18 Healthy Reasons to Sip Kombucha

homemade fermented raw kombucha tea with different flavorings. healthy natural probiotic flavored drink.

Kombucha is the rage among health food lovers.  Now researchers have gathered 75 studies attesting to its proven health properties. 

Fermented tea known as kombucha has been rapidly growing in popularity among health food lovers.  But it’s actually been around for thousands of years.  It originated in China in the third century B.C.  Then it made its way to Russia, India, and Japan where it became a staple among Samurai warriors.  Today it is also popular in Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Indonesia and many other cultures.

Kombucha – or “the booch” to its fans – is made from green, black or white tea.  It’s fermented for at least a week with sugar and a fungal culture consisting of a mixture of bacteria and yeast.  The starter is called a “SCOBY,” which is an acronym for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.

The culture, also sometimes referred to as the “mother,” resembles a light brown, tough, gelatinous disk, which is a living, growing organism. With each batch of the tea, the organism can regenerate and create a new culture called the “baby,” which can be shared with a friend much like the sharing of a sour dough starter.

Sometimes called “mushroom tea,” kombucha has been associated with a long list of health benefits.  It’s a probiotic drink with helpful bacteria that support digestion and the immune system. It also contains enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols.

But relatively little scientific evidence has confirmed the health claims of traditional cultures drinking the tea.  Recently, researchers from the University of Latvia gathered 75 studies attesting to the proven health properties of kombucha.[1]

Here are 18 healthy reasons they suggest to raise a glass of kombucha.

1.  Detoxification

Kombucha contains substantial amounts of glucuronic acid (GA).  GA is well known as a detoxicant.  In the body it combines with toxins like pharmaceuticals and environmental pollutants.  It then converts them into compounds that are soluble and the body can excrete.   Drinking kombucha may also help prevent tissues from absorbing industrial toxins in the environment.

2. Antioxidants

Kombucha contains abundant antioxidants including vitamins E, C, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids.  Like black tea, kombucha also contains polyphenols and other compounds with antioxidant powers.  But because it is fermented, kombucha is much more powerful than plain tea.  Its antioxidant activity has been found to be 100 times higher than vitamin C and 25 times higher than vitamin E.[2]  For that reason drinking traditional kombucha may help cure chronic illnesses caused by oxidative stress.

3.  Energy

Kombucha sets iron free from black tea.  That helps increase levels of blood hemoglobin, and improves oxygen flow to tissues.   It also improves the body’s absorption of other non-heme (plant-derived) iron.

4.  Immunity

Oxidative stress suppresses the immune system but kombucha’s high levels of vitamin Csupport immunity.  Its antioxidant power also protects against cell damage, inflammatory diseases, suppressed immunity, and tumors.

5.  Gastric Illnesses

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are toxic to the gut.  They can lead to gastric ulcers. Indomethacin, a popular NSAID, can disrupt blood circulation to the stomach’s mucous membrane.  Kombucha has been shown to effectively heal gastric ulceration.  The researchers believe the fermented tea protects the mucin content of the stomach.  Its antioxidant activity also protects the lining of the gut.  Kombucha also reduces gastric acid secretion that can damage the mucous membrane.  In fact, kombucha has been found as effective in healing ulcers as prescription omeprazole (brand name Prilosec).[3]

6.  Obesity

Kombucha helps balance the metabolism.  Animal studies show the tea may cause weight loss by encouraging calorie restriction.

7.  Diabetes

Research dating back to 1929 found kombucha can decrease blood sugar levels.  More recent animal studies report that kombucha significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetic rats.[4]   Another study suggested kombucha may be considered a candidate for the treatment and prevention of diabetes.[5]

8.  Kidney Toxicity

Kombucha may help eliminate kidney damage caused by environmental pollutants and may be beneficial to patients suffering from renal impairment.[6] Kombucha has also been used to prevent calcification in the kidney and may prevent the formation of kidney stones.[7]

9.  Endothelial Function

Oxidative stress can damage the lining of blood vessels.  That damage is a precursor to atherosclerosis, and a threat to heart health.  Antioxidants in kombucha help promote regeneration of cellular walls in blood vessels.[8]

10.  Atherosclerosis

In clinical trials involving 52 atherosclerotic patients with high cholesterol, kombucha helped lower levels to normal. In studies involving ducks, kombucha significantly reduced levels of LDL cholesterol and simultaneously raised HDL levels after just 10 days.  Other animal studies show kombucha may decrease total cholesterol as much as 45–52%.  It may also significantly decrease triglyceride and LDL levels while increasing HDL.[9]

11.  Hypertension

Kombucha has been used to prevent headaches and dizziness caused by hypertension.  It’s been recommended for treating high blood pressure.

12.  Anemia

Organic acids found in kombucha convert trivalent iron compounds from plant sources to divalent iron ions.  This makes iron from plant sources more available to the body.  And vitamin C in kombucha enhances iron absorption.   Researchers suggest kombucha is particularly recommended for elderly people and vegetarians because it enhances the absorption of iron and helps prevent iron deficiency.

13.  Liver Function

Kombucha protects against liver toxicity in animals from overdoses of acetaminophen (Tylenol).[10]  Researchers suggest it might provide a useful therapy for humans as well.[11]

14.  Nervous System

Kombucha contains several amino acids, methylxanthine alkaloids (caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and B vitamins (including folic acid-B9), necessary for normal metabolism in the nervous system.  It can help with headaches, nervousness, and epilepsy prevention.  It may also prevent depression in the elderly.

15.  Asthma

Daily kombucha may help asthma patients.  It contains significant amounts of theophyline, a bronchodilator.[12]  The treatment dose of theophyline is 0.18–1.0 g daily.  Just one cup of kombucha contains about 1.44 mg.

16.  Joint Problems

Glucuronic acid in kombucha can be converted by the body into glucosamine, chondroitin-sulphate, and other polysaccharides and glucoproteins associated with cartilage, collagen, and the fluid that lubricates joints.[13] It may also help relieve arthritis, rheumatism, and gout.

17.  Cancers

Consumption of kombucha has been associated with lower cancer rates.  Researchers believe it increases the immune system’s anticancer defenses.   It may prevent cancer proliferation at early stages of tumor growth due to its glucuronic, lactic, and acetic acid content, as well as its antibiotic compounds.  It may have anticarcinogenic effects especially for hormone-dependent tumors.

Cell studies suggest it may be useful for prostate cancer treatment and prevention.[14]  It’s also been studied as an anticancer agent against human lung, osteosarcoma, and renal cancer cell lines.

18.  Antibiotic Resistant Infections

Kombucha contains strong antibacterials to combat infectious diseases such as diptheria, scarlet fever, influenza, typhoid, paratyphoid fever, and dysentery.[15]  Its high total acidity makes it effective against Helicobacter pyloriSalmonella typhimuriumStaphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus.  It’s been suggested that kombucha may be an effective alternative to synthetic antimicrobials that are becoming increasingly ineffective.[16]

How to Enjoy Kombucha at Home

Kombucha is widely available in health food stores.  When you buy a bottle you’ll notice a thin layer of the SCOBY at the bottom.  The instructions may caution against shaking the contents. That’s because it should be a little effervescent.

Because it’s a fermented food, kombucha can develop an alcohol content that approaches the FDA’s upper limit for a non-alcoholic beverage of 0.5% by volume. Some people report getting a buzz from the drink but others don’t notice any effect at all.

The Latvian researchers note that a series of microbiological and biochemical tests on kombucha have repeatedly found it safe for human consumption.  Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, quotes an FDA official as saying that when reasonable care is taken, “you’re more likely to find contamination in a cup of coffee than in a cup of properly prepared kombucha.”

But there have been isolated reports of sickness after drinking kombucha.  Alternative health guru Dr. Andrew Weil does not recommend drinking the homemade version for fear of contamination with aspergillus, a toxin-producing yeast which he believes would be risky for those with already compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients and cancer patients, as well as for pregnant and nursing mothers.

What to do? If you are healthy, try the commercial brands for yourself. For beginners, a good brand to try is GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha.  The founder claims he began making kombucha in 1995 after his mother successfully used the drink in her battle against breast cancer.

It’s best to use kombucha in moderation to begin (four to eight ounces a day), even though the bottle may recommend a full 16 ounces per day. And at almost four dollars a bottle, many people may want to keep their intake moderate.

Another reason to start slowly is that kombucha has a detoxifying effect.  If the liver is not functioning properly, it can be overwhelmed by the toxins being released. This may be why some people report an allergic reaction to the tea. For that reason, some experts recommend drinking plenty of water while taking kombucha to help flush toxins from the body.

If you are tempted to make your own kombucha, educate yourself first and follow instructions carefully, including using clean equipment, correct temperatures and glass containers.

Kombucha is not a drug but a traditional drink with many health-promoting properties. As with all foods, moderation is key.  It’s important to listen to your own body to determine whether it is a good choice for you.


References

[1] Ilmara Vina et al, “Current Evidence on Physiological Activity and Expected Health Effects of Kombucha Fermented Beverage.” J Med Food 17 (2) 2014, 179–188 DOI: 10.1089/jmf.2013.0031

[2] Adriani L, Mayasari N, Kartasudjana RA: “The effect of feeding fermented kombucha tea on HLD, LDL and total cholesterol levels in the duck bloods.” Biotechnol Anim Husb2011;27:1749–1755.

