Lactobacillus (LAB) is a wonderful microorganism that can be used around the house, for animals, and for our purposes in the garden! Lactobacillus serum is easy and inexpensive to make at home, and well worth the time, as its uses are nearly endless.
What is Lactobacillus?
The name “Lactobacillus” actually refers to a genus of probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, that make up a major portion of the lactic acid bacteria group. These types of bacteria convert sugars to lactic acid and help to break down and ferment organic material.
Ways to Use Lactobacillus
One of our favorite ways to use our homemade lactobacillus serum (recipe below) is to help clear clogged or stinky drains. Depending upon the severity of the clog, dump anywhere from a few tablespoons to a liter of your lactobacillus mixture (diluted serum) down the problematic drain and allow it to set so that the bacteria can begin to break down the clog. You can let the mixture sit overnight for more clogged drains, or you can use this technique for periodic maintenance to avoid allowing clogs to form. If you have a septic tank, you can also pour some of the lactobacillus mixture into your toilet every couple of months in order to help keep your septic system clear.
Make Probiotic Foods
Lactobacillus is a beneficial bacteria that is also typically present throughout the body, making up a good portion of the microorganisms found within the digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. These bacteria maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the human body, protecting the host against pathogens, and receiving nutrients from the host in return.
Because of its beneficial contributions to wellness, lactobacillus is often consumed in foods such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and sourdough, or via dietary supplements. You can even use lactobacillus to make your own probiotic drink right at home! Simply mix one or two tablespoons of the diluted lactobacillus serum into a cup of water and drink, especially after meals. The probiotics will aid digestion, helping you to feel less bloated and sluggish.
Your homemade lactobacillus mixture can also be added to homemade yogurts to boost their probiotic value. In addition, the cheese-like curds that are created during the fermentation process are also packed full of probiotic goodness. While they are safe for human consumption, some people may find the odor off-putting, but many pets and livestock find the healthy curds quite delectable!
Adding lactobacillus to your routine can help to establish and maintain digestive health and to treat and prevent symptoms of bacterial imbalance (such as diarrhea and yeast infections). Lactobacillus can also be used topically in the treatment of dermatological conditions such as eczema. This is one reason lactobacillus is one of the primary ingredients in our Lactsoapcillus line of hand and bar soaps.
As if those home and health benefits weren’t enough, lactobacillus has many applications in the garden, as well. Another one of our favorite uses for lactobacillus is in our Kashi Blend, which can be used as a microbial soil builder, compost accelerator, and odor eliminator.
Kashi Blend is a diverse-grain bokashi, which refers to a specialty form of fertilizer that incorporates the principles of inoculated fermentation. When used as a compost additive, bokashi helps convert food waste and other organic matter into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Bokashi can also be added directly as a top-dressing in order to inoculate the soil or promote the production of beneficial bacteria. It can also be diluted for use as a spray or added to compost tea. If you wish, you may also use lactobacillus to make your own bokashi at home.
How to Make Lactobacillus
- Water (nonchlorinated)
- Milk (unpasteurized is best, organic whole milk if raw milk is unavailable)
- Molasses/brown sugar
- Mesh strainer
- Glass Jars
How to Make a Rice Wash
- Fill half of a jar with rice (I use white but any will work) then fill the rest of the way with water.
- Let this soak for about 20 minutes and shake a few times. The water should become cloudy.
- Next, strain the water into another jar, cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band. This now needs to sit for 4-7 days depending on temps.
We are looking for the rice wash to separate into 3 different layers and have a bit of a sour smell. The top layer is mostly mold, the middle layer is lactobacillus and other bacteria (what we want) and the bottom layer is starches and other byproducts of the process.
Shop Probiotics for the Garden
- Siphon off the middle layer into a new jar or container that is much larger than the original.
- This is because we will now mix the middle layer with 10 parts of milk. Using milk ensures the lacto is the dominating bacteria. For example, 1 cup of rice serum needs 10 cups of milk.
- Now, this mixture will sit for about a week depending on the temps. I cover with the mason jar lid but I don’t seal it. There can be some bubbling during this process and overflow might occur.
- After about a week you’ll notice it has separated into 2 layers. The top will be a large curd consisting of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. The bottom layer will be a yellowish color and this is what we want.
- You can either siphon the bottom layer out or scoop out the curds and strain the remaining serum using a fine mesh strainer. The curds are great for animals, soil, or compost piles. (My dogs love them!)
- You can stop here and refrigerate the serum in a sealed jar and activate it when needed.
Or, what I prefer is to activate right away and then store.
Activating Your Lactobacillus
- Mix at a 1:1 ratio with molasses or brown sugar. I usually use molasses. So 5 cups of serum would be mixed with 5 cups of molasses and then stirred until it is all mixed together.
- Seal that and keep it at room temps (should keep for close to a year) or store in the refrigerator for longer life as it slows down the activity of the lactobacillus.
- This is further diluted when you want to use it. Typically 1:1000. I like to use 1 part serum to 20 parts clean water, then use 1-2 tbsp per gallon of water. The diluted serum will stay good for weeks even months if kept in the fridge.
This serum is perfect for making organic nutrients more immediately available. For example, if I make a kelp tea I will add 1-2tbsp of LABS per gallon the day before using and let it sit, stirring a couple of times. This will allow the lactobacillus to start breaking down the kelp into a useable form more readily available for uptake.