Kombucha for Health and Happiness

Learn about the origins of this popular probiotic beverage and how it could benefit your body, mind and budget.

| JUNE 2019

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A Tangy Tonic for Every Day

Today kombucha is commercially sold at many grocery stores and health food stores in a wide variety of flavors. It is most often infused with fruits, herbs, spices, and other flavorings to enhance its naturally sour taste. While its accessibility at your favorite store may make buying kombucha a no-brainer, you may be surprised to know just how easily and inexpensively it can be brewed at home, as it has been around the world for centuries.

As in all living things, kombucha begins with a “mother.” A live starter culture, the “mother,” or SCOBY, which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The SCOBY is a gelatinous blob that bears a striking resemblance to a pancake. Because it also looks similar to a mushroom cap, kombucha is sometimes referred to as “mushroom tea.” Thanks to the SCOBY, rather ordinary sweetened tea can be fermented into a probiotic masterpiece in about a week.

Fermentation is most recognized for its ability to create alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, and mead. However, the process has also been used for centuries to preserve foods such as cucumbers and cabbage by converting them into their ever-tasty cousins: pickles and sauerkraut. Defined simply as the transformation of food items using various types of bacteria and fungi, fermentation can take many forms.

Factors such as fermentation length, the amount of sugar used, and the temperature during fermentation play a role in the finished kombucha’s flavor spectrum that can land anywhere on a scale of sweet to puckeringly sour. What is always constant, though, is its makeup of living cultures, vitamins, and acids that can help support healthy digestion and increase energy.

Much like in yogurt making, the transformation process of fermentation leaves kombucha loaded with living organisms and active cultures that make it a solid nutritional source. Capable of balancing the good and bad bacteria that flourish in the intestinal tract, kombucha has been hailed as a magical tonic throughout its history. However, due to the conventions of research funding, it has never been studied at length on a scientific level in the United States, making its purported benefits largely anecdotal.



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