Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, chances are good you’ve heard folks talking about kombucha. You might not know exactly what it is, of course, as the definition for this supposed miracle beverage sits somewhere between tea, soda, and wine. Aside from being unique and tasty, kombucha's benefits are more than just the typical gastronomic ones found in fermented foods. There’s even some proof that this “tea of immortality” might help you live a longer, happier life.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has become carbonated. According to The New York Times, kombucha’s origins can be traced back 2,000 years to ancient China. Back then, the recipe was green or black tea, yeast, and sugar. These days, the process includes something called a SCOBY, otherwise known as the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This bacterial blend is what begins the fermentation process, which delivers all the nutrients and flavor to the kombucha.
What are the benefits of drinking kombucha?
As with other fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi, kombucha is known for promoting healthy digestion by adding helpful gut bacteria to existing gut flora. But this probiotic effect is the least of what kombucha can do. Here are a few of kombucha's benefits for the human body:
Probiotics can be helpful in aiding digestion, reducing inflammation, and improve weight loss. According to Healthline, the SCOBY found in kombucha does more than just provide probiotic elements and lactic acid to this funky beverage, it also provides carbonation and a wee bit of trace alcohol. This blob of mushroomy, bacteria bloom first forms a foam during the fermentation process and can act as a “mother” or bacterial “starter” for subsequent kombucha fermentation.
While most of the weight loss benefits you might get from kombucha are likely a result of its ability to improve gut health, research has shown that kombucha’s concentration of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) might be capable of giving one’s metabolism a bit of a leg-up. According to Everyday Health, this benefit mostly comes from kombucha made with green tea, but the sample size is small.
Scientists have tested the effects of kombucha in lab rats, and discovered that this fermented tea derivative might offer a high enough concentration of antioxidants that it might positively affect your liver. Studies have shown that those antioxidants can reduce liver toxicity by at least 70 percent in some cases.
Green tea already contains ample antioxidants on its own, so it's reasonable to assume that kombucha made from green tea will retain or enhance that natural goodness. Human trials are limited thus far, however, and rat testing has only been positive after frequent kombucha consumption.
According to Medical News Today, there is a direct connection between depression and inflammation. This means that drinking any probiotic beverage with enough anti-inflammatory power might be able to affect not only the body, but the brain as well.
Research from a number of studies has shown evidence of this gut-brain connection, and indicates that taking probiotic supplements can boost one’s mood and improve one’s state of mind. It’s not ironclad, but when it comes to depression, every little bit helps.
Drinking tea has always been synonymous with good health in a number of cultures, and fermenting it can help protect your heart. According to Kombucha Research, heart disease is prevented by reducing triglycerides and increasing your HDL ("good" cholesterol).
Researchers experimenting on rats found that those who had been fed kombucha had high levels of HDL and better triglyceride levels than rats who did not, as per Kombucha Research. Their hearts also happened to be less swollen than those who had no kombucha, and they had a lower blood glucose level.