Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. It originated in China in the third century B.C. Then it made its way to Russia, India, and Japan where it became a staple among Samurai warriors. Today, it is also popular in Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Indonesia, and many other cultures. It’s often referred to as “mushroom-tea” because during the brewing process the bacteria and yeast grow into a mass that resembles a mushroom cap that contains vinegar, B vitamins, and a number of other chemical compounds such as enzymes, probiotics, and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic, and lactic), which are linked to the following effects:
- Improved digestion
- With probiotics
- Weight loss
- With acetic acid and polyphenol
- Increased energy
- With enzymes and B vitamins
- Cleansing and detoxification
- With gluconic acid and probiotics
- Immune support
- With antioxidants
- Reduced joint pain
- With glucosamines
- Cancer prevention
- With glucarcic acid
With the exception of a single study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food 2014 from the University of Latvia, there’s no scientific evidence to support these health claims. That study revealed the following about the health benefits of kombucha:
It is shown that [kombucha] can efficiently act in health preservation and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.
Kombucha’s popularity is in part due to the probiotic content of good-for-you bacteria that studies show can benefit digestion and boost immunity. However, some experts warn of the dangers of home-brewed and unpasteurized kombucha prepared in non-sterile conditions and the risk for unhealthy bacteria getting into the tea.
There have been reports of adverse effects from drinking the tea, ranging from upset stomach to toxic reactions and metabolic acidosis. The FDA cautions that home-brewed versions are at high-risk of contamination. If it was not produced in sanitary conditions, it may pose a food safety threat, especially for those who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems.
Kombucha is a potentially healthful, flavorful drink that is relatively low in calories and sugar. As with any food or drink, it is wise not to overdo it but to enjoy it in moderation. Only drink homemade kombucha if you are certain it has been properly brewed, and opt for a reputable, commercial brand when buying it bottled. To be on the safe side, children, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems should drink only the pasteurized kind.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.