Health Benefits of Kefir Water and Kefir Milk From the Mystical Kefir Grains
My first kefir encounter
My family has been drinking kefir water for a few years now but, at first, I never really bothered to find out the real story about these mystical kefir grains. My mother, who brought the first kefir grains into our kitchen sometime in 2007, told us that the extracts from these small translucent and gelatinous granules have cured a family friend who has been suffering from chronic kidney disease. My mother farmed the few grains in her kitchen, fermenting them in water and sugar, and we were all amazed to see that the grains have multiplied day after day. The kefir water produced from this process is supposed to be a powerful health drink that brings many wonderful health benefits to the body.
During this time, I would occasionally drink a glass of kefir water and thought that it soothed my work-tired nerves and muscles and gave me a restful sleep at night, when I used to be suffering from chronic insomnia in the past. For a while, it became my ritual to drink kefir water just before bedtime—until I moved to work in another city, far from my mother’s house—and I momentarily forgot about the sacred kefir grains and the powerful kefir water.
Back in my hometown, the few grains in my mother’s kitchen continued to multiply, filling up more jars and bottles. My mother started giving out kefir grains to neighbours and friends. She gave some grains to my mother-in-law who was then frequently having seizures and going in and out of the hospital due to a growing brain tumor. Surprisingly, she has not had any seizure within almost one year of drinking kefir water. But then one day she stopped cultivating her grains and months after the seizures are back. (She was hospitalized for two weeks last December where my wife’s family spent Christmas with her). Today, she is cultivating her new batch of kefir grains.
I was reunited with the mystical kefir grains when I recently spent Christmas vacation in my mother’s lovely house. For two years that I have not been drinking kefir water, I have been intermittently taking sleeping pills to cope with the insomnia which has returned a while after I stopped drinking kefir water. So when I left my mother’s house to return to my work in the big city, she sweetly tucked a bottle of dried kefir grains in my luggage along with her goodbye kiss. Now, after a stressful day at the office, I take extra time in my own kitchen tending my kefir grains and enjoying a glass or two of the mysterious kefir water just before hitting my bed for long goodnight sleep!
Looking at the gelatinous grains that have started occupying empty jars and bottles in my kitchen, I started to wonder where these grains came from and what else they could do aside from giving me a restful sleep, or healing a neighbor’s troublesome kidney or easing my mother-in-law’s battle against brain tumor? I made a mental note to search the internet about kefir grains but somehow I always forgot to do it as the ending list of things to do in the office completely overwhelms my whole day at work. And then last Saturday (15 January 2010), when I was searching topics for my recently found writing hobby in HubPages, I finally got the chance to write the mysterious word “kefir” in Google’s search pane. And Alas! My mystifying discovery amazed me all the more! And made me realized I should have done this research three years ago when we first have our kefir grains. I was such a big idiot!
Kefir – getting to know more about its mystifying origin
What started as a simple search, mainly out of curiosity, on the word “kefir” eventually turned page after page of internet discussion about these mysterious grains, or more appropriately granules because they really are not like cereal grains. And I was surprised to learn that those granules now perpetuating in my kitchen are actually a priced possession of ancient tribes some 1000 years ago in the Caucasus Mountains. (These mountain ranges are found in Eurasia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea which form a dividing line between Europe and Asia). It has been told that the Caucasus shepherds zealously guarded their family’s stock of kefir, even at the cost of their own lives, because they believe that possession of kefir grains is a symbol of wealth. Since kefir grains are perpetually reproducing, the grains are handed down from generation to generation until the present where they are spread all over.
Kefir came from a Turkish word keif which means “good feeling”. And it makes perfect sense because kefir really brings numerous health benefits to your body inside out. The original Caucasus tribes, who drink kefir milk as part of their tradition and lifestyle, are known to have live very long lives—surpassing 100 years old is to them very uncommon.
But what is really baffling about my research finding is that how these precious grains first came into the hands of the Caucasus shepherds. Before, I was imagining kefir must be coming from some sort of plants, or perhaps seaweeds as they look like and taste like ones to me. The truth is the origin of kefir is as mysterious as how they perpetuate. The most prominent story is that kefir grains are a gift from the Prophet Mohammed who told them to use the grains to make “the drink of the Prophet Mohammed”. Thus, kefir is sometimes called “grains of the prophet”.
