Rejuvelac is a cultured probiotic-rich drink made by fermenting freshly sprouted grains in water. It first became popular in the 1960's under the influence of living food enthusiast Dr. Ann Wigmore, the original founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute.
Born in Lithuania, "Dr. Ann", as she was called, is believed to have acquired the recipe from her Baltic origins. The beverage is closely related to the traditional Romanian drink, called Bors, a fermented wheat bran used to make a sour soup called ciorba.
Many people, since then, have been using this slightly tart, lemony-tasting liquid as a digestive aid to increase enzyme content in the diet. Enzyme-rich foods are known to promote greater assimilation of nutrients from the foods we ingest.
The beverage is also particularly helpful as a natural gentle laxative, which assists in relieving constipation and breaking down potential undigested waste material.
It is extremely beneficial to include some kind of fermented foods in the diet on a regular basis. We like to change it up with variety and rejuvelac is a simple alternative option to other cultured food and drink that may require special techniques, culture starters or equipment.
Although you wouldn't think that water sitting around for a couple of days with sprouted grains in it would taste all that great, the fermentation process actually produces a very clean tasting, tangy drink with a citrus-like aroma.
The active enzymes in the cultured water are largely a byproduct of the grain sprouting process. Like the name implies, rejuvelac is "rejuvenating" and is a "super sprout drink", made from these concentrated energizing compounds.
The potent and minutely fizzy strained liquid that results, we have found to be a health
enhancing potion that is mainly beneficial when consumed before or
between meals on an empty stomach. It is really a digestive tonic rather than a beverage you would drink in larger quantities. We usually drink between 2-4 ounces at a time in shot glass size glasses, as drinking too much may cause gastrointestinal upset and/or loose stools.
It is essentially the fermentation of sprouted grains in pure water for a 1-2 day period of time. It is traditionally made from wheat berries, but can also be produced from other varieties like rye, kamut, barley, millet or quinoa, each having there own special bouquet of flavors. It is one of those fermented foods that can't be purchased from the health food store, but must be created homemade-style.
Rejuvelac is a bit different than other ferments in that you are not using a specific culture starter, like you would when making kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh. It is considered a "wild fermentation" because the beneficial microorganisms needed to successfully culture the water are naturally present on the grains and sprouts themselves.
As we mentioned, the process of fermenting the sprouts in water encourages high enzymatic activity but also, as a lactic acid ferment, supports the production of beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria. When consumed, these friendly microbes can further proliferate the gastrointestinal tract and help to balance our "inner body ecology."
Rejuvelac is a simple and "old school" culturing technique that is very inexpensive to make. It is sometimes used as a liquid culture starter for other fermented foods, like nut or seed cheeses. Dr. Wigmore, who also popularized "seed cheese" made with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, used small amounts of rejuvelac to culture it to produce a cheese-like flavor.
Unlike other cultured foods such as kombucha and kefir, which may contain small amounts of alcohol as a byproduct of fermentation, rejuvelac is considered a non-alcoholic liquid, containing only very minute amounts, nothing more than you would find in a jar of sauerkraut.
All raw grains, seeds and most nuts will sprout little roots when given the water needed to do so. Soaking them overnight is the best way to ensure that they will sprout or grow little white root-hairs from the end of the seeds. This is what is needed to activate the lacto-fermentation process required to make rejuvelac.
In the words of Sandor Katz, "When you soak the grain, it begins to swell, setting in motion a series of changes that, given the right conditions, will result in its sprouting into a new plant. At the same time, water also revives the bacteria and fungi that populate the grain's surfaces, and initiates fermentation."
Rejuvelac is much easier to make of course, if you are familiar with the seed sprouting process. Many grains and seeds are "sprouted" when growing sprouts, microgreens as well as when making essene bread, sprouted rye crackers or rejuvelac. Sprouting is not all that complicated, but it does take some practice, mostly just keeping up with rinsing and making sure you don't sprout them too long.
The same method is also used to sprout wheat berries for tray-growing wheatgrass. Dr. Ann Wigmore was also one of the first to discover the healing properties of wheatgrass juice, which she used medicinally, along with rejuvelac, with great success in her holistic health care practice.
Sprouting the grain first before fermentation is key as it contains the mentioned essential components needed for a successful health enhancing drink. This will take a few days of preparation before you make your actual recipe.
First off, you want to use whole, raw, non-GMO and preferably organic grains that have not been heat treated or radiated. Once you have some high quality grain seeds, in this case either soft wheat berries or quinoa for the two recipes on this page, you are ready to make rejuvelac.
