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Kombucha, Friend Or Foe?

I first encountered this mysterious concoction at a vegan fair a few years ago. Intrigued, I enquired as to what on earth it was and what it supposedly does, I was told its a fermented tea and was then ploughed with a list of great health benefits such as cleansing the body, aiding digestion, improving joint function and bestowing bundles of energy upon its drinker. Suitably sucked in convinced, I bought three bottles and steadily kombucha’d my way through the weekend.
I didn’t recall being overwhelmed by a sudden and almighty burst of energy and amazingly amble joint movement but I do remember quite smugly enjoying sipping on this so-called wonder-drink! The taste is pretty unique and has an element of fuzziness to it. In a similar way to drinking green tea, it doesn’t taste particularly heavenly but has an acquired taste which gets trumped by the apparent fact that its a cure-all and you have to drink it or you’ll die/get fat/be deficient in something/have no friends etc etc.
Since then, I began seeing kombucha pop up more and more, at festivals, at my local Whole Foods store, not to mention glowing articles littering blogs and websites all over the place. This was clearly the next big ‘health thing’ and with celebrities like Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lindsay Lohan and Reese Witherspoon on the kombucha band-wagon the drink gained some notable popularity.

The claims that kombucha can reverse everything from ageing to cancer are heavily unsupported and there is no evidence to support the idea that kombucha can be at all beneficial to your health.

It was only until recently that i decided to delve a little deeper into the science behind kombucha and find out if this drink can really live up to its hype.
Kombucha is not as new as one might first assume, in fact it originated in China and made its way to Europe in the 1900s, then subsequently made its way across the rest of the world.
It is made using a “SCOBY” which is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY is placed into a mixture of tea and sugar and causes the fermentation process to occur.

The claims that kombucha can reverse everything from ageing to cancer are heavily unsupported and there is no evidence to support the idea that kombucha can be at all beneficial to your health. In fact, there have been reports of people feeling unwell after drinking this apparent miracle elixir. Nausea, vomiting and headaches have been reported among regular kombucha drinkers and even the suggestion of toxicity and metabolic acidosis which can be fatal. There is also the risk of contamination if the kombucha is not cultivated properly.
You may try it and notice a significant difference in your digestive functions or maybe you’ll just fall in love with its quirky taste.

Although, with that being said, we can’t ignore the hoards of people in genuine praise of kombucha and it’s benefits. Kombucha does contain probiotics which can help with digestion and immunity but to get the probiotic element the tea must be unpasteurised, meaning it can be more at risk of contamination. The kombucha you find on the shelves is most likely to be pasteurised as this is a way of ensuring the drink is more stable, safe and legal, therefore drinking a shop-bought kombucha could quite possibly have little to no probiotic effects.

My regretful conclusion is that, for me this drink appears to be “all mouth and no trousers” as we Brits like to say. Lots of talk but not much action to back it up. I’m not that desperate for probiotics that I’m going to convert a corner of my kitchen into a brewing station or start spending £4 a day on the presumably less beneficial pre-bottled variety. I think this is one of those things you need to try for yourself and make your own mind up on. You may try it and notice a significant difference in your digestive functions or maybe you’ll just fall in love with its quirky taste. But if you’re hoping for this drink to build you a house and put a ring on your finger, or even just slow down your ageing and improve your eyesight it probably won’t live up to your expectations.

What do you think? Comment and tell me your opinions and experiences with kombucha.

 

image via http://www.canada.harenamaris.com