Traditionally, kefir is cultivated with milk. The Caucasus shepherds mix kefir grains with fresh goat’s milk in a goatskin bag and left the milk to ferment for about a day. The fermented milk is then preserved in a separate container for longer family consumption. A new batch of fresh milk is then poured into the goatskin bag for fermentation. I personally thought kefir was first used as an ancient way of preserving the milk (apparently because the shepherds did not have the “more sophisticated but destructive food preparation technology” that we enjoy now), which incidentally brought to fore many health benefits.
The story on how kefir became known and spread from the zealous Caucasus tribes to the modern world is equally interesting as how it came to be. It is reported that in the early 19th century, the All Russian Physicians Society took an interest on the mysterious grains and wanted to obtain kefir grains for scientific investigation and to be able to produce kefir on a commercial scale.
The society allegedly conspired with the Blandov brother to obtain kefir grains from the Caucasus tribes who kept the use of kefir within their community as a religious practice. The Brandov brothers sent a beautiful employee, named Irina Sakharova, to charm the tribes prince, Bek-Mirza Barchorov to give her some grains. The prince did not want to give kefir grains to Irina as he would be violating the tribe’s religious laws, although he fell in love with the beautiful secret agent. Unable to fulfill her mission, Irina left the mountains but was captured by mountain tribesmen on her way home. She was then brought back to the prince and was exchanged with a few bags of kefir grains for ransom with a promise to marry the prince. Later on the Brandov brothers had to rescue Irina from the forced marriage, along with the first kefir grains to come out from the mountains of Caucasus.
Beginning 1930s, kefir milk drink was produced in Russia in commercial volume. In 1973, the Minister of Food Industry of the Soviet Union sent a letter to Irina, who was then already 85 years old, thanking her for heroic mission of brining kefir to the Russian people.
Superior whole food: Kefir culture and health benefits of kefir drinks
Perhaps the best way to describe kefir is that it is a superior whole food than can produce powerful health drinks with as little processing, essentially by organic fermentation. Kefir grains are composed of a combination of around 40 strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts bound together by a matrix of proteins, lipids and sugars. Kefir is an ancient whole food that is so rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B complex.
Kefir is well-known for its probiotic value, an organic strength-booster and helps strengthen the immune system. The beneficial bacteria and yeasts that can be found in kefir can help in maintaining the ecological balance of the body’s inner system. According to Wikipedia, Kefir has antimutagenic and antioxidant properties.
The traditional kefir milk is similar to a yogurt in terms of taste and other properties, but kefir is essentially not a yogurt and is considered far more superior than yogurt because it contains more friendly bacteria and more nutritional values. The inherent health benefits are compounded by the calcium and other nutrients found in the milk. These milk nutrients reinforce kefir’s natural healing power. Thus drinking kefir milk nourishes your skin and hair, treats gum disease, strengthens the bones and even fights osteoporosis. In the passing of time, a variation of the original kefir milk came about in the form of water kefir, which undergoes fermentation process using water and sugar.
Ceena Giselle, a nutritionist and kefir enthusiast, compiled in her website, www.kefirsource.com , a long list of kefir’s health benefits which include fighting against:
- Liver disease
- Gall bladder stones
- Kidney stones
- Pathogenic microorganisms
- High cholesterol
- Colon cancer and other forms of cancer
- Inflammatory diseases
- Calcinations of blood vessels
- Lung infections
- Vaginal orders
- And more!
Note: These are just some of the diseases listed in that site. There are also other health benefits such as restoring friendly bacteria and microorganisms after an anti-biotic treatment, normalizing the body’s metabolism to achieve weight loss, anti-oxidants and anti-aging properties, and more. If you are also taking kefir drink, you may want to share your experience in the comment pane below and feel free to add diseases that you have been cured from by drinking kefir. I shall update the list accordingly.
How to make kefir milk?
Ingredients for Cultured Milk Kefir Recipe
- 2 cups of whole or reduced fat milk
- 2 tablespoons kefir grains (curd)
- 2 quart stainless steel pot
- Glass quart jar for fermenting
- Strainer (ideally plastic made)
- Glass jar or bottle, with lid storage
- Wooden ladle (as much as possible do not use metal equipment for preparing kefir)
- Add 2 tablespoon of kefir grains to fermenting jar
- Pre-heat pasteurized milk to 180*F in stainless steel pot, then cool to about 90*F.
