroom” (also called a “Russian tea mushroom”) is a pale, rubbery zoogleal mat of yeast and acetobacters. The yeast break the sugar’s sucrose into fructose and glucose, then converts the glucose into alcohol. The several species of acetobacter, in turn, convert this alcohol into acetic acid (i.e., vinegar) and gluconic acid. The gluconic acid smoothes the finish of the acetic acid, suppressing much of the vinegar’s harshness. The result is a sweet, tangy, fizzy, lightly caffeinated beverage with almost no alcohol (generally less than .5 percent), and measurable amounts of L-theanine, an amino acid found in all brewed teas and shown to reduce mental and physical stress.
A wide array of health benefits have been attributed to kombucha. Gluconic acid — a principal product of the kombucha fermentation process — is rumored to slow the progress of viral infections, dissolve gallstones, protect the digestive system, and help stave off yeast infections (such as “thrush,” caused by many different species of Candida yeasts). Additionally, kombucha contains measurable amounts of glucaric acid. Some research has shown that glucaric acid increases the efficiency of the liver’s detoxification pathways. There is ongoing research into the use of glucaric acid to prevent breast, colon, and prostate cancer.
Although none of these claims have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or US Department of Agriculture (neither agency regularly evaluates the effectiveness of folk medicines or herbal remedies) both the FDA and Center for Disease Control have investigated all health concerns related to properly brewed kombucha tea, and found it to be perfectly safe.
Homemade kombucha contains live cultures and is very tart — a little belly rumbling is not unusual at first. It’s a good idea to ease into drinking it regularly. Start with 2 oz. at a time for several days.