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What is kombucha and why is it good for your gut


Who would argue that tea is not good for your health? Tea is, in fact, reported as the oldest medicine in history. Well, there’s something similar that’s even better, kombucha! Join me in this blog post to discover what is it, how is produced, and why is reported to be good for your gut.

Kombucha is a beverage obtained by the fermentation of tea and sugar by a symbiotic association of bacteria and yeasts forming a “tea fungus”. This refreshing beverage tasting like sparkling apple cider is often produced in the home by fermentation using a tea fungus passed from home to home.

homemade kombucha
Kombucha tea. Photo credit: NewsMedical.

It is reported to have originated in China by 220 BC, during the Tsin Dynasty. In 414, Doctor Kombu brought the tea fungus to Japan from Korea to cure the digestive troubles of the Emperor. During this century, it has been introduced into Russia by oriental merchants and then into Eastern Europe and Europe.

Kombucha tea is obtained from a symbiotic culture of acetic acid bacteria (AAB; Komagataeibacter, Gluconobacter, and Acetobacter species), lactic acid bacteria (LAB; Lactobacillus, Lactococcus), and yeasts (Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Saccharomycodes ludwigii, Kloeckera apiculata, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Zygosaccharomyces bailii, Torulaspora delbrueckii, Brettanomyces bruxellensis) in a sweet medium, generally black tea.

Lactic acid bacteria
Lactic acid bacteria. Photo credit: MicrobiologyClass.

I know it might be complex to understand, but be short, kombucha is nothing else than a composition of two phases:

  1. A floating biofilm: Formed due to the activity of certain strains of acetic acid bacteria,
  2. Sour liquid phase: The reason why the liquid is sour has to do with the main components of the solution, which are mainly acetic acid, gluconic acid, and ethanol. The floating biofilm also contains a big amount of these components due to its great water absorption capacity.
Kombucha biofilm
Komucha solid and liquid phase. Photo credit: DriftwoodVegans.

Fermentation has accompanied us since a long time ago, as it’s one of the most antique methods of food preservation. It is also a low-cost energy conservation system, which is essential to ensure the life and safety of food. However, many biochemical changes occur during fermentation and may affect the nutrient compounds and consequently the properties of the final product, like the bioactivity and digestibility.

Changes produced by fermentation are beneficial (usually), but there are also complex to understand.

Several authors have studied the benefits of kombucha tea; however, there is little information on the characterization of its active components, their evolution during fermentation, and their pharmacological activities. Moreover, the influence of fermenters, substrates, metabolites, and their improvements on the organoleptic qualities and fermentation kinetics should be also evaluated.

Some of the claimed beneficial effects of kombucha according to a recent scientific review are shown in the figure below.

Kombucha health benefits list
Reported health benefits of kombucha. PhotoCredit: Wiley.

However, there is still a dispute over the beneficial effects of kombucha drink. There has been no evidence published to date on the biological activities of kombucha in human trials, all the biological activities have been investigated using animal experimental models.

It should be noted that different tea leaf varieties, amounts of sugar, fermentation time, and composition of tea fungus may account for differences in composition and therefore also the biological activities of kombucha tea.

But dear reader, despite kombucha tea cannot be granted official health claims at this time, it can be recognized as an important part of a sound diet! This is because it is known to be a source of pharmacologically active molecules, an important member of the antioxidant food group, and a functional food with potential beneficial health properties. Additionally, research on kombucha demonstrating its beneficial effects and their mechanisms will most likely continue to increase substantially in the next few years. 



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Pedro Rivero

(BSc, PhD)


I am a Food Science PhD candidate wishing to communicate my knowledge in this field through this blog and my social media.

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