Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, is taking the health world by storm. Formerly known only to nutrition fanatics and health buffs, the effervescent health drink is now wildly available in the mainstream market. Just what makes this bold drink super popular?
Kombucha is also known as tea mushroom or Manchurian mushroom. It is fermented with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), often referred to as “The Mother” – a colony of microbes which turn tea into kombucha. While there is no definite origin, many experts believe the home-brewed drink came from Northeastern China – the drink is traditional in the area, as well as in parts of Russia and in Eastern Europe. In recent years, sales in the United States skyrocketed because of kombucha’s reputation as a healthy drink.
So, what’s in it? Most kombucha concoctions have yeast, sugar, and black tea in them, and the mixture is fermented for about a week at a time. In that fermentation period, the drink forms acids, bacteria, and a bit of alcoholic content. It results in a tart-tasting drink, often infused with natural fruits to suit many tastes and to battle the not-so-healthy sodas and artificially flavored sugary juices.
What Are the Benefits?
Kombucha contains sugar, caffeine, B vitamins, and probiotics (a.k.a. good bacteria). As such, it is mostly known as a drink that is good for the digestive system and can even serve as an energy source.
Here are a few more great reasons to drink a glass of it every day:
- Prevent many diseases
There are many health claims connected to kombucha, and studies proving their efficacy. For one, the drink has antioxidants that help the body detoxify. , which many experts say help prevent the risk for certain cancers. A 2014 University of Latvia study also proved how kombucha benefits the body “due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies and promotion of depressed immunity.”
- Heals candida and stomach ulcers
Kombucha restores balance in the digestive system thanks to probiotics. These “apathogens” fight the bad “pathogen” bacteria found in the digestive tract.
- Helps improve mental state
As it is rich in B vitamins, especially vitamin B2, kombucha boosts energy levels and helps a person’s overall mental wellbeing. A 2012 study published in Biopolymers and Cell suggests the drink minimizes and even prevents effects of anxiety and depression especially for astronauts and people who have similarly extreme work conditions such as miners.
- Helps the lungs
Chinese scientists discovered how kombucha helps treat lung diseases, especially silicosis – a lung disease that occurs when a person has repeated exposure to silica.
- Fights against bacteria
While kombucha has a certain bacteria present, it’s the good kind – these live cultures kill bad bacteria that cause infections such as E. coli, salmonella, Sh. Sonnei, and Campylobacter jejuni.
- Manages diabetes
As long as the kombucha does not have too much sugar in the mixture, the drink actually helps alleviate certain diabetes symptoms.
- Helps the heart
Kombucha helps lower levels of triglycerides and regulates cholesterol as well, making it a drink beneficial to the cardiovascular system.
- Helps the liver
Antioxidants present in kombucha helps protect the liver from damage and oxidative stress coming from an overdose of acetaminophen.
Are There Risks?
Kombucha is an amazing and healthful drink, but it does have a few health concerns for certain people:
- Pregnant women and nursing moms, as well as anybody with a medical condition, should always check first with a physician, as kombucha has both sugar and caffeine.
- Certain people, especially people with a digestive disorder, bloat when they drink kombucha, as there is a wealth of probiotics that change gut bacteria.
- Kombucha should always be prepared properly – if not, it may end up with harmful bacteria. In addition, it should not be prepared in a ceramic container as the acidic liquid can leach lead from the container into the drink. These issues are more common in home brews, which is why store-bought is a more recommended source.
- Certain people experience dental problems due to kombucha’s high amount of natural acids – although it should be noted that this acid amount is still lower compared to most sodas.
Kombucha Craze: From Niche to Mainstream
Kombucha has moved from a niche market of natural foods and into the mainstream. According to data from Square, the drink’s sales have skyrocketed by as much as 12 times compared to three years ago, with Portland, Oregon drinking the most of the fermented drink in all of the US. Research firms report that the kombucha industry is now worth around $600 million.
Whether people drink kombucha because of its taste or because of its numerous health benefits, one thing is for sure: the fizzy fermented drink is in high demand. Brewers abound in areas like Brooklyn, New York; Portland, Oregon; New Orleans, Louisiana; and various parts of Pennsylvania. With various flavors available and with an abundance of health benefits, this may be the best time to drink up some delicious kombucha.