Mastering The Art Of Herbal Fermentation

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Fermented foods have been recognised for centuries as healthy and tasty. Beyond that, what do you get in fermenting medicinal herbs? Symbiotic fermentation of botanicals broadens the spectrum of health benefits in comparison to concentrated extracts, increases the bioavailability of active compounds and creates new nutrients that help to support a healthy gut. By Chantale Houle, Kefiplant

Fermented foods have long been an important part of the human diet. Most indigenous cultures from around the world have had fermented food for centuries. Foods such as kombucha, kefir, miso, tempeh, yogurt and sauerkraut are all recognised for their incredible health benefits and distinctive taste.

Although originally used as a method for food preservation, fermentation is a powerful food technology now considered to significantly improve the digestibility and the absorption of the nutrients. Fermentation is a process that both breaks down substances to their more basic constituents and forms new compounds including enzymes, organic acids and antioxidants.

Fermentation occurs under the actions of microorganisms including bacteria and/or yeasts. These microbes can operate in pure culture, or as sometimes observed in nature, in symbiosis occurring when microorganisms cohabit together, each one benefiting from the other’s presence and activities.

Fermenting Botanicals Using A Powerful Symbiosis Of Yeasts & Bacteria

Selena N. B. H.

Symbiosis has been known and used for centuries. It is so powerful that the net effect can be as if a whole new organism or fermenting process has been created with more powerful properties than any isolated microbe can produce on its own.

Herbs have been consumed by humans for at least as long as fermentation. Science has confirmed what ancient civilisations instinctively knew—the health benefits of herbs are real. Of the thousands of plant compounds discovered traditionally, hundreds have since been identified by science and confirmed for their health-giving properties.

The symbiotic fermentation process allows the active compounds from herbs to express their true biological nature. Instead of isolation, extraction or purification, symbiotic fermentation unlocks all the active compounds from each botanical, while preserving them within a whole food matrix. Where chemical or heat extraction seeks to isolate, fermentation seeks to express, create and expand.

With symbiotic fermentation, not only are the active compounds of the herbs released, but a large spectrum of nutrients is also enhanced or created. These vitamins, probiotics, enzymes, organic acids and antioxidants are a further expression of the herb.

Fermenting herbs offers a far more inclusive approach than chemical, alcohol or heat extraction. Harsh chemical solvents and heat fundamentally change an extract, degrading enzymes and beneficial microorganisms. In addition, chemical extraction targets only specific active compounds of the botanical, taking into account only few health benefits and ignoring many other existing active components that could broaden the spectrum of health benefits.

Symbiotic fermentation increases the medicinal potential of the whole plant by naturally increasing their solubility and bioavailability without any solvent except water.

Are botanicals easy to digest?

Most of the molecules in plants are hard to digest because they are linked to a sugar moiety that needs to be removed before they can be absorbed by the body. This is briefly the principle of digestion and the absorption of nutrients that would normally occur in a healthy gastrointestinal tract.

Symbiotic fermented botanicals provide to the body nutrients that are of forms close to how our own gut needs them to be, and are therefore easy to digest and absorb. The optimal way to nourish the body and maintain overall health is to present the body with nutrients within a whole food matrix by the way nature intended.

Because fermented botanicals offer a broad spectrum of nutrients, they create a propitious environment in the gut that contributes to the overall health of the body. General good health is reflected by improved gastrointestinal functions, a detoxified body, an efficient immune system and better resistance to everyday stress.

The following health benefits are achieved when the body is exposed to the synergistic effects of bioavailable phytocompounds from the herb: organic acids, antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, beneficial yeasts and bacteria, as well as all the new nutrients metabolised during and by the fermentation.

Fermented botanicals also contain friendly, transitory microorganisms coming from the symbiotic consortium of yeasts and bacteria, prebiotics (soluble oligosaccharides),organic acids and more. The synergistic effects of the numerous nutrients contained in fermented botanical creates an environment in the gut which encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Regular consumption of fermented botanicals provides transitory microorganisms which furthermore contribute to the health of the gut microbiota.

Using Fermented Botanicals As A Base To Create Functional Beverages

Bases can be created by using living certified organic fermented herb liquids. These are produced by a monitored bioprocess and are used as a base for creating various types of living, stable and functional beverages.

These fermented botanicals add value to drinks since they contain probiotics, enzymes, organic acids, antioxidants and other functional metabolites. Fermentation will also facilitate the assimilation of active compounds from each herb.

Through a controlled fermentation process, fermented botanicals allow the production of living beverages or the pasteurisation of beverages so as to ensure they are of high quality standards and have added benefits. These include stable, non-alcoholic living beverages stored at a cold temperature or stable non-alcoholic pasteurised beverages stored at room temperature. These beverages also possess high levels of nutrients, and allow for extended shelf-life.

By using fermented botanical bases in a beverage, multiple benefits can be attained for manufacturers. For example, companies are now able to produce a living and stable beverage easily, and with a monitored and optimised fermentation, can also guarantee a symbiosis of yeasts and bacteria (active culture) without wild microorganisms contamination or mutation.

Botanical bases offer manufacturers the opportunity to create innovative drinks with more than 30 certified organic fermented herbs, including tea, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, coffee, holy basil, and more. The following are possible applications for fermented botanical bases:

  • Kombucha
  • Fermented raw and living herbal drinks
  • Probiotic sodas
  • Energy and functional drinks
  • Nutritional shots
  • Juices & flavoured waters
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Herbal vinegars
  • Salad Dressings
  • Condiments & marinades
  • Soups & stews
  • Raw foods
  • Yogurts

The Trending Fermented Botanical Beverage: Kombucha

A kombucha drink is an infusion of sweet tea traditionally fermented by a yeast and bacteria symbiosis. Research has shown the drink’s existence for almost 2,000 years, and this drink has survived centuries because of its recognised benefits on the health.

Consumed today for its unique taste, its popularity and its benefits, the drink allows consumers to reconnect with their sources.

The risks associated with the non-controlled fermentation for the beverage’s production can lead to an unbalance or a mutation of the symbiosis of yeasts and bacteria. Stability is therefore essential to ensure an uncontaminated beverage.

Contamination or microbial mutation can cause, among others, an appearance of wild yeasts, bad taste, bad odours and an unwanted high alcohol level in the drink.

Using a kombucha base allows companies to market a kombucha beverage with as much quality as the ancestral beverage. The manufacturing process of the base needs to ensure strict control during the fermentation. This unique quality control can offer a stable product in every production batch.

A good kombucha drink would be one that is produced with a controlled fermentation process that has stabilised the taste and the level of alcohol, along with nutrients and health benefits.

In resume, adding fermented botanicals to drinks or food provides easily digestible nutrients, probiotics and enzymes, and reduces the use of preservative agents while enhancing flavors and aromas and extending the product’s shelf life by reducing oxidation. In addition, fermented beverages contain antimicrobial properties and have no calories.