Kombucha Benefits For Cognition


Fact Checked

Written by James Dixon

Ever heard of kombucha? Here, we take a look at the kombucha benefits for cognition, studying what it can do for your cognitive ability, brain health, gut health and more, as well as some key information for you to consider.

Kombucha offers plenty of well-known benefits. It can bolster gut health and immune function whilst also aiding in what many might call ‘detoxification’ – a nebulous term that broadly encapsulates the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, generally through the liver.

But there are some possible added benefits on offer, notably for cognition. It includes plenty of antioxidants, such as polyphenols and vitamin C, which may provide some tremendous knock-on advantages for your cognitive health. It’s also known for its ability to boost gut health, which may well benefit the gut-brain axis.

However, the science is young. There is limited data available to speak with any certainty. So, how far can we take this – to what degree can we really claim that kombucha offers benefits for cognition?

What is kombucha?

Kombucha in a jar and labelled

Kombucha is a fermented drink whose popularity has exploded over the last few years. It’s made from sweetened tea, often using black or green tea as a base.

These are fermented using a combination of yeast and bacteria, and this fermentation leads to lactic acid formation and the production of probiotics. This in turn gives kombucha its characteristic tangy flavor and its gut health benefits.

Kombucha is loaded with beneficial organic acids, antioxidants, and vitamins, including acetic acid, glucuronic acid, catechins, polyphenols, and vitamin C. Some of these compounds may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, potentially benefiting overall health. Plenty of these will also feed into kombucha’s potential cognitive benefits.

The exact origins of kombucha are unclear, but it is believed to have originated in China or Russia over 2,000 years ago. Nowadays it represents a growing market and a variety of brands and flavors available pretty much everywhere.

Exploring the potential cognitive benefits of kombucha

While scientific research on the cognitive effects of kombucha is still limited, several studies have looked into its potential impact on general health and wellbeing, which indirectly affect cognition.

Antioxidants form a cornerstone of this. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation.

Chronic oxidative stress and inflammation are associated with cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. The presence of antioxidants in kombucha, such as polyphenols and vitamin C, suggests a potential protective effect on the brain.

Some animal and test-tube studies have demonstrated kombucha’s neuroprotective effects. For example, a study conducted on mice found that kombucha consumption reduced brain inflammation and oxidative stress markers, leading to improved spatial memory and learning abilities.

Another test-tube study showed that kombucha extract had a protective effect on nerve cells and enhanced their viability against oxidative damage.

Gut health has been linked to brain health in the strongest possible way – it’s one of the most revolutionary discoveries in recent years. This is where kombucha really shines – it’s known for its probiotic effects.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support a healthy gut microbiome. Emerging research suggests a connection between gut microbiota and cognitive function, mood, and behavior.

It is important to note, however, that more human studies are needed to draw definitive conclusions with regard to kombucha’s cognitive benefits. The existing research provides promising insights into its potential effects on cognitive health indirectly through its antioxidant content and potential probiotic properties.

The Role Of B vitamins in cognitive function & brain health

vitamin b symbol in circle

B vitamins play a very important role in maintaining brain health and supporting cognitive function. And, happily, kombucha is a rich source of B vitamins, adding to its potential to benefit cognitive health.

For example, kombucha gives you plenty of vitamin B12, which is involved in red blood cell production and nervous system maintenance.

It also plays a central role in cognitive functioning, including memory and learning abilities. Studies have suggested that vitamin B12 deficiency may be a leading factor in cognitive decline and might even increase the risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

B6 is also important. It’s crucial for neurotransmitter synthesis and metabolism. Neurotransmitters are chemicals responsible for transmitting signals in the brain. Adequate levels of vitamin B6 are necessary for optimal brain function and cognitive processes, including mood regulation and memory formation. And, happily, you get plenty in kombucha.

Then there are thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and niacin (vitamin B3), all also present in kombucha. These three are all involved in energy production – optimal energy metabolism in the brain is fundamental for its overall function, including cognitive processes. They also all play a role in maintaining a healthy nervous system.

This B vitamin richness suggests a potential positive impact on brain health and cognitive function for kombucha. However, it is important to note that the bioavailability of these vitamins and their absorption from kombucha may vary among individuals.

