Although kombucha is actually centuries old, it has only really become a trend with us in recent years. The drink was first drunk in China about 2200 years ago because they say it has a detoxifying and stimulating effect.
Kombucha is said to be super healthy: but what exactly is it and what does science actually say about the health claims? I researched it for you!
In this article you can read:
- What kombucha is
- How it tastes
- What the health benefits are and whether they are proven
- How much kombucha you can drink per day
- How to make it yourself (+ recipe)
- A few tips
- Conclusion: is it really that healthy?
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is created by fermentation. You always make it with green or black tea, to which a kombucha mushroom and sugar are added. Oops, sugar? I can hear you thinking… but kombucha is certainly not super unhealthy, and that's because of the fungus.
The fungus, also called SCOBY, consists of various bacteria and yeasts. This is a kind of tea mold (sounds scary, but it's not), this membrane floats on the surface of the pot in which you make the kombucha.
This fungus feeds itself on sugar, converting it into vitamins, enzymes, acids and yeasts. Most of the sugar therefore disappears in the fungus and very little remains in the drink itself.
You may have to get used to the taste, because kombucha has a very typical taste. It tastes fresh and slightly sour, it also slightly resembles the taste of beer.
You can control the taste: the longer you let kombucha ferment, the less sugar remains in the drink and the more acidic it becomes.
You should certainly not let it ferment for too long because then you will get a vinegar taste. A tasty kombucha must be fresh in taste, in the beginning this takes some experimenting.
What are the health benefits of kombucha?
In recent years, a number of studies have been published on kombucha and its possible health benefits. But… most of these studies have been done on animals and on cells in the lab.
If we want to know what the benefits are for our health, then research on humans is also needed. These studies are still lacking, so only a small part of the health benefits has been proven effective.
If you Google the health benefits of kombucha, you will get a whole list of positive effects. So don't believe everything you read, more research is certainly needed to map all the positive effects. The following health benefits have been scientifically proven:
1. It helps keep your gut healthy
A 2014 study shows that the fermentation process of kombucha makes the drink rich in probiotics, which are live bacteria that closely resemble the healthy bacteria naturally present in our gut. (1)
Certain studies also show that probiotics can relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and that they also help with diarrhea. (2, 3, 4)
A small note: kombucha does contain less probiotics than fermented dairy. But it contains an enormous diversity of bacteria that, in combination with the antioxidants and healthy substances present, are really good for your gastrointestinal system.
Do you really want to get benefits from probiotics? A study shows that we should continue to take probiotics if you want to enjoy the benefits in the long term. (5)
2. Kombucha aids digestion
The fermentation process produces enzymes that help to break down and process the food. As a result, kombucha stimulates digestion and the absorption of essential nutrients. (3).
3. Potential Health Benefits (Still More Research Needed)
So kombucha is good for your intestines and digestion, that has been scientifically proven. But there are other possible positive effects that need further investigation:
- Kombucha is said to support the detoxification process . It would be healthy for the liver and your body, because it absorbs and processes heavy metals.
- There are two laboratory studies (6,7) showing that kombucha has both antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. As a result, the drink could reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer and diabetes. The effect of kombucha on diseases needs to be further investigated.
- According to another study, kombucha contains a large dose of polyphenols, acids and vitamins. That makes sense because kombucha is always made with green or black tea. Tea is packed with healthy substances. (8)
- The beneficial effect of kombucha is also said to be due to the substance DSL (D-sucrose acid-1,4-lactone). It could inhibit a certain enzyme linked to cancer. Further research is still needed to prove this effect.
How much kombucha can you drink per day?
The drink is therefore super healthy for your intestines, but that does not mean that you have to drink liters of it every day. It is and remains a sugary drink.
To avoid vascular problems and diabetes, it is best not to drink too much of it. Everything is allowed, but in moderation. It is also not recommended for pregnant women and children. In addition, too much kombucha can also lead to headaches, nausea and even gastrointestinal complaints.
Start with a small daily amount, then you can increase it to 1 glass per day.
Make your own kombucha
Although you can also buy it ready-made in the supermarket, it is nice to experiment yourself. You can add a lot of different flavors to your kombucha. And if you make it yourself, you know exactly what's in it. ;-)
I made a kombucha with orange juice and ginger. You can also make it without orange juice, but it gives a nice fruit flavor to your kombucha.
- 2.5 liters of water
- 6 tea bags (2 black and 4 green)
- 225 grams of sugar
- 1 mushroom: you can buy this at the Kefir Shop, among others
- 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar
- 350ml fresh orange juice
- ginger (about 5 cm)
- Put a pan on the stove and bring the water to a boil.
- Turn off the heat and then add the sugar and tea bags. Stir.
- Leave the tea bags for 15 minutes, then remove them.
- Let it cool.
- Add the cider vinegar, then pour the mixture into a large pot.
- Place the mushroom in the jar.
- Put a cloth on the pot and tie it with a string.
- Put the jar in a dark place, then let it ferment for 1 or 2 weeks.
- After this fermentation period you can taste the result. If the taste is good, remove the cloth and the fungus.
- Add the orange juice and grated ginger to the pot. You can also add some orange slices.
- Let the whole thing continue for another 2 to 4 days so that the orange and ginger can absorb well. (This is the second round of fermentation.)
- When the kombucha is ready, take the mushroom out of the jar (keep it along with a small amount of the kombucha to prepare for the next batch).
- You strain the rest of the drink into a bottle and then close it.
- You can leave the bottle at room temperature for about 3 days, then put the drink in the fridge.
A few more tips
- After use, you store the mushroom with some kombucha in a jar, so that you can use it again for your next brew.
- Is your kombucha too sour in taste? Then you can add some honey or juice. For next time you know that you either have to shorten the fermentation process or use more sugar.
- Experiment with flavors: during the second fermentation round you can add fruit or spices. Strawberries, lemon, possibly some vanilla: the choice is yours.
Kombucha is made from black and green tea. We know that tea is super healthy and because kombucha is made from tea, you can rest assured that the drink also has these amazing benefits.
Kombucha has been scientifically proven to be packed with probiotics, which are good, live bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. However, more research needs to be done into the other health claims.
As with anything, drink it in moderation. It remains a sugary drink, so it is best not to drink too much of it.
- Marsh AJ, O'Sullivan O, Hill C, Ross RP, Cotter PD. (2013). Sequence-based analysis of the bacterial and fungal compositions of multiple kombucha (tea fungus) samples. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24290641
- Matthew A Ciorba (2012.) A Gastroenterologist's Guide to Probiotics https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424311/
- CellPress. (2018). Human gut study questions probiotic health benefits. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf991333m
- Kavita. R. Pandey, Suresh. R. Naik, and Babu. V. Vakil. (2015). Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics- a review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4648921/
- Poo transplants and probiotics – does anything work to improve the health of our gut? https://theconversation.com/poo-transplants-and-probiotics-does-anything-work-to-improve-the-health-of-our-gut-65480
- Rasu Jayabalan Radomir V. Malbasa Eva S. Loncar Jasmina S. Vitas Muthuswamy Sathishkuma. (2014) A Review on Kombucha Tea—Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12073
- C. Dufresne, E. Farnworth (2000). Tea, Kombucha, and health: a review. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996900000673
- Rasu Jayabalan, Radomir V. Malba sa, Eva S. Loncar, Jasmina S. Vitas, and Muthuswamy Sathishkumar. (Zd) A Review on Kombucha Tea—Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneﬁcial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus