Kombucha, an ancient Asian health elixir, has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent decades. Its unique flavor and benefits have propelled it to the forefront of trendy tonics, but Kombucha remains a mystery to many. I have been making and drinking Kombucha for over 5 years, and have taught hundreds of people the joy of brewing right in their own homes. Based on the available research and my own experience, let’s dispel some misunderstandings about Kombucha.
MISUNDERSTANDING #1 – Kombucha Cures Everything!
FALSE – Kombucha doesn’t cure anything! It is a pro-biotic (“for life”) and chock full of important B vitamins and amino acids that help the body recover its natural healing ability. Kombucha returns the body to balance through detoxification and improved digestion. Once in balance, the body’s innate immune system takes over and is able to heal itself.
If you have a compromised immune system, consult your physician prior to implementing Kombucha as a treatment. Ease it in gradually so the body has time to adjust (4oz in the morning). Many people have found that drinking Kombucha has been effective in reducing the amount of time needed to heal and in minimizing the negative effects of pharmaceuticals on the body.
MISUNDERSTANDING #2 – Kombucha is a Mushroom.
FALSE – Kombucha is not mycelia nor is it a fungus. It is a Symbiotic CULTURE Of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY for short). The bacteria and yeast build a cellulose structure where they live together symbiotically. The yeast ferments the nutrient solution creating alcohol which the bacteria then convert into healthy acids that help the body.
Many people think that the culture looks like a mushroom, hence the misnomer. The zooglea (“living skin”) forms in order to allow the Kombucha to engage in both aerobic fermentation and anaerobic fermentation. The culture is covered with a cloth to allow oxygen to circulate. As the fermentation process continues, the zooglea grows to cover the entire aperture of the vessel creating an air-tight seal for the anaerobic fermentation.
MISUNDERSTANDING #3 – Kombucha Makes Me Feel Drunk!
FALSE – The process of fermentation of Kombucha is two-fold. During the aerobic fermentation, the yeast consumes the nutrient solution converting the sugar into alcohol. Then, the bacteria feed on the alcohol which gets converted into gluconic acid and all the other healthy acids. However, not all of the ethanol produced by the yeast is able to be consumed by the bacteria thus leaving a slight amount. The amount is slight, but those sensitive to alcohol or if you drink Kombucha on an empty stomach, may experience temporary euphoria.
Some commerical Kombuchas have been shown to have greater than .5% alcohol by volume (ABV). Unflavored, mature KT has naturally low alcohol levels (.2-.6% ABV) . The alcohol level increases up to 3% during secondary fermentation, when fruit juice is added and reactivates the yeast.
Kombucha is also used to curb desires for alcohol, as well as alleviate caffeine addiction. By cleansing the liver, the drinker loses the taste for alcohol and caffeine. The energy boost from improved digestion does the same trick as coffee without the crash, making Kombucha a great afternoon pick-me-up.
MISUNDERSTANDING #4 – Brewing Kombucha at Home is Dangerous!
FALSE – Some people claim that Kombucha has to be made in sterile facilities with climate controlled brewing rooms by properly trained professionals. While cleanliness is always important in handling food products, what you may not realize is that Kombucha is antiseptic! Kombucha is at a pH where harmful bacteria and microorganisms cannot live. You can use it to wash windows, disinfect countertops and to clean out wounds. It speeds healing from cuts or burns and prevents infection.
However, it is important to educate yourself in safe brewing methods. Mold is quite rare and easy to spot. It occurs if the culture is not able to reach the pH of 3.5-2.0 prior to being exposed to a contaminant. It looks exactly like the mold you see on bread; fuzzy and blue or black. If mold is identified on the culture, immediately throw everything away; the KT (Kombucha tea) and the culture must be disposed of as there is no way to “save” a moldy culture. Good thing you’ve got a back up in your SCOBY Hotel!
MISUNDERSTANDING #5 – Kombucha is Expensive!
FALSE – Like many things in life, if you can make it yourself at home, you can save loads of money. The main ingredients in Kombucha are inexpensive and readily available, especially when purchased in bulk. I always use organic, fair-trade ingredients to ensure the highest quality of my brew. With a minimal investment of time and energy, you can make a lifetime supply of Kombucha for pennies on the dollar.
We are nature. As much as we think we are in control through using air conditioning or heating, turning on lights, building boxes to live in, or driving around in boxes, there truly is no separation between humans and the sky, the sun, the air, and the water. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we already live in symbiosis with the Earth. It is time to awaken to how our actions affect the world around us. Kombucha provides an opportunity to raise our awareness of the benefits we receive when living in harmony.
I use Kombucha not only to boost my immunity but also as a means to reconnect with nature. By consciously inviting living organisms, bacteria and yeasts, into my body, I have raised my awareness of all levels of symbiosis. I have learned to enjoy the process of gradual evolution through slow change, and am letting go of the need for instant gratification that permeates our culture. Though lifestyle choices may ebb and flow between healthy and unhealthy, the Kombucha culture is always there to help maintain balance and minimize the harm. I am grateful to have found a companion to aid me on my life’s journey.