One of the controversial new health fads is a fermented beverage known as kombucha (kom BOO cha).
According to reports, millions of Americans are drinking it daily.
It can be “brewed” at home in a week by making a sweetened tea with green tea (or black tea) and adding a SCOBY.
What is a SCOBY?
It is a pancake-like blob.
The acronym stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
Due to its appearance, it is sometimes referred to as a “mushroom” even though it is not actually a fungi.
Not all kombucha SCOBYs contain the exact same strains of bacteria and yeasts, but they all generally do the same work.
The SCOBY feeds on the tea and sweetener and converts elements of them into health-promoting substances including:
- Glucuronic acid which acts to detoxify the body by binding up poisons and toxins in a water-soluble form that can be excreted by the kidneys.
- Hyaluronic acid which is produced naturally by the body to maintain the integrity of intercellular barriers to viral infection.
- Chondroitin sulfate which helps strengthen cartilage.
- Mucoitin sulfuric acid which strengthens the stomach lining and vitreous humour of the eyes.
- Folic acid is a B vitamin which supports the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA, aids rapid cell division and growth, and is thought to play a preventive role in a range of conditions.
- A full complement of other B vitamins
- Carbonic acid which gives it a refreshing fizz like carbonated drinks.
- An abundance of enzymes which contribute to balanced metabolism, digestion and improved immune function.
There seem to be two main arguments against it
The first is that it appears to contain antibiotics, a class of drugs whose misuse can foster resistant germs.
We are warned that we should not drink the beverage unless we have some real need of its properties internally for an infectious disease such as bronchitis.
The antimicrobial agent, usnic acid (a dibenzofruane derivative) has been used in the form of a traditional herb, usnea (old man’s beard), for quite a long time without much negative press.
In fact, it is this antiviral property that has the interest of the AIDS community.
The second objection to kombucha is the fact that it is grown in sometimes unsterile conditions that could lead to contamination by a variety of unwholesome organisms.
Of course the “unsterile” conditions in our own refrigerators contribute to the growth of all sorts of molds and bacteria on our breads, cheeses, tortillas and just about everything left for a bit.
Most of us are actually able to spot these contaminants and cut them out or throw the spoiled food out.
Those growing and using kombucha can tell just as easily if cultures are contaminated. The cultures are somewhat clear and translucent with any variation becoming obvious.
And although the taste of each batch varies slightly, radical changes in composition of the beverage are discernible, just as bad milk gives itself away.
I have made and drunk the beverage on and off myself for years.
The main benefits I experienced were improved digestion and more energy.
In addition to my busy work schedule, I play basketball, so I’m challenged in my ability to keep up with it all.
There is a noticeable difference when I drink more of this beverage.
In the past, when I was growing it, I provided SCOBYs (they multiply naturally in the process of making the beverage) to many students, fellow herbalists and other teachers.
They have given it to their friends, and them to their friends and so on with a geometric grass roots infusion into our immune deficient culture.
With the exception of a few individuals who had some problems with it because it aggravated candida, it has found more than a few happy homes and satisfied users.
Ask around and you’ll find a donor.
Growers are like folks with cats who are eager to find good homes for their kittens.
You can even grow your own SCOBY by obtaining the raw unflavored kombucha tea from a friend or purchase some and just let it sit, covered for 10-30 days.
Reports of benefits have been numerous and specific
The latest craze has been fostered by the AIDS community because of the reports of immune boosting activity specific to AIDS and MS, cancer, arthritis, chronic fatigue, (and the list goes on).
Kombucha can now be found on the shelves of most food stores.
You can also grow your own
I would use a process that was from start to finish about ½ hour.
- Pour 1 quart of purified water into a pan. Mineral water or water that is structured, alkalized, or pH-adjusted is not appropriate for making kombucha.
So, rather than boiling the sugar and steeping the tea in three quarts of water and waiting several hours for it to cool, I start with one quart and add two more after the heat process to cool it off immediately. Do what works for you.
- Measure 1 2/3 cup sugar into the pan.
Although white cane sugar is recommended because it is refined and thus free of minerals, I use raw cane sugar.
- Turn on heat and boil sugar water for 5 minutes covered.
- Turn off heat and add 8 grams loose green tea and 4 grams loose black tea.
The loose tea may be added in small muslin bags if desired.
This is equivalent to 4 tea bags green tea and 2 tea bags black tea.
Some folks suggests not using organic teas.
I ignore that advise.
Lipton is reportedly organically grown and works fine.
- Let steep 10-30 minutes covered
The directions call for 10 minutes, I like to leave it longer.
- Remove tea bags.
- Add 2 quarts purified water.
I pour it through the muslin cloth with the loose tea in it to leach out the remaining good stuff, then I wring the cloth out to get out the remaining tea).
- Pour this into a 4 qt mixing bowl or gallon jar.
The larger the surface area, the larger your SCOBY will become and the faster your batch will be done.
- When the tea is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, add 6-8 ounces of SOUR kombucha tea from a previous batch.
I used tea from my nursery, the bowl with SCOBYs waiting for homes.
This will have been “brewing” long enough to be really sour, like vinegar.
The high acidic PH of this tea is good insurance against your batch hosting undesirable growths.
- Float the SCOBY on top. It may sink initially.
- If using a wide bowl, dry the bowl on the outside with a paper towel so the tape will stick.
- Cris cross masking tape over the top to prevent the cloth from falling in.
- Cover with a cloth and secure with a big rubber band.
I wrote the date and any other info on a little piece of masking tape and secure it to the cloth.
Other herbs can be incorporated
I have made batches with herbs such as nettle, ashwagandha, suma, mugwort, dandelion root, and burdock root, to name a few.
Simply brew them with the green/black tea.
This will contribute the medicinal and nutritional properties of the your brew, as well as its flavor.
Experiment and see what works best for you.
Cleanliness is important
Wash your hands before and during the operation. Make sure everything is clean.
Love your Kombucha. It’s alive, alive!
Give it a good home and it will take good care of you.
Be patient with it. Winter means cooler temperatures and slower development of the tea.
I sampled it by removing the cloth, dipping in a clean spoon and tasting it.
Make it how you like, but remember to brew some so its sour enough to start your next batch.
You may wish to a obtain several more bowls or jars if you get into it and want lots to drink and have one for a nursery, like I did.
This fermentation process can produce alcohol
Fermentation involves the breakdown of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
As a result, kombucha tea does contain small amounts of alcohol.
Commercial kombucha teas are labeled “non-alcoholic” because they contain less than 0.5% alcohol. …
In fact, some homebrews have as much as 3% alcohol or higher.
You can drink too much
Because kombucha contains lactic acid, some think that drinking it in excess could cause lactic acidosis, a build-up of lactic acid that could be hazardous to your health, even life-threatening.
But as long as you’re practicing moderation and not guzzling it, the risk is pretty slim.