While I was already familiar with the basics of Kombucha brewing, the book "Kombucha the Miracle Fungus" by Harald W. Tietze opened a whole new world of possibilities to me.
Apart from enjoying it as a tasty and nutritious beverage there are many other uses to which the liquid as well as the 'fungus' can be applied.
My first blog posts will be kind of a book review, because it was this book which set me on my journey of discovery into the wonderland of Kombucha.
Technically Kombucha is not really a fungus but rather a lichen, a symbiosis between acid producing bacteria and tropical split yeasts. Together the beneficial yeasts and bacteria form a so called 'mother', a gelatin like tough membrane, which always and only grows at the surface of the brew, where it finds oxygen.
Some people refer to it as a SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts.
Since the main objective of Kombucha brewing is to obtain a healthy drink, the plentiful mothers, if not given away, are usually discarded into the compost or fed to the chickens, if these are at hand for consuming them.
Who would have thought, that those tough membranes can be made into a skin rejuvenating face mask? Following the instruction in the book, the fungus "can be transformed in a few seconds into a cream using a conventional kitchen mixer." And further it states: "The cream is acting as a moisturizer utilizing large amounts of living yeast components.
If one considers that the active ingredients in most of the expensive products are yeasts which have been preserved, one could assume that active and living yeasts should have even better success." Wow, that makes a lot of sense!
On further reading I learned that "with shingles, eczema and skin fungi, Kombucha compresses can also be recommended. Hair packs also help to develop stronger and more beautiful hair."
After reading this, I though to myself, if this fantastic cream is so good for skin ailments, why not use it on the scalp as well?
When experimenting with new ideas I'm usually my first own 'human guinea pig'. Because at the time I was suffering from dandruff, it seemed to be a good idea to apply this cream to my scalp, leave it on for 10 minutes and then simply rinse it off with warm water.
But, oh boy! It didn't rinse out! After spending the best part of an hour combing the 'cream' out of my long hair, I eventually decided that after all I didn't need to rush down to the hairdresser to get a pixie cut. Although I had lost a rather big hand full of hair, the remaining hair looked almost normal again.
So please don't try this at home! The creamed culture is excellent for the skin, but you should only ever apply the Kombucha liquid to your hair, never the blended mother, because it sticks to the hair like glue.
And now comes the part that inspired me the most. Somewhere in the book, the author mentions "a hairdresser in Queensland, who had so many good reports from clients using Kombucha that they developed a special Kombucha shampoo." Following was a description of all the beneficial effects that people experienced from the use of this miracle shampoo.
The book had been published in 1996 and I was wondering if this product was still available today. But a search on the internet turned up - nothing.
So I thought to myself, if I can't buy it I have to make it.
Along the way it became clear that it was not so easy to make an all natural shampoo that also really works and stores well without using chemical preservatives.
Some in-depth research into shampoo making, especially into the ingredients that are safe and suitable for natural products was a necessary step for reinventing this forgotten special shampoo that was mentioned in the book.
A local hairdresser who also believes in using natural products helped me to evaluate my different formulations during the trial and error period. What I wanted was a shampoo which was composed in a way that it didn't need any added chemical preservatives. I also wanted it to have the right PH level to be healthy for skin and hair.
After some tinkering and thanks to the very useful feedback from our volunteer 'human guinea pigs', after a while they started saying: " Don't change the recipe anymore! This one works perfectly and it smells so good!"
As it turned out, Kombucha shampoo is not just very effective in doing a fabulous job on the hair, it is also extremely mild so it doesn't even sting in the eyes and especially people with a sensitive scalp have reported very encouraging improvements of their condition.
Apart from hair and skin care, the book describes many more uses for this amazing symbiotic culture, which I will explore in future blog posts.
In closing I want to mention that fortunately this twenty year old book is still available and with Kombucha being more popular than ever, it has to be an invaluable asset to any serious Kombucha fan.
If you are interested, you can find it here: Kombucha the Miracle Fungus