Kombucha Tea: 'Magic Elixir' May Be Harmful Contaminate
Kombucha Tea, an ancient "magic elixir" used for many health benefits, may be harmful.
What is Kombucha Tea?
Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. Although it’s sometimes referred to as kombucha mushroom tea, kombucha is not a mushroom — it’s a colony of bacteria and yeast. Kombucha tea is made by adding the colony to sugar and tea, and allowing the mix to ferment. The resulting liquid contains vinegar, B vitamins and a number of other chemical compounds.
What are the Benefits of Kombucha Tea?
Advocates of the brew claim that Kombucha detoxifies the body, increases energy, sharpens eyesight, aids joint recovery, improves skin elasticity, aids digestion and even prevents and fights cancer and arthritis. There is little published research done on the benefits. Other benefits of kombucha tea include stimulating the immune system, preventing cancer, and improving digestion and liver function. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support these health claims. The beverage has been around for more than 2,000 years; in fact, the ancient Chinese called Kombucha the “Immortal Health Elixir.” Kombucha is a colony of bacteria and yeast, which is then added to sugar and tea and allowed to ferment in order to produce what is known as Kombucha tea. The tea is available commercially and can also make the tea at home with a Kombucha Tea recipe.
However, since home-brewing facilities vary a great deal, the tea can easily become contaminated with harmful germs. Home-brewed tea should not be brewed in ceramic, lead crystal or painted containers, as the acidity of the beverage can cause it to absorb harmful elements from the container. Adverse reactions may be due to unsanitary fermentation conditions, leaching compounds from the fermentation vessels, or “sickly” kombucha cultures that cannot acidify the brew. The acidity of the fermented drink is what prevents the growth of unwanted contaminants.
Reported Dangers and Adverse Effects of Kombucha Tea
Less serious side effects of drinking Kombucha tea include upset stomach, infections and allergic reactions. Some sources, though, have even indirectly linked death to Kombucha.
Dr. Andrew Weil, a doctor and leader in alternative health, wrote on his Web site: "I don't recommend Kombucha tea at all. I know of no scientific studies backing up the health claims made for it." He even warns readers of home-brews containing aspergillus, a toxin-producing fungus. This could seriously harm those with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, children and the elderly.
In April 1995, two women who had consumed Kombucha tea daily for two months were hospitalized with severe acidosis, which is an increase of acid levels in body fluids, according to Cancer.org. One woman died of cardiac arrest two days after she was admitted. The second woman's heart also stopped but she was revived and eventually recovered.
In 2009, a 22-year-old man was hospitalized after suffering breathing problems, fever, confusion and high lactic acid levels 12 hours after drinking Kombucha tea. He recovered.
Cancer.org warns that, since deaths have been linked to Kombucha tea, drinking excessive amounts is ill-advised. Other experts warn that home-brewed concoctions are not regulated and could become contaminated with dangerous germs. Allergic reactions have been reported, along with anthrax of the skin. Those with HIV, cancer or other serious health problems are particularly vulnerable.