It is said that Qin Chi Huangdi, the first emperor of unified China, was obsessed with becoming immortal. For this reason, it is said, he visited the island of Zhifu three times, where, according to tradition, the mountain of immortality stood. But his search for eternal life also led Quin Chi Huangdi to an alchemist who prepared for the emperor a special drink, dark in appearance and slightly sparkling, which the emperor loved right away, kombucha tea. Unfortunately, however, the search for eternal life did not have an equally favorable outcome as the emperor's doctors prepared tablets that accidentally contained mercury and that poisoned Qin Chi Huangdi. Fortunately, however, kombucha tea gained fame and appreciation right up to the present day. Now this tea can be found almost everywhere, even in the supermarket, and several scientific studies have been dedicated to verifying its properties. But let's go deeper!
Kombucha, what is that?
Kombucha tea is a tea, generally black tea but green or red tea can also be used, which undergoes fermentation by a culture of bacteria and yeasts, called Scoby, in the presence of sugar. The drink is slightly effervescent and has a sour taste.
Kombucha provides mineral salts, such as potassium and magnesium, and vitamins, such as E, K and B. Not only that, kombucha proves to be a powerful hepatoprotector, helping to detoxify the liver. But kombucha tea is also characterized by another, very important aspect. This drink has in fact been shown to counteract the action of free radicals and degenerative processes affecting cells, and therefore tumors, since fermentation significantly increases the content of polyphenols and flavonoids present in tea (Jakubczyk et al, ANtioxidants, 2020). Kombucha helps reduce blood pressure, counteracts high blood sugar levels and overweight linked to diabetes, but also hypercholesterolemia (Dimidi et al, Nutrients, 2019). Nowadays little is known about the properties of kombucha on the health of the stomach and intestines but it is assumed that kombucha is a probiotic drink, capable of providing live organisms and balancing the action of the microbiota with benefits on the whole organism and on the immune system, especially for the purpose of reducing upper respiratory tract infection (Antunes et al, Food Res Int, 2020).
Kombucha and contraindications
It is always better to buy ready-made kombucha because the production process is delicate and, if done at home, can lead to errors and excessive alcoholic presence. Avoid in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Sometimes, in predisposed people, it can cause nausea and dizziness (Mousavi et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2020).
Better kombucha or kefir?
While kombucha is fermented tea, kefir is fermented milk, although it is possible to find kefir obtained from the fermentation of sugared water. Kefir is better known than kombucha and that is why there are more scientific studies on its properties. In particular, it has been observed that kefir is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor and is capable of reducing blood sugar and cholesterol, properties that make it resemble kombucha. However, something more is known about kefir. Unlike kombucha, in fact, there are studies on its properties at the gastrointestinal level. So, if with regard to kombucha one can only hypothesize, probably rightly, its ability to protect the microbiota and consequently also our defenses, on kefir there is certain evidence of its immunomodulating action (de Wouw et al, Microbiome, 2020 ). It has also been shown that kefir, thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, can help reduce an excessive response from the immune system, a condition that could lead to severe courses just as is being observed in the case of the novel coronavirus (Hamida et al. , Biomed Pharmacother, 2021). Finally, kefir is beneficial in improving digestion in case of lactose malabsorption, resulting in general well tolerated, and in allowing the eradication of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial infection that can cause gastritis but also stomach ulcers (Dimidi et al , Nutrients, 2019).