Greetings Dear Readers,
Kombucha is a raw, living, fizzy sweet tea drink prized for its numerous health benefits. The earliest record of its use dates back to China’s Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC) where it was given names such as “The Tea of Immortality” and “Stomach Treasure”. It was later brought to Russia and Europe by travelers in the 20th century when it started to re-emerge in popularity after a disappearance during the sugar and tea rationing of World War II. Many people discovering kombucha, myself included, feel so good after drinking it that it quickly turns into a daily habit. Kombucha drinkers report many benefits from much increased energy, immunity to colds and flus to excellent digestion and even increased hair growth. Why is that? Well, here is some of what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has to say about kombucha.
It Detoxes the Liver
One of the main patterns seen by TCM acupuncturists in the modern world is a pattern called “Liver Qi Stagnation”. This means that the Liver energy is clogged, over-heated and excessive (although sometimes deficient) most often due to emotional stress and poor eating habits. Kombucha has a number of properties that make it an excellent remedy for the Liver system. TCM considers kombucha to be sour, bitter and warming. The sour flavour in TCM herbology and nutrition is used to cleanse the Liver and Gall Baldder. Similarly, Western science has identified a number of naturally occuring acids (think sour) in kombucha such as glucoronic acid which benefit the liver and have been found to prevent the build up of toxins in the tissues. These healthy acids have a similar effect as lemons which are acidic before being ingested but are transformed inside the body and in the end leave the body more alkaline, i.e. healthy. Kombucha’s bitter properties mean that it has the ability to improve circulation, reduce inflammation and clear toxins from the body. The bitter flavour in TCM also has the ability to prevent infection and prevent tumors.
Kombucha Tea Improves Digestion
Kombucha supports the “Middle Burner Qi”, meaning the proper functioning of the Spleen and Stomach systems. The stomach’s job is to break down food. The Spleen system also has many jobs including extracting nutrients from the food to support the production of blood. When the Spleen system is “deficient” there are often sugar cravings. It’s interesting to note that fermented foods, including kombucha, actually work to reduce sugar cravings. Raw kombucha is probiotic containing live beneficial bacterial cultures which support the breakdown of food and digestion (for the full beneficial effects, always check that store-bought kombucha is truly raw – read labels and check for strands of the culture in the glass).
Being warming in its thermal nature (click here and scroll down to see my Thermal Nature of Foods Chart), kombucha helps the Spleen system which prefers Yang (warming) food and drink. The Spleen system is often weak because of the Liver imbalances where the over-burdened Liver “attacks” the Spleen. So kombucha tea helps both organ systems. Warming food and drinks such as kombucha also help those is transition from a more meat and dairy type diet which is more warm to a vegan or raw vegan diet which is more cooling. The effervescent quality of the drink resembles soda pop and is used by many to overcome the craving for pop drinks. It is a sweet-tasting drink but the sugar content is very low (7 grams per 250mL).
When the energy of the Spleen and Stomach improves, the side-effect is better immunity. In TCM, immunity relates to the Metal element which governs the Lungs. In the Five-Element cycle, The Earth element (Spleen and Stomach) is the “mother” of Metal (Lungs and Large Intestine). So when the Spleen and Stomach are healthier and stronger, they send their extra energy to nourish the Lungs to build “Defensive Qi” to fight off external pathogens such as colds and flus.
Kombucha improves Stomach Acid and Nutrition
While the body does need alkaline reserves, some areas of the body do need to be acidic to do their job. One such is the stomach lining which needs to have a pH of around 2-3.5 in order to be able to break down food. If Stomach acid is weak or lacking (which happens quite frequently in the modern age because of adrenal stress – the fight or flight response shuts down digestion) the result is poor absorption of nutrients causing malnutrition. Yes, this means that even if you are eating amazingly fresh, organic tree-ripened foods, if your stomach doesn’t have the acids to break it down enough to extract the nutrients, you will be malnourished. It’s not just what you eat, it’s what you absorb. Kombucha to the rescue! Kombucha has been found to contain seven plant acids as well as various B vitamins, vitamin C, enzymes and amino acids. These plant acids increase the acidity of your stomach lining which gives your stomach the ability to break down food. The improved Spleen and Stomach function from this drink results in improved athletic performance (the Spleen governs muscle tissue in TCM) as well as mental ability (the Spleen governs the intellect in TCM). People have also reported increased hair growth which would be because of improved nutrient absorption.
Resolves Dampness and Phlegm (AKA Tumors and Cancer)
Dampness and Phlegm are TCM terms used to describe a Yin pathogen that shows up as discharges such as excessive vaginal discharge (leukorrhea), excessive nasal mucous (rhinitis), productive cough, watery swellings, wheeping discharges from the skin, and excess body fat. When pathogenic Dampness has been in the body for too long, it becomes hardened by the natural heat of the body and becomes Phlegm which appears as hardened nodules, lumps or tumors. Dampness and Phlegm produce stagnation in the body. Kombucha, which has similar properties to vinegar in TCM, is used to remove stagnation by moving Qi and Blood. For this reason kombucha has been used traditionally for cancer patients – by increasing the Qi flow, the body can resolve the dampness and phlegm. According to the ancient axiom in TCM, where there is Qi (energy) flow there is health, harmony, where there is no Qi flow there is pain, disease.
**Please note: If you are a child, are pregnant, have a compromised immune system, or have kidney disease, it may be advisable to talk with your doctor before beginning to drink kombucha, especially if you are doing a home-brew. Kombucha can cause the body to detoxify strongly and pregnancy is not the time to begin to detox. If you have been a regular kombucha drinker before becoming pregnant than drinking kombucha while pregnant should not be a concern, however starting to drink kombucha after becoming pregnant is not advisable.
Have you tried kombucha yet?
Love to hear your comments and questions.
Yours in health,