When you consume foods that cannot be efficiently broken down by the body, you are left with undigested waste material and toxins that get trapped inside the gut, causing bloating, constipation, obesity, fatigue and lowered immune response. Consuming lacto-fermented foods, like rejuvelac, can be a valuable asset to overall health and helpful for processing the leftover byproducts of a low quality enzyme-less diet.
Rejuvelac is very high in enzyme content, which is created from the bacteria and yeasts present, one of which includes the amylase enzyme producing Aspergillus oryzae species, the "koji" culture used to ferment miso. In addition, sprouted grains themselves are known to have very energizing effects on the body, mostly due to their improved level of sprout activated enzymes that continue to increase when fermented.
Dr. Johannes Kuhl, a German researcher and author of several books including "Cancer in Check", wrote this about the benefits of lacto-fermented foods:
"The natural lactic acid and fermentive enzymes which are produced during the fermentation process have a beneficial effect on the metabolism and a curative effect on disease. Lactic acid destroys harmful intestinal bacteria and contributes to the better digestion and assimilation of the nutrients. Fermented foods improve the intestinal tract and provide a proper environment for the body's own vitamin production within the intestines."
Rejuvelac is a nutritious and energizing probiotic tonic for inoculating the large intestine with friendly Lactobacillus microflora and encouraging the healthy proliferation of good bacteria. It is helpful to consume probiotic supplements and/or fermented foods for this reason on a regular basis and this sprouted wheat berry drink is an easy to make inexpensive option.
A healthy balance of intestinal microorganisms should include approximately 80% bacterial group-based species, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and 20% of the more acidic fungal group-based species such as Candida albicans, which are beneficial in small amounts. (Source)
In research conducted by food chemist Dr Harvey Lisle, rejuvelac was shown to be rich in proteins, carbohydrates, Lactobacillus, B vitamins, Vit. C, Vit. E, dextrines, phosphates, Saccharomyces and Aspergillus oryzae.
Yes, during the process of fermentation, rejuvelac can spoil and produce an inedible liquid, which means that other unfriendly microbes have taking over the ferment and have dominated the lacto-bacteria present. This is usually obvious by the presence of a very strong, unpleasant putrid odor. It will also look overly cloudy with possible mold growing on the surface.
You will need to discard it and begin again with clean sanitized equipment. Spoilage often occurs when the environmental conditions were either too hot, too humid or both. Ideally a 70-75°F (21-24°C) temperature is best for optimal results.
There are some health authorities, like Brian Clement, who warn against the use of rejuvelac because there may be a likelihood of what is labeled as "contamination" in the final product. Not the lethal variety, but other more fungal yeasts, like Saccharomyces, which may be present in small amounts in the cultured liquid.
However, this is not an unusual phenomenon, as other fermented foods are also known to contain them in lesser quantities. These types of yeast are found in other ferments, like kefir, and are beneficial in lower volumes (about 20%) as they are in our intestines. (Source) The Lactobacillus species are hardy strains of microbes and are what is needed to create a successfully fermented product, without them you would not achieve a lacto-fermented end result.
We personally have only experienced positive effects from drinking rejuvelac and feel that we wouldn't have such associated health benefits if other less beneficial species were present in large quantities. Also, if the final liquid outcome looks and tastes pleasant, like it should, these are good signs of a successfully fermented liquid drink.
It is a good idea, as suggested, to take precautions when preparing it, making sure all your equipment is thoroughly clean and sanitary to avoid spoilage. In addition, to prevent possible airborne yeast contaminants, it is advised to place a loose lid and clean cloth securely over your jar and culture it in a ventilated, yet clean environment away from dust and foot traffic.
This is a traditional rejuvelac recipe made with soft wheat berries. Most people sensitive to gluten, can easily digest this form of sprouted grain liquid, but for people with severe allergic reactions to gluten or those who have celiac disease, it is best to use other non-glutenous varieties.
Quinoa is a wonderful gluten-free grain to use when making rejuvelac. We recommend using it for your ferment if you are especially sensitive to glutenous grains, like wheat, barley or rye.
Rejuvelac does agree with most people, but not everyone, so it is good to start out slow with small amounts (2T) to test it out if you are "digestively" sensitive.
Drink rejuvelac first thing in the morning as well as before or between meals for optimal results. It is best consumed in smaller quantities rather than large glasses, especially if you are new to drinking it.
For more recipes visit our fermented food recipes page for other possibilities for culturing different foods and drinks.