Here’s a recipe for you…take your grandmother’s home-brewed sweet tea, sitting in the sun in the backyard. Now add some bacteria and yeast. Leave it for a couple weeks. Now take a big gulp. Mmm, vinegary! Kombucha has been made for centuries, but only recently has it been available commercially in all sorts of forms. It looks like juice, or yummy sparkling water, but tastes a bit like vinegar. So why are people into it? And…is it worth the taste?
First, what is it, exactly?Kombucha is a beverage made from fermented black or green tea. In the presence of sugar and a SCOBY (a gelatinous pad of bacteria and yeast) that tea is transformed into a slightly carbonated, slightly alcoholic (due to the fermentation process) drink. It contains B vitamins and antioxidants from the tea leaves and probiotics from the bacteria. It also, of course, has a little zing of vinegar. So why do people drink it?
Well, because Kombucha is believed to have all sorts of health benefits. Believers will tell you it prevents or stalls cancer, boosts the immune system, detoxes your liver, and more. Consumers also appreciate an edgy drink that has less sugar than soda and no artificial flavors or colors.
Why You Should Be CautiousFirst, don’t trust any health claim that doesn’t provide for the scientific basis of its claim. While there are some studies on mice to indicate a potential benefit to the liver from kombucha, overall the scientific evidence supporting kombucha’s claims is lacking. Second, brewing the tea at home can introduce all sorts of malignant contaminants such as dangerous bacteria or fungi that can make you sick. There have also been reports of lead poisoning from brewing the tea in ceramic pots. Even if you don’t brew at home, there have been reports of metabolic acidosis, hepatotoxicity, upset stomach, and more after people drink the tea. Not good.
The Bottom Line?If you are an adult and neither pregnant nor immunocompromised, it’s likely okay to drink in moderation. But choose store-bought over home-brewed. Because of its acidity, though, you also don’t want to sip it all day long. (Bad for the teeth, and all.) And you’ll want to swish with water so that you protect your tooth enamel. If you don’t enjoy it, then certainly don’t waste your money. You’re better off sipping sparkling water or tea, or whatever beverage of your choice that doesn’t wreck your teeth.
So, there you have it! Until we see more scientific evidence, we can neither confirm nor deny that kombucha is all it’s “kracked” up to be. If you’re into it, maybe have at it! If not, we don’t think you’re missing out ;-)