- Add 2 cups of warmed milk to kefir grains in the fermenting jar and mix with a wooden ladle
- Cover loosely with a cloth or lose lid and place in a counter at room temperature (68*-80*F) for 12 hours to two days, occasional stirring of swishing the contents to redistribute the grains.
- After the first fermentation, pour the milk through a strainer into a jar.
- (Put strained grains back into the jar and milk for a new batch of fermentation. Kefir grains must be reused immediately, otherwise it should be prepared for long-term storage, which requires another delicate procedure).
- Drink right away the kefir milk or store in refrigerator for a second, but less vigorous, fermentation, for up to a week. The second fermentation also increases B vitamins and folic acids in the milk drink.
How to make kefir water?
Ingredients for Kefir‘d Aqua
- 6 cups fresh spring or well water
- 1/3 -1/2 cup rapdura or white table sugar
- 1tsp blackstrap molasses
- 1/2 – 1 cup sugar kefir grains (SKG) or 1-2 tsp milk-kefir grains
- 1-2 figs or 2 tbsp sultana raisins
- Slice of lemon (peeled if not organic)
- 3 Tbsp fresh ginger-root juice (optional)
- 1/8 tsp pure baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- 1/4 tsp boiled eggshell, or oceanic coral, ground to coarse grit; or KAL Dolomite
- Glass half-gallon jar with good-sealing strong lid for fermenting
- Glass jar or bottle, with good sealing lid for storage
- Add water to jar, never more than ¾ full (need space for the CO2, to avoid explosions!).
- Dissolve sugar, molasses and baking soda in the water, stirring. Then add eggshell, ground coral or dolomite. Add figs/grapes, lemon slice, and ginger juice (if using). Add kefir grains.
- Seal lid on jar, airtight. Let sit at room temperature for 2 days (If using milk kefir grains, it may take 4 - 5 days for the first few batches). Stir every 24 hours.
- Strain, using plastic, nylon or stainless steel strainer, or hand-woven cane or bamboo basket. Squeeze juice from lemon slice back into the strained liquid.
- Store in glass jar or bottle with lid. Best chilled in refrigerator.
- Rinse grains with cold water, and reuse immediately.
Milk kefir and water kefir are produced using different cultures of kefir. Although, it is believed that the sugar kefir grains have evolved from the ancient milk kefir grains. Both kefir cultures share some common strains of bacteria and yeast and are both producing powerful health benefits, but each has its own unique properties as well. Milk kefir grains can be conditioned to be used in producing water kefir but I have yet to read about any successful attempt of using sugar kefir grains to produce milk kefir. In both cases, the second fermentation ripens the kefir drinks and enhances their health and wellness benefits.
On YouTube: How to make water kefir?
Where to obtain kefir?
First, there are commercially made kefir starter-cultures for culturing milk that can be bought through the internet. However, these starter cultures can only be used for about seven batches. Kefir is ideal for those who go for the quick fix because they don’t have time for handling the kefir grains and going through the process of fermentation. The kefir start is an instant ready mix version of kefir brewing. The disadvantage of this is its limited use and the likely reduced potency of the kefir milk because of industrial processing. It is therefore ideal is to use the natural grains which is undoubtedly 100% better than kefir starters-cultures and which you can use for a lifetime.
True to its tradition, kefir grains are passed from one generation to another, from one hand to another. These grains have existed way back thousands of years, unimaginably longer than all of us. To obtain kefir grains, you can check the online community for people near you who are culturing kefir in their kitchen. There are also websites that are selling kefir grains which they ship to you through specialized packaging.
I personally believe, though, that kefir should be shared freely to all. The timeless perpetuation of these mystical grains assures us that there is always a growing abundance of kefir grains that should not be withheld for any selfish or monetary considerations like the zealous tribes of the Caucasus. Kefir is a gift from heaven freely given for mankind to experience optimal health. In the same manner, it should also be freely shared to all.
Onward to my kefir journey
My journey toward rediscovering the mysterious kefir and enjoying its many health benefits has just started. This hub is just a testament for this humble beginning. I will surely comeback and report my experience and additional findings. Meantime, if you are also an avid fan of these mystical grains, please don’t hesitate to share your comments below for the others to know. Thank you!