The Weston A. Price Way

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kombucha! What It Is, Why It's Good and How to Make Yours (PART 1)

Due to reader interest, I will write a series of posts on the greater, health-supporting beverages out there that so few know about. They are all, however, gaining in popularity with kombucha and dairy kefir possibly at the top of the list.

So, let's get right to it.

Why is kombucha good for you? Acids...acetic, lactic and especially, glucouronic. It's the juice the liver pumps out as it detoxifies the blood. Generally, we are born with enough. We are born with livers in good shape so it's producing plenty of quality glucouronic acid right along, as needed, no thought necessary.

But we grow from babes into contemporary humans, eating poorly, stressing, succumbing to anger-all huge factors in ill liver health. In response, the liver works overtime in an effort to deal with everything we throw at it and eventually, begins to get a little tired. The more tired it gets, the less quality its juice. Being fearfully and wonderfully made, other organs kick in where the liver tires, our adrenals and thyroid at the forefront of the battlefield. When they also begin to tire, we start to take notice because our bodies send out a multitude of obvious signals in an effort to shake us into the realization that it's broken.

Kombucha is one of the first changes we made in our journey towards better health and it has become a staple in our household.

Let's talk about glucouronic acid: This is the powerful substance the liver produces that cleanses toxins. It doesn't matter where the toxins originate, this is the liver's job and even when conditions aren't pristine, it is such a workhorse that it plows ahead anyway. But as I said earlier, it can get tired...overloaded by environmental toxins, toxins consumed via processed foods, the natural toxins occurring within the body or the combination of all these.

This is where the miracle of kombucha enters. The kombucha scoby will grow to fit within its container's shape. That is why it had a rectangular shape in my last post. It thickens in a short amount of time and can be pulled apart to save in the fridge and later start a new batch, give to friends, or add to the compost pile.
It is usually tan in color and smooth in texture.

The kombucha scoby itself is actually a type of fungus, (hence the nickname, 'mushroom')...a "symbiotic colony of [beneficial] yeast and [beneficial] bacteria", according to Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, and Wardeh Harmon, instructor/producer of the online traditional cooking class and blog, "GNOWFGLINS". By itself, as far as I know, it's rather unimpressive, except that I have been told it's a great addition to the compost pile. But in conjunction with organic tea, sugar...(Not honey, and best not to use refined sugar, but, yes, sugar!), and releases its goodness and literally transforms every day sweet tea into an elixir of health.

All living things eat and eliminate. Worms eat and leave behind good dirt. Kombucha scobies eat sugar and leave behind glucouronic acid. So, by the time your kombucha scoby has done it's job, initially taking seven to as much as fourteen days, you have a 'potion' so strong, it's been proven to protect the body from cancer and other degenerative diseases. It aides the liver in detoxing our bodies and obviously lends a great boost to the immune system. In fact, it does such a good job, that some people have a detox reaction* from taking it. If this happens, the best thing to do is take beet kvass for a few weeks and try again, but at a slower pace!

This beverage is so refreshing as it is slightly, naturally carbonated. Not the fat bubbles of artificial carbonation, but fine, fizzy bubbles that are pleasantly there and gone. The taste should be just slightly sweet, although many swear that the more vinegary it is, the better it is for you, but we don't want to take it so much as a tonic, as we do beet kvass. Rather, we want to savor it's unique slightly sweet, slightly tart flavor as we sit on the deck after a hot day's work-whether over a stove or over a yard rake. The look is an amber to darker brown, depending on which type of sugar is used.

Kombucha can also be flavored. If you like chai teas, for example, you can use those teas as your base. Just be sure the tea is black and organic. I will talk more about that in another post when I give instructions on how to make and maintain your kombucha brew. (You could just buy it in the store to the tune of about $4.00 a bottle, but I warn will not taste as good, so you won't be getting a fair representative of it's true taste.)

I won't ignore the ingredients of the final brew. It's made from tea, so there is some caffeine. It's made from sugar, and although it is drastically eliminated, some still remains. It has yeast, though not in the form we are familiar with. Also, the process leaves behind approximately 0.05%, (that's five-hundredths of one percent), alcohol. To me this is minuscule, and hardly worth discussion, remember, the end result is a detoxifier.

Furthermore, I know that the precepts taught in Nourishing Traditions are the teachings and research of food purists. The writer is a firm, outspoken advocate of eating with a heart of forgiveness. These folks are the 'pure of the pure' when it comes to food...from the way the farm grows it to the way it's prepared for consumption. They do not advocate alcohol, yeast or sugar and even laugh at themselves because they know it 'looks funny' for them to so strongly recommend this beverage. But in this case, the end does justify the means.

And just in case you are still wondering about that, in the next post, I will give you some amazing testimonies and facts.

*Possible 'detox' symptoms as your body loses toxins:

Stomach discomfort/gas:
All those beneficial yeasts and bacteria are making themselves at home in your intestinal track which is supposed to be filled with these friends but in many cases, they have been obliterated by processed and refined foods and sugars, antibiotics, etc. Your intestines need time to get used to sharing space with the good guys. As a preventative measure, start with 2-4 ounces once a day, move to 4 ounces twice a day, then more as you feel it's OK. (Listen to your body!)

Old Ailments:
This one reminds me of the Scripture that talks about the old man rearing his head...Sometimes, when we have conquered old symptoms, detoxing our bodies will bring them out again. Weird but true. If you start feeling old ailments, allergic symptoms, etc, do the same as above. Nix the kombucha for a while, take beet kvass as a tonic and when the symptoms have totally faded, start again, but as above.

Final Note: The only side-effect, between my husband and myself, that has occurred has been with me, and I have to admit, I think I was probably drinking too much too fast. Wardeh Harmon of GNOWFGLINS recommends a cup a day of a similar beverage, water kefir, when pregnant or nursing. I would think no more than this of the kombucha would be a good place to start. My symptom dealt with the caffeine. I have cystic fibroids, which had not bothered me since I began to change my eating habits and rather than caffeine being a daily habit, it became a rare consumption. But I believe the caffeine in the kombucha set them off. I backed off the kombucha and they, and their pain, went away. Now I won't allow myself more than one refreshing glass per day. -No more problems, but definitely good benefits!

*THIS EXCERPT, written by Tom Valentine, is the BEST overall information I have found about kombucha. I am adding it to all my pages re: kombucha.

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