Trending for the last couple years this drink is actually over 2000 years old. Why the resurgence? Not really a resurgence at all; just commercialization. Kombucha has been in high demand within particular communities for quite some time. These people view the commercial packaging as the “fake stuff”. Not really Kombucha unless it’s left fermenting on your kitchen counter for days with a nasty little dude growing on top.
While many of us would never touch the stuff if we saw how it’s made there is some merit to the idea that large batch, pasteurized Kombucha is not all it’s cracked up to be. This fermented tea carries with it big claims of healing powers; curing everything from greying hair to cancer and AIDS. So what’s the real deal? Should we be drinking this brew?
What is Kombucha?
Let’s start with what it is before we fully commit to the drink. It all starts with tea, green or black, the choice is yours. To the tea we add in some sugar and a symbiotic mixture of yeast and bacteria. As the yeast digests the sugar, alcohol is produced. The alcohol is consumed by the bacteria to create acetic acid (vinegar) and thus the SCOBY (or mother) grows. This disk of bacteria, yeast and cellulose grows to cover the top of the liquid which ferments beneath it. Over the years few studies have been done to determine what the actual cultures are that create the SCOBY. The most recent paper looked at differences across a few countries. They noted that the bacterial composition changes from place to place, mostly in small ways. Interestingly some SCOBY’s from Ireland contain a large abundance of lactic acid bacteria, this was not seen in other countries. What does this mean? We’re not sure really! Some say the bacterial differences are what offer up differing flavors. Another theory is environment the Kombucha is produced in contributes to its brewing.
Bacteria, Yeast and Alcohol are Good for Me?
Ok, well, not really, but yes! The nature of fermentation allows for healthy properties to be created. Or so “They” say. Honestly I am not here to make any claims. I believe in science based research. Yet Kombucha has been passed down through the ages with varying claims. Often those that brew their own see the greatest health benefits. Of course that said others have also become extremely ill from home brews that grow unwanted bacterium’s (though this is rare).
This is purely my own hypothesis. If we consider the idea of backyard consumption in that the most health beneficial foods come from the surrounding areas we can apply this theorem to Kombucha as well. Before mass migrations regions of the world saw lines of strength and intolerance. Communities that did not consume milk produced generations of lactose intolerance. Areas without clean water produce offspring that are more resistant to infection. Areas that contain few contaminants produce individuals that are less resistant to infection. The list goes on. In general we become our own environment. Bee pollen had been found to help reduce the effects of seasonal allergies…until they started packaging it and selling it worldwide. Bee pollen from your community works because you are building immunities to those things that are around you.
Back to Kombucha – Does it work? Maybe! I think it’s a matter of environment. These claims of health miracles from the daily consumption of home grown are likely due to the fact that whatever made you sick in the first place is because of your environment. Thus from the homeopathic point of view consumption in small doses helps to build immunities and create health. Perhaps this is why the few studies that do exist with commercially produced Kombucha do not show increased health in its subjects. If we look closely at individual cases perhaps we will see a positive correlation of health and consumption over a larger population sample.
So have I helped you make up your mind?
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