[3] Banerjee D, Hassarajani SA, Maity B, Narayan G, Bandyopadhyay SK, Chattopadhyay S: Comparative healing property of kombucha tea and black tea against indomethacin-induced gastric ulceration in mice: possible mechanism of action. Food Funct2010;1:284–293.

[4] Shenoy C: “Hypoglycemic activity of bio-tea in mice.” Indian J Exp Biol 2000;38:278–279.

[5] Aloulou A, Hamden K, Elloumi D, Ali MB, Hargafi K, Jaouadi B, Ayadi F, Elfeki A, Ammar E: Hypoglycemic and antilipidemic properties of kombucha tea in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. BMC Complement Altern Med 2012;12:63.

[6] Gharib OA: “Effects of kombucha on oxidative stress induced nephrotoxicity in rats.” Chin Med 2009;4:23.

[7] Dufresne C, Farnworth E: “Tea, kombucha and health: a review.”  Food Res Int 2000;33:409–421.

[8] Dufresne C, Farnworth E: “Tea, kombucha and health: a review.”  Food Res Int 2000;33:409–421.

[9] Suhartatik N, Karyantina M, Marsono Y, Rahayu ES, Kuswanto KR: “Kombucha as anti hypercholesterolemic agent (in vitro study using SD rats).” Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference of Indonesian Society for Lactic Acid Bacteria (3rd IC- ISLAB): Better Life with Lactic Acid Bacteria: Exploring Novel Functions of Lactic Acid Bacteria, 2011, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

[10] Pauline T, Dipti P, Anju B, Kavimani S, Sharma SK, Kain AK, Sarada SKS, Sai Ram M, Ilavazhagan G, Kumar D, Selvamurthy W: “Studies on toxicity; anti-stress and hepatoprotective properties of kombucha tea.” Biomed Environ Sci 2001;14:207–213.

[11] Jalil A, Amin D, Mohammad HF, Saeid H: “Protective effect of kombucha tea against acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in mice: a biochemical and histopathological study.” Comp Clin Path 2012;21:1243–1248.

[12] Pasha C, Reddy G: “Nutritional and medicinal improvement of black tea by yeast fermentation.” Food Chem 2005;89:449–453.

[13] Jayabalan R, Marimuthu S, Swaminathan K: “Changes in content of organic acids and tea polyphenols during kombucha tea fermentation.” Food Chem 2007;102:392–398.

[14] Sriharia T, Arunkumarb R, Arunakaranb J, Satyanarayanac U: “Downregulation of signalling molecules involved in angiogenesis of prostate cancer cell line (PC-3) by kombucha (lyophilized).” Biomed Prev Nutr 2012;3:53–58.

[15] Talawat S, Ahantharik P, Laohawiwattanakul S, Premsuk A, Ratanapo S: “Efficacy of fermented teas in antibacterial activity.” Kasetsart J Nat Sci 2006;40:925–933.

[16] Mo H, Zhu Y, Chen Z: “Microbial fermented tea—a potential source of natural food preservatives.” Trends Food Sci Technol 2008;19:124–130.

2 thoughts on “18 Healthy Reasons to Sip Kombucha

  1. I been making and drinking Kombucha tea for the last 20 years I use organic green gunpowder tea because of its high Detoxification I use distilled water for its purity 8 litres distilled water 500 grams organic raw cane sugar 15 teaspoons of organic green ten 1 Scoby which you pick up from the internet with 1 litre of start from the net from the same place were you get your Scoby from.
    You can use Apple cider vinegar just for the start but I have forgotten what the quantity to use you will have to check that out yourself it does not matter if they organic or not because it will be after the second brew because you will throw away the mother Scoby and keep the baby when you have dun your second brew, you can get the brewing details from YouTube.
    It’s brilliant stuff I can say I have never had a cold or flue in the last 20 years it nice when you take it out of the fridge and pop a glass in the freezer for 10 minutes it sharpens it up and its perfect if you feel a bit bloated after eating out one glass sorts it out within 5 minutes that’s fact its brilliant get a book on it.
    its easy to brew just make sure you keep everything clean only us pure glass containers for brewing and storage ( ” you can buy it from the store ” ) but that will be dead it needs to be alive and kept in the fridge to stop any further fermentation that’s why I know they have heat treated it or dune something else with it to stop the fermentation so they can put it on the shelf ” brew you own ”
    A lot of Russian’s take it because it saves going to the doctors and the top military Russian troops
    equivalent to the SAS take it.

  2. I love reading about health conscious related topics sometimes I apply it in my lifestyle, thank goodness for tea and all it’s great benefits it brings to the human body. Growing up here in the west we as children are told about green tea, and it, indeed does have many beneficial properties. Another tea that is also very good for the human body hosting a long list of very strong beneficial medicinal properties, found here in the west, it is native to Mexico and all of Central & South Americas. It is called Eucalipto, known as the Eucalypts plant it has been used as a tea for thousands and thousands of years by the people of the America’s.

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