My girlfriend often makes me drink Kombucha tea because it will apparently stop me from getting sick – I say this as I am getting sick. The fungus, the smell, the taste: every part of the Kombucha drinking experience I despise. So, I thought I would consult the scientific research on the subject, so I never will be forced to drink this retched, ghastly beverage again. Did I make a mistake? Possibly.
Science’s verdict on Kombucha:
Because the hype around Kombucha is pretty new, not a lot of research has been conducted on this so called magical tea. The research that does exist has been conducted on animals, which in scientific terms is considered pretty low quality, early stage research. Anyhow, let’s have a look at the limited evidence we do have.
Seven different studies on cells and animals found that Kombucha kills microorganisms involved in the development of various different diseases (1). This means it may be able to kill: bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites – preventing, or curing a gamut of diseases (see this list).
Basically, an antioxidant is a chemical that kills cells that kill cells. Yes, you heard right, it is a killer cell killer! The presence of these killer cells is said to lead to the development of diseases such as: cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and atherosclerosis (see full list here).
The three different studies on the topic all have found Kombucha to have antioxidant effects(1). Additionally, these effects (among others) have been shown to alter some of the biological processes involved in the development and worsening of cancer (1). This indicates that Kombucha may translate to a decreases in the incidence of the previously mentioned conditions, including cancer. However, I cannot stress enough that there is no research yet directly demonstrating that Kombucha decreases the presence of such diseases, or cures these diseases in humans! So think of it as an adjunctive therapy, but by no means a primary one.
Protecting the liver:
In a number of studies on rats and cells, Kombucha has been demonstrated to decrease the negative effects that liver harming agents, such as paracetamol have(1). Cool!
Toxicity and negative effects:
There has been a lot of publicity on the potentially toxic effects of Kombucha. There have been reported cases of liver toxicity (ironic, considering the above) and lead poisoning among other things. Despite this, the FDA have conducted research that has found Kombucha to be safe for human consumption when the fermentation process recommended by the FDA is strictly adhered to (link here, 2). Although, I should note that HIV positive patients and pregnant women should never drink Kombucha (1).
Is it healthful?
Sadly, it looks my Kombucha drinking days are anything but numbered. The research conducted is of a really poor quality, but it is very promising. Kombucha may, key word may:
1. Aid in liver protection.
2. Help in preventing the development and be a useful adjunctive treatment in diseases involving cell oxidation (Alzheimer’s, Cancers, etc.), or microbial processes (common cold, tapeworm, etc.).
To be completely safe, FDA (or equivalent national body) approved Kombucha should be the only Kombucha you consume.
Our verdict: Slightly healthful, with the potential to be very healthful!.
I hope this has been healthful.