What to Know Before You Sip Kombucha?

November 28, 2020

What is the discussion about kombucha?
Nicknamed “The Longevity Potion,” this sweet and sour fermented drink is full of health claims. It’s made from black or green tea, sugar, and a small globular culture of bacteria and yeast called “good” bacteria and yeast. These live microbes give it a slightly sour taste – and a bit of natural alcohol.

How long has it been around?
It was reportedly brewed in China more than 2,000 years ago. But it wasn’t until the late 1980s that it began to gain traction in the United States. Some hoped it would boost the immune system of people with HIV or AIDS – a theory we now know to be a myth.

Does it help fight disease?
Some tout kombucha as a remedy that can help treat diseases ranging from diabetes to arteriosclerosis to cancer. There are also claims that it can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and detoxify the body. But there isn’t enough evidence to support these claims. Most of the health hype stems from word-of-mouth reports or animal studies. It does not come from quality studies of its effects on people.

Does it contain probiotics?
Like other fermented products, kombucha contains microscopic organisms called microorganisms. Certain types of microorganisms, called probiotics, promote the “good” bacteria in your gut. This boosts your immune system and helps you fight off the bad bacteria. This may help you digest food and absorb nutrients, too. But it’s unclear whether the microbes in kombucha provide these benefits. We need more research to be sure.

Does it pack an antioxidant punch?
The tea in the recipe has good for you antioxidants called polyphenols. They may curb inflammation in your body and reduce the odds that you will get certain diseases. They may also possibly be good for your gut health.

An abundance of vitamin B?
Kombucha tea also has B vitamins. They help your body convert food into energy, among other tasks. But you don’t have to drink fermented tea to get B’s; they’re found in a variety of foods. If you’re healthy, chances are you’re already getting enough of them.

How heroic is “Busch”?
All kombucha teas have a slight alcohol content, which is the result of fermentation of sugar with yeast. Commercial brands with less than 0.5% alcohol can be sold as “non-alcoholic”. Above that percentage, the government considers it alcohol. Fermentation time, temperature and how the drink is stored all affect its strength. Some kombucha will continue to ferment even in the bottle.

Who can safely drink it?
Stay away from this drink if you have a weak immune system or a chronic health condition – especially liver, kidney or lung disease. Don’t drink it if you’re pregnant, either. It’s also not suitable for children. But if you’re a healthy adult, the kind of pasteurized drink you buy at the store is okay to drink in moderation – but don’t exceed 12 ounces a day. Read the nutrition label, though, because the sugar and calories can vary quite a bit from brand to brand.

Does it cause side effects?
Some reports have linked homemade varieties to stomach pains, dizziness, nausea, infections and allergic reactions. The risk is high when people brew it in unclean conditions. This makes it vulnerable to contamination during the fermentation process. Brewing or storing it in glazed earthenware pots has also been linked to lead poisoning.

Does a bottle of kombucha “explode”?
It’s important to always keep kombucha in the fridge, even before you drink it. If you leave a bottle capped at room temperature for a while, the carbonation inside may build up – and you may get a surprise splash when you open the bottle. The coldness of the fridge will also slow down the fermentation.