The first time I was exposed to the kombucha craze was in the mid-1990’s. You could not buy it in any stores then, but people did share live cultures, now called SCOBY’s (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast).
To make a batch of kombucha you make a large container of tea, and some sugar, and then let it sit for 7 to 10 days. After this process, you have a container of kombucha liquid and often times a second SCOBY that you can pass on.
I acquired one in 1994 from this very process. I made several batches with it. I prefer to avoid caffeine and sugar, so I did not like the idea of a daily beverage that contained both even though the fermentation process theoretically broke down much of them.
There were some reports about how homemade kombucha could grow dangerous bacteria. Looking back I’m not sure if it’s these reports that steered me away from it or if I just got bored of the idea and chased the next shiny new object in the health world.
Over the last few months I have fallen into the habit of purchasing commercial kombucha while shopping. Labels have reassured me that the sugar content is no more than a gram or two if I choose the right product and I have come to like the taste.
Last night I followed a recipe to use commercially available raw kombucha to make your own SCOBY at home.
Today I sat down to write about kombucha as a favorite thing.
Before doing so, I had to go through all the current medical literature. I’ve got to say, I was left disappointed. There are lots of encouraging studies, but they are all test tube and animal studies. We cannot rely on them to draw any conclusions about humans.
Sadly the only human studies at the time of this writing are those about case reports about lactic acidosis, bacterial infections, liver damage, and cutaneous anthrax from homemade kombucha.
We may learn more over time, but despite the hype, there are no published studies showing any benefits in humans. There may be some health benefits that emerge with further research and I see no evidence of harm from commercially manufactured kombucha.
A few of the cases of toxicity were unusual and would not equate risk to typical users. Some used ceramic containers with lead. Several cases were not clearly tied to kombucha. At this point, I’ll likely still buy a bottle as a treat a few times per month, but I will not give myself permission to become obsessed with it and drink massive quantities daily.
I’m not sure what will become of the culture I started last night.
To Your Health,