Also, kombucha may not be the best source of B vitamins. A balanced diet including food sources rich in B vitamins, like fish, meats, eggs, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables, are the best bet for optimal cognitive health. And a simple, cheap vitamin B complex from your local drugstore may also be a good shout.

Antioxidants in kombucha

Kombucha is rich in antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin C. These both play significant roles in supporting brain health and potentially enhancing cognitive performance.

As these compounds are known for their ability to combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, they may go a long way to keeping your brain healthy and young. Both combatting oxidative stress and reducing inflammation are essential factors in maintaining optimal brain function.

We see oxidative stress occurring when the volume of free radicals and antioxidants in the body is out of balance. A high free radical output will lead to oxidative damage, which can be particularly bad for the brain, which is highly susceptible to it due to its high metabolic rate and lipid-rich composition.

Therefore, the brain can benefit from the antioxidant properties of compounds found in kombucha in a particularly profound way.

You get a lot of antioxidant polyphenols in kombucha, too. These have been associated with various health benefits, including neuroprotective properties. Studies suggest that polyphenols can help to protect neurons from oxidative damage whilst also promoting new brain cell growth and bolstering cognitive function. These benefits may come together to offer enhanced learning, memory, and overall brain health.

Kombucha is a good source of vitamin C, another potent antioxidant. It’s vital for the brain’s health and cognitive performance. It plays a vital role in protecting brain cells from oxidative stress, supporting neurotransmitter synthesis, and enhancing cognitive functions, including the likes of memory and concentration.

Kombucha & mental clarity

digital image of brain and heart organ representing gut-brain axis

Kombucha contains a small amount of caffeine. This should lead to a bit of a buzz, a bit of extra energy. It may also indirectly contribute to improved focus and mental clarity.

Caffeine has well-known effects on alertness and cognitive performance. It stimulates the central nervous system, increasing the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, which can improve mental focus and attention.

It isn’t just caffeine that might help, though. Kombucha is often fermented using bacteria and yeast, which means that it contains live probiotics.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support a healthy gut microbiota, and emerging research suggests that gut health may play a role in cognitive function and mental clarity.

Studies have shown that the gut microbiome communicates bidirectionally with the brain, influencing cognitive processes and mood. While the specific effects of kombucha’s probiotics on mental clarity and focus could do with a bit more investigation, maintaining a healthy gut microbiota is one of the best-known ways of contributing to overall cognitive wellbeing.

Do note, though, that the caffeine content in kombucha will vary, so double-check the brand you’re drinking to see how much it consumes.

Taking kombucha

This is all pretty promising – it may mean a great deal to anybody looking to enhance their cognitive function and overall wellbeing. Kombucha may be just what you need.

There are a few things in mind, however.

Firstly, kombucha may not be the best way to boost your cognition and brain health. Rather, a good nootropic possibly mixed with a good probiotic or greens powder may do a lot more for you. The benefits for cognition and gut health will likely be far greater than kombucha can offer.

Secondly, kombucha isn’t a single recipe, but rather any drink that comes from a particular brewing process. Therefore, results and benefits are highly, highly variable.

Make sure that you’re getting the good stuff. Where you can, opt for reputable brands that prioritize quality and adhere to proper brewing and fermentation processes.

Look for organic or raw varieties to ensure the highest levels of beneficial compounds and live probiotics. And check things like caffeine content before diving in – this is particularly important for anybody with any kind of caffeine sensitivity at play.

Excessive kombucha consumption can also come with some pretty unpleasant side effects. Most notably, it can lead to side effects like gas, bloating, and digestive discomfort. Moderate your intake. Start with small amounts, just a few ounces per day, and see how your body responds to it before adding in more. Adjust the amount based on your tolerance and preferences.

Don’t rely on it, either. It won’t overcome the effects of a bad diet if you’re looking at ways to boost your gut health.

Rather, try to combine it with a varied, healthy diet, rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. A healthy lifestyle involves more than just one supplement or drink. Prioritize regular exercise, proper sleep, stress management, and mental wellness to support cognitive function and overall wellbeing.

And always, always speak to your healthcare provider before beginning any new supplement regime or incorporating anything new into your diet if you have any concerns. If you’re worried about it, suffer with any pre-existing medical concerns, or are on any pre-existing medical regime, this is very, very important.