Kombucha- tastes like medicine, but is it really?


Whenever I find myself in line behind someone at the grocery store with a cart full of kombucha… I always think “You’re a better person than I”.  I believe I have a pretty high tolerance for foods that are good for me, but taste gross.  Anyone who knows me would confirm this!  When I first tried kombucha, I reallyreally wanted to like it.   I’ve always known kombucha drinkers to be super-cool, definitely the kind of crowd I’d want to befriend; faux-hawks are practically a prerequisite. I yearned to be a part of the K-Tea inner circle… but it was not to be!  I tried over and overrrr again, “Maybe the raspberry kombucha will taste more like raspberries and less like  16oz. of pure apple cider vinegar”; delicious in salad, but downright nasty when taken straight!

Besides, kombucha was supposed to be good medicine –for everything from the common cold to cancer.  Is it really?

What is kombucha tea?

Kombucha is a sugared black tea fermented with acetic acid bacteria and yeasts for about 2 weeks.

Sooo, what does the science say?

The good: In a 2003 study involving rats with lead induced oxidative stress, “kombucha was shown to have potent antioxidant and immunomodulating properties” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14631833), while another study also involving rats revealed that kombucha demonstrated “anti-stress and hepato-protective activities” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11723720).  Yet a third study of rats with post-operative peritoneal lesions concluded that “intra-peritoneal administered kombucha might be useful for preventing peritoneal adhesions”.

Anddd the not-so-good:  I found a single article (Macready, N. (1997). Kombucha tea may not be so benign after all. Lancet, 350 (9084), 1081) that references four isolated cases in which the consumption of K-tea caused the subjects to be hospitalized.  Unfortunately, the article does not indicate whether the tea was store-bought or homemade nor does it mention the subjects’ health status prior to tea consumption.

The bottom line:   Kombucha does appear to have many proven health benefits, but should be consumed with some caution.  A 1995 study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8559192) advises that “subjects with a healthy metabolism do not need to be advised against cultivating Kombucha. However, those suffering from immunosuppression should preferably consume controlled commercial Kombucha beverages”.

I guess that means… bottoms up!!!  Although I don’t anticipate I’ll be joining the cool crowd anytime soon!

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