Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kombucha: A Health Food Store in Liquid Form

Have you heard about the latest "super-drink" in the health-food world? Kombucha is a mixture of green or black tea, sugar and a live culture that ferments into a slightly fizzy, tart beverage with a host of health benefits to its name. A child of ancient Chinese medical technology (noted as an "elixir of life" and a source of renewing chi energy), the finished brew contains probiotics, "friendly" yeasts, live enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other health promoting compounds.

Like all nutrients stemming from "animal" sources (including bacterially fermented items like yogurt and sauerkraut), kombuch tea is rich in living digestive enzymes and B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 and B15. The B vitamin complex in kombucha is of particular interest to vegans, who generally lack a reliable, concentrated source of the nutrients. B vitamins are essential in the maintenance of immunity and energy production, as well as protecting the body from constricted blood vessels and the build up of oxidized cholesterol (key causes of cardiovascular disease). The living, "good" yeast cultures and probiotic bacteria in the culture used to ferment the drink reinforce a healthy gut ecology, which not only increases the body's resistance to infection, but reduces allergic responses to common problem foods such as wheat and eggs, prevents undigested protein "leaking" into the bloodstream (a major cause of anaphlyactic reaction and the development of "new" allergies), reduces bloating and flatulence and even fights candida. Unlike other fermented beverages such as beer and wine, kombucha does not form alcohol - instead, the sugar becomes these organic probiotic acids, enzymes, minerals and vitamins.

Those with joint problems such as sprains and arthritis will also find benefits in drinking this old yet-new beverage. One of the organic acids in kombucha (as well as other fermented vegetables) actually converts to a popular cartilage support compound known as glucosamine in the liver. Unlike supplemental forms of glucosamine, the naturally synthesized compound does not have to be re-processed by the digestive and hepatic systems in order to become helpful in forming cartilage and ligaments.

Like any item in either the conventional or natural pharmacy, there are some cases where kombucha can actually do more harm than good. Any hyper-immune responsive conditions (like HIV and AIDS) will actually be made stronger by the immune-boosting properties in the drink. Those allergic to yeast or hypersensitive to acids will also react badly to the beverage, and it has been declared by the FDA that those who are pregnant, nursing, elderly or children should not take the tea due to their compromised immune systems. Kombucha is not a standardised "medicine" with strictly controlled conditions, so officially no scientific claims can be made as to regarding its impact on the well being of the individual are beginning to bring kombucha's prowess into the mainstream media and medical worlds.

So, what do you think about kombucha? Have you tried it, and if yes, what was it like?


Sarah R said...

This article is also available on Sarah's Nutritional Consulting blog "A NEW-tritious Digest":