Kombucha, which is fermented from green or black tea has been consumed as a health tonic for centuries. In ancient China it was commonly known as the “Immortal Health Elixir.” Its rapidly growing popularity in the Western World has raised questions about Kombucha’s effectiveness for a host of alleged health benefits.Massive amounts of historical, anecdotal evidence suggest that Kombucha tea helps to prevent and combat cancer as well as arthritis and other degenerative diseases. It is also purportedly beneficial in detoxification by making the liver more efficient.Kombucha is fermented from tea and sugar, by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY often referred to as a mushroom due to its mushroom like appearance floats at the top of the tea column and in the fermentation process produces another SCOBY usually referred to as the “baby.”Hence, in cultures where brewing kombucha tea is common the “babies” are shared with neighbors and the tea gets around, so to speak. This is especially true in parts of Russia where it is known as Tea Kvass and also has been dubbed “free tea.”
Until recently the only scientific studies were conducted in Russia and Europe. A Russian population study was conducted in 1951 by the Central Oncological Research Unit and the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow. The findings demonstrated a significant correlation between Kombucha tea and an exceptionally high resistance to cancer.Further studies in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands supported the Russian findings. Research in the 1960′s reaffirmed Kombucha’s efficacy in fighting cancer as well as its detoxifying effects. Researchers proposed that the immune system’s performance was enhanced by long-term consumption and interferon production was increased. Interferons are proteins, which help to trigger the immune defense system against pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and tumor cells.Numerous peer reviewed academic studies in the 1990′s conclude that the fermentation process of Kombucha tea produces potent antioxidants, which reverse induced liver damage in lab rats. Some plain teas have been demonstrated to have a similar effect, but tested against Kombucha none were found to be as efficient.Admittedly, studies involving human consumption of Kombucha tea are lacking. And I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to happen. The tasty beverage can be made at home with the cost of a gallon being the price of a cup of sugar and 3 tea bags. This does not leave much incentive for the pharmaceutical industry or any major food corporation to conduct expensive studies on Kombucha benefits.There have, however, been a growing number of studies involving human subjects focused on green tea and its effectiveness in combating cancer. With its high concentration of polyphenols and their potent antioxidant properties green tea has gained the spotlight. The animal studies of Kombucha have shown that the fermentation process enhances these demonstrated antioxidant properties of green tea.This only makes sense from what we already know historically about fermentation of foods. Although the practice, with the advent of commercially produced processed foods, has all but been eliminated in western society, it has a glowing history of health benefits.
Take for example, the records of the famous explorer Captain Cook. On his second voyage around the globe he fitted his ship with 60 barrels of sauerkraut fermented from cabbage. Even after 27 months at sea what was left was perfectly preserved. And, none of his crew suffered from scurvy, the sailor’s deservedly feared hazard in those days.Although the current consensus of the scientific community is that “the jury is still out” for lack of human testing, I, personally need no further convincing. Besides, even if the health benefits of Kombucha tea are still questioned in some quarters, it makes such a delectable beverage that I would brew it anyway. Especially if one conducts a two stage brew with the addition of fresh fruit or fruit juice to the second stage.My favorite is strawberry, but a close second is applesauce made from apples grown on my property. Blueberry Kombucha tea is also a hit around here.