Kombucha: Brilliant or Barf-Tastic?

I love Kombucha.  It tastes weird, is unpredictably fizzy, makes rampant and unfounded health claims, and costs a small fortune – I mean how much better can a hippy, new-age, health fad get?

But seriously – I do love it.  And based on my Highly Scientific Facebook Status polls, I have ascertained the Kombucha is a devisive character.  Either you love Kombucha or you really, really hate Kombucha.

Yeah, but what IS it?

Good question.

Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a “kombucha colony”.  Sounds delicious, right?

Here’s another explanation about the Kombucha organism itself (as opposed to the resulting tea) from the wikipedia page:

The Kombucha organism is a symbiotic colony of yeast’s and bacteria that form a strong membrane that covers the liquid/air interface of the vessel it grows in.

All I know is, if this crap can do half the stuff it claims to, I’m going to live forever.

I’d Like to File a Health Claim

Among Kombucha’s health claims (as transcribed from the side of a GT’s bottle):

Kombucha supports:

  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Immune System
  • Appetite control
  • Weight Control
  • Liver function
  • Body alkalinity
  • Anti-aging
  • Cell integrity
  • Healthy skin and hair

Other sources online take it even further, making the following claims:

  • Restores hair color
  • Thickens hair
  • Dissolves gallstones Increases energy
  • Lengthens lifespan
  • Arterioscrosis/softens veins
  • Speeds healing
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Eliminates wrinkles/skin humectant
  • Improves menopausal symptoms
  • Strengthens leg muscles
  • Chickenpox /herpes zoster remedy
  • Colitis/improves digestion/ nervous stomach
  • Poultice for wounds/ulcers
  • Cleanses gallbladder
  • Lessens anxiety
  • Levels glucose
  • Protects teeth from cavities
  • Activates glandular system

All that?  Really?

I don’t know about all that, but this dude over at a place called the Mayo Clinic claims that the risks outweigh any potential rewards, and cautions us to avoid it.  Since everyone knows that Mayo clogs your arteries, I’m not really inclined to trust him about the Kombucha.

Of course, considering that the kombucha making process involves a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), vingar and a dark, warm, quiet place, Mr. Fancy Mayo pants could possibly have a point.  (I mean, that even sounds a little scary to me and I eat Sea Urchin roe.)

Kombucha is a very family-oriented being and Mother cultures (stringy, mucilaginous substances consisting of various bacteria that forms on the surface of a fermenting liquid and causes fermentation when added to other liquids) are required to make new Baby cultures.  Isn’t that sweet?

Yes, yes it is sweet. Or rather, kind of vinegar-ey tasting.  But in the good way.

Convinced yet?  Me neither.  I recommend going out to get yourself some “Gingerade” flavored GT’s Kombucha to try it for yourself.

It should be noted that great care should be taken when doing homebrew Kombucha as contamination can lead to illness. I am tempted to try “growing” some Kombucha myself but haven’t yet rustled up the courage to buy a starter kit and/or kidnap someone’s mother-and-babies.

Alternately, leave a comment and let me know where you stand.  
Kombucha: Brilliant or Barf-Tastic?

References:
http://www.nutrition4health.org/nohanews/NNW97KombuchaTea.htm
The Happy Herbalist
Mayo Clinic
Wikipedia

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7 comments

  1. I fall into the LOVE camp, as does my 13 yo son. Husband and 16 yo son HATE kombucha. Thanks for the interesting write-up.

  2. Oh good, another lover!
    Leslie – Stay tuned, I will “inherit a colony” (I still find this language hilarious) in the next month or so and will document my homebrew antics here. :)
    Thanks for the comment!

  3. I’m skeptical… You could probably write a similar article for blueberries or carrots. :)

  4. I’m a fan of the Gingerade, for sure, but don’t necessarily subscribe to the claimed benefits. Like pure Matcha, or when I first started taking B12, I can feel a definite effect after drinking some Gingerade… so something is happening. No idea what, though.

    A couple friends have homebrewed their own, with mixed results (mostly flavor-related). A friend of a friend partly credits their successful bout with cancer to Kombucha. I’ll be curious what kind of results you get.

    BTW, thanks for the yogurt tip–I’d been using agave nectar as an alt. sweetener for other stuff, but it hadn’t occurred to me to put it in my yogurt! I typically dump a bunch of cinnamon in as well for the flavor and purported blood benefits.

    Speaking of blood, I’m curious if you’re aware of any growing interest in Tibetan Rhodiola in the racing camp?

  5. Rhodiola has long been an ingredient in Optygen, it appears to work when taken cumulatively.

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