Kombucha

Scientific names: Yeast/bacteria fungal symbiont

Common names: Kombucha also is known as kombucha tea, kombucha mushroom, Manchurian tea, combucha tea, spumonto, tschambucco, teekwass, kwassan, kargasok tea, “fungus” Japonicus, Manchurian “fungus”, Dr. Sklenar's kombucha mushroom infusion, champagne of life, and t'chai from the sea.

Efficacy-safety rating:

Ò...Little or no evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is not a fungus or a mushroom, but rather a gray, pancake-shaped patty that may grow up to 0.15 m in diameter. The patty is placed in a mixture of black tea and sugar to ferment. Technically, the fermentation becomes a mixture of yeast and bacteria (ie, Bacterium xylinum, Bacterium gluconicum, Acetobacter ketogenum and Pichia fermentans).

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The name kombucha is derived from the Japanese; it is brewed in a seaweed (kombu) tea (cha). In Western countries, the product typically is propagated in black tea. Users float growing spores on the surface of brewed, sweetened black tea. The mycelium double in mass approximately every week. The mass then is divided and the new portion is propagated on a new tea media. In this manner, kombucha mycelium may be propagated at a rapid rate for commercial distribution. As the growth matures, it ferments the beverage slightly. This fermented tea is consumed for its purported medicinal properties. Drinking fermented teas has long been popular in Eastern countries, and the use of this particular mycelial growth may date back several centuries.

Kombucha tea has grown rapidly in popularity in the past year, and has been touted as a miracle cure for a wide variety of illnesses, ranging from memory loss to premenstrual syndrome. Despite extravagant claims for its pharmacologic activity, some experts believe that the tea fulfills the FDA criteria identifying a fraudulent product, including: reference to non-US medical studies, an appeal to a person's vanity, ancient origins, and alleged cures for a wide variety of ailments. Some of these claims include curing cancer, rheumatism, aging, and intestinal disorders.

There is no good evidence to support the pharmacologic claims for kombucha. Because kombucha tea is a product of bacterial fermentation, it may contain compounds that affect the bacterial flora of the gut. One report on Dr. Sklenar's kombucha mushroom infusion (1960s) as a cancer therapy indicated that there were no solid medical data available on its usefulness in cancer treatment. Screening of “Kargasok tea” (kombucha tea) for anorexia and obesity also has been reported, but not validated.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no clinical evidence to support specific dosage recommendations for kombucha.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

No longer considered safe.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Cases of nausea and allergic responses have been reported.

Toxicities

The fermented tea associated with kombucha has been suspected as fatal in one user.

References

  1. Kombucha. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2004. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 17, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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