What is Kombucha Tea

by Cheryl Legaspi

What is kombucha tea? We’ve all heard about it and some of us may have even tried it. I first came across kombucha tea from a girlfriend of mine who is big into natural health and foods. She’s quintessentially my token “hippie” friend. I never really knew what kombucha tea was good for, except that it was suppose to aid your immune and digestive system. According to the infamous Wikipdedia (the internet's very own frKombucha Colonyee encyclopedia), kombucha tea was believed to have made its first appearance as far back as 250 B.C. in China and was known as the “Immortal Health Elixir”. Then in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s it spread to Russia and Europe. Now, it has made its way to the United States and into the hands of celebrities gracing the pages of your favorite magazines.

Kombucha is a symbiosis of bacteria and yeasts, it is mixed with green or black tea and sugar and then fermented for about a week. A kombucha colony looks like a mushroom afloat in liquid. It is said to contain several enzymes, amino acids, polyphenols and a healthy dose of B vitamins. Although it is commercially made, it began as a home remedy brewing process to aid in a variety of illnesses and as a nutrition supplement.

There are a number of health claims to drinking kombucha tea. An L.A. Times article recently commented in a 2008 article, stating that in the 1980’s many eldery and people infected with HIV who drank kombucha tea accrued a reputation of a boost in their immune system. It is also believed that kombucha aids in detoxification because it contains glucaric acid which is said to help the liver to be more efficient in eliminating wastes. Other benefits reported include the stimulation of regrowth of hair, prevention of cancer and relief of arthritis (www.cdc.gov)

Despite its health claims, drinking and making kombucha should be taken with caution. The Mayo Clinic has stated that there has not been a study done with humans reported in any peer review literature. Scientific claims have been studied on animals and on observation. Many of the adverse effects have been reported from home brewed kombucha tea. The CDC also maintains that home brewed kombucha tea is a big source of where adverse effects arise and because it is considered an herbal remedy it is not routinely regulated by the FDA.

Personally I find the health claims interesting and worth trying. I also think that like any dietary supplement, it should be taken with care and in moderation. Although recipes to make your own kombucha colony at home are available, I DO NOT recommend it. The preparation process is delicate in that the entire process must be done with impeccable cleanliness to avoid introducing contaminants and unwanted bacteria. However, if you insist a good basic recipe can be found on basic kombucha recipes.

[Editor's Note: Follow Cheryl's advice and purchase commercially prepared tea that has to follow certain sanitary standards for food safety. ---J. Learn ]

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