Although the title of the article is somewhat negative with regard to Kombucha tea, the body of the article released by eMPR on Aug. 19, 2014 is actually very informative and positive. The article is titled Kombucha: Boosting Immunity or Just Toxic Tea.
Oriental medicine claims that Kombucha tea promotes health and long life. Kombucha tea has been formulated for over 2,000 years. It was first developed in China, and then traveled to India, Tibet and Russia. It is a fermented mixture of sugar, yeast, tea and cultured bacteria that yields a mild acetic acid and a complex brew of B vitamins, enzymes, anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory components.
The shorthand description of Kombucha by microbiologists is SCOBY, Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. The black or green tea contributes caffeine, which provides an energy boost. The sugar is used to feed the yeast which then ferments into the final liquid. While it is often called mushroom tea, the thick rubbery layer is not a mushroom. The mass floating above the liquid is not consumed, but it provides a starter for the next batch of Kombucha.
There have been some serious side effects from poorly manufactured Kombucha tea. This leads to the assertion that Kombucha is a toxic tea in the article title. When improperly handled, contamination from outside sources mixes with the sugar and tea to produce harmful chemicals that can attack the liver and other organs. The eMPR article deems Kombucha to be harmful based upon the following.
Fungal and bacterial contaminants are common, with more than 20 cases of cutaneous anthrax, liver damage and allergic reactions reported.
Given that Kombucha has been used for over 2,000 years and over $350 million dollars of sales of Kombucha were made in the US in 2010, Kombucha cannot be written off as “just a toxic tea”. We are fortunate to have a reputable Kombucha supplier based in Worthington, OH that uses one of the local small breweries in Columbus to bottle the tea. Compared to the pharmaceutical drugs used to treat liver diseases, or combat Staph or Listeria as mentioned below, Kombucha is a very safe drug with an extremely small incidence of major side effects.
The early research concluded that the anti-microbial properties of Kombucha were due to the tea being acidic. Research has found that Kombucha can be titrated to a neutral 7.0 pH and it still has properties that back the claim that is promotes health and longer life. In vitro laboratory testing has shown Kombucha acts against Staphylococcus, Listeria, and Micrococcus. A promising application of Kombucha is its effect to protect and restore liver functions. As quoted in the article, Kombucha has proven its value in several areas.
One genus of yeast found in kombucha, Gluconacetobacter, is responsible for catalyzing the production of glucuronic acid in the tea.6 Glucuronic acid is known to be a potent cellular protectant, cytoplasmic membrane stabilizer, and mitochondrial enhancer. An area of specific interest for kombucha researchers is the possible role glucuronic acid plays in hepatoprotection and detoxification.
Life Extensions provides an article discussing the use of Oriental herbs in reversing damage to the liver. The article is titled Liver Degenerative Disease. Kombucha is in this class of Oriental remedies that are now gaining credibility from current research.
Some beneficial herbs will also be described. In Europe and Asia, herbal liver remedies have been in common use for decades--perhaps even centuries. The effectiveness of the herbs used in these remedies has been validated through research and clinical studies. These herbs generally contain antioxidants, membrane-stabilizing and bile-enhancing compounds, or substances that prevent depletion of sulfhydryl compounds, such as glutathione.
The full article Kombucha: Boosting Immunity or Just a Toxic Tea uses the 20 serious cases of damage from Kombucha tea to declare that it is toxic. Given the estimated 1 million servings of Kombucha in 2010, 20 cases is a miniscule level of complications. If Kombucha were a new drug being released by the FDA, the news of its properties would be advertised to the world.
The potential benefits of the tea acting to work at the cellular level are very positive. The fact that Kombucha has been used for over 2,000 years is overwhelming proof of its overall safety and efficacy. It should be given further study and considered as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and their potentially lethal side effects when used to treat liver diseases and to enhance cellular immunity against free radicals attacking DNA in the cells.