The legacy of kombucha is a passionate and addicted following of healthy individuals whose beneficial experiences with it have motivated them to share this delicious health brew throughout the ages. Kombucha is not a bottle of aspirin. There is no heavy-handed prescription that says, “Take two and your headache will go away.” Kombucha is primarily a food, like yogurt or sauerkraut. As such, its long, successful history of consumption by humans leaves our primary research institutions with no need to delve too deeply into it. However, a search of published scientific papers on kombucha will turn up a respectable showing on the positive effects that kombucha has been shown to have on various diseases. Of particular interest is the substantial and growing body of evidence that kombucha can ameliorate conditions of liver toxicity and exposure to cancer-causing agents. In a world where we are bombarded with carcinogens and toxins from every direction, kombucha looks like it might play the hero’s role in preventing some of that damage.
In addition to studying kombucha at the disease level, several research projects have shed light on the diminutive composition of the finished kombucha ferment. Below we have put together a list of components that have been found in reputable studies of kombucha. Not every kombucha brew is the same; in fact, they can differ widely in composition and even in the species of bacteria and yeasts present. The compounds listed below have been found in a high number of brews tested. Every time we read through this list, we’re so glad to be kombucha drinkers. And we’re glad that we have shared it with the people we love.
After a good chunk of time spent standing over a lab bench observing “life,” we’ve concluded that individual organisms are pretty complex, variable, and unpredictable. Our freaking incredible human bodies are as unique as snowflakes. Find out for yourself what kombucha (and everything else that you eat, drink, breathe, and do) does for you, and find out a little about yourself in the process!
STUDIES SHOW THESE COMPONENTS WILL LIKELY SHOW UP IN YOUR KOMBUCHA
Acetic acid is a powerful antibacterial agent. Acetic acid levels will grow higher as the ferment progresses, making it virtually impossible for non-kombucha microbes to contaminate your brew. It’s also responsible for the vinegar-like flavor that kombucha takes on. Studies have shown that acetic acid can have the profound effect of leveling blood sugar spikes by interfering with the breakdown of starches and sugars.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Aside from water, amino acids in the form of proteins make up the largest portion of the human body. In addition to being necessary for building new, useful proteins, amino acids are also key players in a variety of other pathways in the body. From neurotransmission to metabolism, amino acids are critical little molecules.
B vitamins are known to be of such vital importance that the U.S. government has mandated their inclusion in staple products like bread. The family of B vitamins is diverse and affects all sorts of systems in your body. These B vitamins show up in samples of kombucha:
Vitamin B1, or thiamine, which is used by all living organisms but is made only by plants, bacteria, and fungi. Deficiencies in this nutrient lead to optical, neurological, cardiovascular, and other diseases.
Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, which has been useful in the treatment of migraine headaches and anemia. It is also an essential element in the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins and the production of energy within your body.
Vitamin B3, or niacin, which significantly decreases the risk of heart disease. That’s pretty awesome. Niacin is also helpful in regulating hormones—specifically sex hormones. And you thought it was the alcohol in your kocktail that heightened your mojo!
Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, which is useful in regulating the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol, thus potentially averting cardiac disaster. One version of the vitamin B5 molecule, called pantethine, decreases levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream; those nasty buggers increase your risk of heart disease too.
Vitamin B12, or cyanocobalamin, which has the very important job of being integral to proper cell maintenance, particularly in the blood and nervous system. As such, vitamin B12 can help in the treatment of fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, and anemia.
Butyric acid is made from glucose by several bacterial strains found in kombucha and also in the human gut. This friendly acid has been shown to nourish healthy gut cells while seeking out and destroying colon cancer cells and inflammation in the same breath.
Caprylic acid, or octanoic acid, has been associated with a reduction in high blood pressure and in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. Caprylic acid is also a powerful antimicrobial compound that is used to treat vaginal and other yeast infections like thrush.
Catechins and other polyphenols are found in high concentrations in plants, especially in their leaves. These awesome nutrients prevent oxidation; thus they are antioxidants. Antioxidants have a short life span in your body, so it is good to take them in every few hours to keep up your supply. Another perk of polyphenols? A good amount of evidence shows that catechins and other polyphenols help reduce body fat. Booyah!
Citric acid is naturally found in high concentrations in citrus fruits. Even though it is technically an acid, it functions as an alkalizing agent, restoring balance to overly acidic body fluids such as blood. And as if that wasn’t enough, citric acid is a powerful antioxidant, and it also protects the kidneys by binding and removing excess minerals that can build up in them, such as calcium.
Decanoic acid, or capric acid, is found in tropical oils such as super-healthy virgin coconut oil. It has been shown that capric acid helps improve the ratio of “good” (HDL) cholesterol to “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.
Enzymes are protein molecules that are made from amino acids and serve as catalysts for chemical reactions in the body. For pretty much every chemical reaction that takes place in the body at least one enzyme is involved, and in most cases there are many.
Glucaric acid occurs naturally in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and your body makes a small amount of it. Glucaric acid has been shown to expedite the detoxification of carcinogens, excess hormones, and other toxins from the liver. It’s also currently being investigated for its potential in slowing down or stopping the development of different cancers.
Gluconic acid is a product of the breakdown of glucose by Gluconobacter strains of bacteria that can be found in both your gut and in kombucha. Gluconic acid is thought to interact with butyric acid to improve GI tract health.
Lactic acid is now thought to be purposefully made by muscles during exercise as a highly accessible fuel source to our energy powerhouses, the mitochondria, instead of being a dangerous sign of muscle fatigue, as scientists previously hypothesized. The more fuel mitochondria have, the more work they can do and for longer periods, resulting in improved performance.
Bacteria genera that have been isolated from kombucha samples include Acetobacter, Bacillus, Rothia, and Gluconacetobacter. Specific species isolated from within those categories include Gluconacetobacter xylinus, Gluconacetobacter kombuchae, Acetobacter xylinoides, Acetobacter ketogenum, Acetobacter xylinum, Bacillus megaterium, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, and Rothia dentocariosa.
Vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen in your body, and thus is essential to the healing of wounds, inside and out, and to the maintenance of blood vessels and cartilage. Although most organisms make their own, we are one of the lucky species that don’t. Lucky? Well, not if you’re a pirate and subject to scurvy. But if you have access to vitamin C–containing foods, they are mostly all tangy and delicious. Vitamin C also plays in the big league of disease, as it is gobbled up by immune cells as part of their regiment for fighting infections. It’s a natural antihistamine that dampens inflammation. This little job that vitamin C does on inflammation has positive implications in a variety of diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis, acne, depression, asthma, celiac disease, IBS, and countless others. And vitamin C is also an antioxidant.