If we wind the clocks back 5 years, it was likely no one had ever heard of Kombucha. Now, it seems like everyone is talking about it. While debated, Kombucha has supposedly been in use for hundreds, if not thousands, of years to cure various ailments. Sometimes you may hear it called, “Manchurian mushroom” but this term has fallen out of favor. To me, Manchurian mushroom kind of sounds like an illicit drug so I’m glad they’re not using this as often. But, more importantly, calling it a mushroom is inaccurate because it’s not a mushroom. It’s actually a gelatin-like substance that’s a mixture of bacteria and fungi. Today, Kombucha is often added to black tea and then allowed to sit or ferment for about a week. The hope is that these presumably good bacteria and fungi disperse into the liquid, and by drinking it, it will help improve your health. In fact, the word “Kombucha” translates to “tea made from seaweed.” This is also a bit of a misnomer because most commercially available Kombucha tea has no seaweed in it. Go figure.
I should mention that not all Kombucha is created equal. The species of bacteria and fungi can vary depending on where and how it was grown. Unfortunately, some species of bacteria and fungi found in Kombucha can be harmful.
So what has Kombucha tea been used for? A number of claims have been made about its medicinal qualities: everything from weight management to curing cancer. Unfortunately, when we really get down to it, we find that Kombucha tea may not be effective for improving or preventing any health condition or disease. You may hear of people regularly consuming Kombucha tea and feeling better as a result, but at this time, we simply don’t have the research to support its use. In fact, most of the research on the health benefits of Kombucha were performed in Russia in the early 20th century. Nowadays, if something about Kombucha does get reported, it’s because someone had an adverse or negative reaction to it. While Kombucha is considered non-toxic, the problem we usually see is that depending on how and where it was grown and fermented, other unsafe microorganisms can grow and pose risks.
Some of the reported side effects of consuming Kombucha tea are nausea, lightheadedness, throat tightness, jaundice (yellowing of the skin, which may be a sign that it’s harming the liver), shortness of breath, and even unconsciousness.
At this time, most healthcare professionals would discourage folks from making their own Kombucha at home. While it can be assumed that commercially prepared Kombucha is safer, it’s not a guarantee. And, since we simply don’t have enough research to know for sure, we don’t know how much of this stuff you should be consuming.
If you want to stop spending your precious time and hard-earned money on making Kombucha tea, I wouldn’t fault you for it.