You may have seen a beverage at your local natural foods store called kombucha (kombucha tea). The benefits of kombucha tea are many and include everything from better gut health to preventing cancer. While this fizzy drink can be made at home, be cautious about trying out this popular health trend, as there are side effects to be aware of too.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea, made with either black or green tea that’s been treated with a generous dose of sugar and scoby, a combination of yeast and bacteria. The scoby eats the sugar and turns the tea into a fizzy probiotic that boasts many health benefits.
Benefits of Kombucha
Advocates of the tea have claimed the following health benefits:
1. Aids digestion
The tea is a great source of probiotics, which are good bacteria that keep the gut healthy and help metabolize food.
2. Protects against cancer
Because the tea has a ton of glucaric acid and antioxidants, oxygen free radicals (like the ones present in the case of cancer) are neutralized and repaired.
3. Protects against cardiovascular disease
In general, green tea drinkers have a 31% lower risk of developing heart disease, so drinking kombucha made with green tea can be an effective way to protect yourself from cardiovascular disease.
4. Manages diabetes
It’s been found that kombucha can actually slow down the digestion of carbs, which reduces blood sugar levels and assists in managing diabetes.
5. Maintains a healthy liver
The glucaric acid in the tea is a great detoxifier because it binds to toxins in the body and eliminates them through the kidneys. This in effect reduces the cleansing burden that typically falls on the liver and pancreas.
How Much Kombucha Should You Drink
While there aren’t any strict guidelines about how much you should be drinking, it’s typically best to start out with a small amount your first time. Most professionals agree that consumption should be limited to around 8 oz. a day, but any adverse effects and dietary guidelines are specific to each individual’s body.
Is Kombucha Alcoholic?
While the tea isn’t something you may normally order at the bar, many of the brands in the store do contain trace amounts of alcohol ranging from .5% to 2.5%, depending on the fermentation process and the particular brand’s recipe.
Side Effects of Kombucha
The popular tea has definitely been controversial, in both the health benefits it claims and the evidence used as the basis of those claims. While scientists agree that the tea may have probiotic benefits similar to other fermented foods, they argue that much of the evidence is based on minimal research and studies that have been conducted on lab rats (rather than humans).
Some side effects reported include:
- Stomach upset
- Gas and bloating
- Allergic reactions
- Metabolic acidosis (excessive acid build up)
If you would like to try kombucha tea, it’s probably best to buy a store-bought brand with positive reviews. One of the more adverse effects of this tea has been linked to home-brewed versions, where food safety is an issue due to the live yeast and bacteria that is being handled.
Where to Find Kombucha
The tea can be found anywhere from natural food stores to online sites. If you can’t find it on the shelf or the fridge aisle, then you may want to check the aisle where alcoholic beverages are stored. Because some brands contain amounts of alcohol that are greater than .5%, they need to be stocked in the designated alcohol section of the store.
DIY Kombucha Recipe
If you are adamant about making your own home-brewed version and are okay with the possible risks, then here is a recipe you can try at home.
It’s recommended that you always practice food safety and abide by food handling rules when making your own kombucha tea. Avoid using ceramic pots to brew your tea as there have been cases of improperly manufactured ones that have caused lead poisoning (the acids in the tea can leach lead from the ceramic glaze).
- 1 kombucha scoby (you can find this online or get one from another home-brewer)
- 16 cups filtered water
- 8-10 organic black tea bags (must be caffeinated)
- 1 cup organic turbinado sugar
- Warm up half of the water in a large pot over high heat. Add the tea bags in and let them steep for half an hour. Once steeped, remove the tea bags and add the sugar; mix until dissolved.
- Add the remaining water and stir to combine. Once the tea has reached room temperature, pour the tea into a large, clean, glass jar. Place the scoby in the jar.
- Cover the top of the jar with a piece of clean fabric and secure in place using a rubber band around the neck of the jar. Place the jar in a dark area that has no direct sunlight and has controlled warm temperature.
- Let the kombucha ferment for 7 days. At that point, you can taste-test the kombucha for fizziness. If you want it fizzier, ferment for a few more days. Once it’s to your liking, bottle it up in glass jars and refrigerate. You can store the scoby in a little bit of kombucha in a separately sealed jar in the fridge until you’re ready to brew again.