A couple of months ago I discovered kombucha. I thought it tasty, a pleasant alternative to juice on occasion. In talking to a friend of mine, Christy, I found out that kombucha may actually be good for me. Excellent! This sent me on a researching frenzy.
Here’s a little about kombucha:
Where it actually originated is a mystery. No one knows. However, it is known to have been used in China, Japan, and Russia for centuries. It’s been used for medicinal purposes. It’s said to be able to help cleanse the body, benefit the digestive system, aid in curing cancer, regulate the digestive system, and many other things.
What kombucha is: a fermented tea. It is very basically, alive bacteria and yeasts – thus a probiotic. I know it sounds gross, but it’s true. The kombucha scoby, short for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, is a colony of bacteria and yeasts. It is brewed in a cooled tea with sugar. The tea provides the base for the growth, and the sugar the food. It’s tastes varies depending on the type of tea used to brew.
In researching the health benefits of kombucha tea, I’ve found mixed results. I’ve found the Mayo Clinic and Skepticblog mentioning that there are no trials done on humans, showing any positive results.They simply have not been done, or as I sometimes wonder, properly publicized. Both sites, among others, recommend caution, as with brewing anything, if you get contamination, you might grow something that will make you sick. These are very valid concerns.
On the other hand, I have found sites recommending it, along with other fermented food things such as kefir. Seeds of Health, a UK site, gives a good general description of many other these types of things. This and other sites, mention that it has been used in China and Japan for centuries. That these cultures viewed it as beneficial.
There are also stories of people drinking kombucha everyday when they were sick with an illness and after a while they were cured. The most famous of these stories is of the founder of GT Kombucha. Basically, his mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, ended up drinking kombucha and the growth slowed. Unless I remember the story incorrectly, she’s still alive and that all too place in 1995.
I will not take away from those whom believe in this drink, having real life experience with them, perhaps centering around almost, but not loosing their lives. It’s a very, very emotional experience, one that should be respected and not ridiculed.
I say why the hell not? It makes sense to me that fermented kombucha tea would be beneficial like kefir and yogurt. It is alive after all. Everything that I’ve been reading is the more alive your food is, the better it is for you and the healthier you will be. There is also something to be said about something that Eastern Cultures have been using for centuries if not millenia. They get it right often enough for me to believe them, and not the Western Culture’s idea. Plus it seems that kombucha is packed full of vitamins and minerals, organic acids (organic meaning real, not USDA organic) and other micro-nutrients such as polyphenols. Some of the nutrients found in kombucha tea are vitamin C, some B vitamins, acetic acid, and glucuronic acid. These vitamins and mineral don’t magically appear once the kombucha is done fermenting. From what I’ve read, it’s the tea you use to make the “base”, that contains most of the nutrients. Why not drink plain tea? Well, let’s not forget about the scoby, mushroom, mother, baby, whatever you want to call it. That is the live part, the part that should benefit your intestinal flora, which due to the way we eat, or have eaten throughout our lives, is probably lacking in vitality. Combining the tea’s nutrients with the scoby’s life seems like a wonderful, symbiotic idea.
Some things to consider:
Both sides will caution against contamination. The “anti-kombucha” side or skeptical side, will say it is probably safer to buy prebottleg stuff from the store rather than brew your own. The “pro-kombucha” side will say “wash your hands”, “through out if there is mold growing in it” etc. I’ll reiterate, wash your hands, make sure all appliances are properly washed and rinse with vinegar before using. Use a fresh towel to dry your hands as needed, not a two day old one. Cover with a CLEAN towel, secure with a CLEAN tie of some sort. Don’t sneeze in it. Don’t drop food in it. Don’t use things that aren’t dried properly. Don’t stick your fingers in it if you haven’t washed them. It should smell like fermenting stuff, slightly sweet and vinegar like. It shouldn’t smell like the trash, or like something is rotting horribly. Keep it in a place that is protected from constant daily things, like in a cupboard with a door. Be logical and smart about it. You are dealing with bacteria and yeasts. But, in my opinion, it is perfectly safe, as long as you follow the precautions.
Another consideration is since this will contain bacteria and yeast, someone whom is severely immuno-compromised should consult their doctor, preferable a naturopathic doctor to make sure its a good idea, or at least safe. Someone whom has a yeast/candida problem should also check with their doc and watch themselves very closely.
Either way, do your research, then make an educated decision. And stay tuned. I decided to learn to brew my own kombucha! A post with some pictures and directions shall follow in the next couple of weeks!