I received my first batch of kefir grains from my very beautiful Russian friend, Olga. She is 40 going on 30, so I trust what she says. They had been given to her by her mother in Moscow, who is also a devout follower. Apparently they are the true Tibetan Kefir Mushrooms. They look very strange, like someone zapped your head of cauliflower down to Barbie size. But they are soft and spongy, a real live fungus. I was intrigued when she told me about them, and I researched online immediately. After reading up, I was hooked and asked her for a batch. Admittedly, they are a bit gruesome at first, as they are so…alien? Soft white spongy Barbie cauliflowers? Ew. But you get over it. It also tastes great, and is now amazingly my breakfast every day.
Firstly, you do not eat the mushrooms. You add milk to them and within 24 hours it miraculously turns into a thick yogurt drink. It has a slightly sour, almost fizzy taste, like champagned milk. I am allergic to dairy, and although this kefir milk is safe for lactose intolerant people (the mushrooms eat the lactose), I use soy milk anyway and it still works great. You can try online to buy them; there are people out there who do sell them. Kefir mushrooms do grow and once you have one batch it will last forever if you look after them, and then you can give away batches to your friends. Maybe you will get lucky and someone will give them to you.
Kefir mushrooms have a long history and go back thousands of years. It is one of the oldest milk cultures known to mankind. Some say they originate from the mystical Caucasian Mountains, others from Tibet. Apparently, the Tibetan monks used to use them to heal themselves both inside and outside their bodies. Legends have it that it is a fountain of youth, as the people that took the kefir drink would stay slim, young, and healthy for all of their lives. It has been passed on from one generation to the next. It’s the stuff of legends, and makes me think of Lord of the Rings and all the little middle earth people drinking it to start off the day. There is also a great story from the early 1900’s where a beautiful Russian woman, Irina Sakharova, was hired to steal kefir grains from a Caucasian prince, Bek-Mirza Barchorov. She ended up being the first person to bring kefir grains into Russia. At the age of 85, Irina received a letter from the Minister of the Food Industry of the USSR, expressing his gratitude for her primary role of bringing kefir to the Russian people.
Apparently in the 70’s microbiologists began researching the grain and could not find its true original source. Eventually they arrived at the door of the Tibetan monarchs, and according to them, they were ”a gift from God provided over 1,000 years ago”.
Then in the 90’s, it became popular again in our culture, particularly in Russia after some very interesting information was published about lactic acid bacteria and fermented milk products. Kefir is a favorite beverage there, and their hospitals have been treating conditions such as cancer, tuberculosis, and digestive disorders since the early 1900’s with the stuff (thanks to Irina!).
The French caught on and started treating their patients with kefir milk who had tuberculosis as well. Then the Americans started drinking kefirs in teas and fermented drinks (mostly from water kefir grains, which is very similar), and is now almost a cult like health product amongst the “in the know”. I was in Munich about two years ago, and my 14 teen year old buddy bought a bottle of fermented tea at a Starbucks, exclaiming how good it was for you. Word has definitely spread.
So What Is Kefir?
Kefir mushrooms are small grains; the size of wheat kernels, and the kefir milk is made by the fermentation process of the contact between the milk and the mushrooms. It is a rich, creamy, delicious drink that is really in truly a nutritious treat. On top of all that, there are many live probiotic micro-organisms that are produced during this process, which continue to stay alive and colonize in your digestive track, adhering to your intestines. They help your body fight disease and aid in digestion. These organisms produce lactic and acetic acid, as well as many other beneficial other by-products. Most other cultured milk products, like yoghurt, typically have only one and up to three maximum of these organisms, and this is what makes kefir the standout as it is so abundant in enzymes.
Check out these links for further in depth study:
- This man, Dom, is the Internet king of info on all things kefir:
What Are The Benefits?
I personally have seen a lot of positive changes within my own use. I cannot, obviously, see what’s going down inside my body, but I have noticed a few improvements overall. The general health of my skin, particularly on my face, has improved a lot. The texture is softer, more even colored, and younger looking. My friend Olga also commented to me that her mother uses the stuff on her face to push off age and cure acne, and after my online research I decided to give that a go as well. I started to add it into my masks and I have to admit my skin has improved pretty dramatically. Also, I have always experienced an extreme sensitivity to the digestion of many foods, and I no longer experience this any more. Almost never, which makes my life a lot more comfortable. I also have a family history of cancer and I am hoping from all that I have read that I am getting serious preventative points by my daily drinking (ehmm…of kefir). Now lets get to the facts.
Studies show that by drinking kefir milk you reduce the chances of many harmful diseases and disorders. There is a massive list but I will name a few here. Mice studies done in Japan and China (according to Dom, the Kefir God of the internet) reduced the size of tumors by inducing a specific immune response in the mice, as well reducing breast cancer cells and restoring these mutations back to its healthy state. It has been used to treat Tuberculosis for over a hundred years. Similar studies showed it reduced cholesterol and constipation, as it restores the intestinal flora. When you are treated with antibiotics, for example, a lot of this flora is destroyed. Hence why people take probiotics. Kefir is really the mega watt probiotic if you think about it. When this flora is destroyed people suffer from yeast infections and in some cases, it can turn into Candida. The enzymes in kefir wipe out Candida in its entirety, restoring the healthy bacteria in your intestines and bringing your body back into balance. Disease only starts when your body is out of balance, so it is very important to keep this in check.
Modern diets lack in fermented foods, besides perhaps the occasional alcoholic beverage. But it is the fermented foods that are the secret to perfect nutrition. These enzymes metabolize all kinds of things for our bodies, which result in nutrient assimilation, the transformation of cells, elemental transmutations, and plant and animal metamorphoses. If your body has any type of disease, the kefir will aid in the restoration of the tissues to a healthier state. Every living cell needs enzymes to help its monumental work of transmuting metabolic energy conversions. The kefir is the perfect partner to do so. Therefore, kefir is the key to long lasting health in so many areas of your body. Not to mention, it is really tasty, obviously incredibly good for you, and perhaps one the most preventative health measure one can take.
How Do I Take Care Of My Kefir Grains?
First off, these little nuggets do not like metal. So you will need to keep them away from metal spoons when pressing the kefir off into a strainer. It takes about 24 hours for the milk to ferment, and you need to keep them in a glass or plastic jar in cool, dry, dark place. Your milk will amazingly become a little solid during this time, almost like liquid yoghurt. Do not put a lid on your jar when storing it as the mushrooms need to breathe, so just use some cheese cloth or a paper towel over the top and rubber band it. After the 24 hours, get a plastic strainer and press the thickened liquid over the strainer, whilst very gently pressing the mushrooms. Carefully pour your mushrooms back into the jar and cover with more milk and put back into its ”cave” (I use my spice cabinet). I simply add a teaspoon of vanilla and some agave and drink. You can also add it to smoothies or make it savory with some cumin and sprinkle of salt. If you go out of town, simply put the jar in the back of the fridge and the cold temperature will stop the fermentation process and halt the growing. Delicious inside and out.