The fermenting process: The mushroom converts the sugar and tea into a variety of enzymes, acids and vitamins.
Photo courtesy Books Alive
Kombucha, a fermented tea, is regarded as a cure-all in many parts of the world. In Kombucha Rediscovered (Books Alive, 2013), Klaus Kaufmann, DSc, discusses kombucha’s historical and modern uses and its numerous health benefits, which include its ability to aid digestion, eliminate toxins, support the immune system and boost energy. The following excerpt is from chapter four, “Health Benefits.”
No ironclad scientific research results currently exist to confirm the health benefits of drinking kombucha tea. For now we can only say that the benefits are as real as the personal testimonials — and there are many — that praise the tea’s effects. We must also realize that the tea, like any other remedy, might not work for everyone.
Kombucha Tea and Specific Health Conditions
Following is an overview of the primary health effects reported for kombucha tea. Drinking kombucha tea seems to alleviate a number of ailments. In addition, it helps to prevent the onset of illness and promote health even as we age. Note: Seeking the advice of a holistic health practitioner before using kombucha tea to treat any condition is recommended.
AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). AIDS, a highly publicized ailment, is a syndrome, rather than a single disease, that impairs the immune system. It’s caused by exposure to HIV, a retrovirus that infects helper T cells and other vital cells in the immune system. I worked with AIDS patients during drug trials at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the early years. In 1991, we knew that once the disease is active, there isn’t a cure. Despite treatment, AIDS victims died within two years of disease manifestation. By 1995, medical science had extended this to three years. Now, decades later, newer drugs have the potential to prolong the lifespan of people with AIDS by many years. In fact, HIV-infected patients on a modern drug regimen can nowadays apparently look forward to a normal lifespan, provided the HIV condition is not allowed to deteriorate to AIDS.
According to Betsy Pryor, kombucha tea can help boost immunity and keep the virus contained for a longer period. This use of kombucha tea is currently under study. Note: Caution is advisable before patients experiment on their own with any homemade remedies that promise better T-cell counts. Some authors warn people with AIDS or HIV against using kombucha tea and advise that further research is necessary.
Arthritis. Individuals with arthritis have reported healing effects from drinking kombucha tea. Many dancers, both in Russia and North America, drink kombucha tea and report fewer ligament and arthritis problems, both of which are common among dancers and other athletes.
Asthma. According to author Harald Tietze, asthma patients under the care of a physician named A. Wiesner noticed considerable improvement in their condition while on kombucha therapy.
Blood pressure, high. High blood pressure is a persistent health problem that has many causes, although it’s often closely associated with high blood cholesterol levels. Just as there are many causes, there are many treatments. Drinking kombucha tea regularly has been known to lower high blood pressure. In addition, I would recommend adding nutrient silica gel to the daily diet to elasticize the blood vessels. And, of course, avoid salt!
Bowel problems. Kombucha tea can help heal so many illnesses of the stomach and the bowels that I could write a whole book on this subject alone. Kombucha tea shows good results in clearing up stomach and bowel problems by balancing the pH and the intestinal flora. Healing seems to follow magically once the body’s systems are in good working order.
Bronchitis. According to Harald Tietze, a Dutch doctor by the name of Harnisch successfully prescribed kombucha tea for treating bronchitis in his young patients.
Candida albicans infection. Because Candida albicans is a type of yeast infection, it’s natural to assume that people who have it should stay away from other yeast cultures. On the contrary, Günther Frank says the yeast in the kombucha culture doesn’t belong to the Candida family. He argues that this is precisely why it can help fight off the troublesome Candida albicans infections that plague so many people, especially women. Frank goes on to explain that Candida yeast reproduces by means of spores, whereas other types of yeast reproduce by means of budding (or a combination of budding and fission) and don’t have spores. The yeast in the kombucha culture reproduces by fission. Frank’s argument is supported by studies done at Cornell University and reported by Betsy Pryor. The Cornell studies found kombucha tea effective in treating Candida albicans and the bacteria that commonly cause duodenal ulcers.
I recently heard a fifty-year-old tax accountant with a yeast infection give a testimonial about kombucha tea in Las Vegas. She said she was spending about $30 a month on prescription drugs. Three weeks after starting to drink kombucha tea, she stopped taking the drugs and hasn’t used them since. Her Candida problems have disappeared.
Note: Drinking kombucha tea as a remedy for Candida isn’t advisable without guidance from a naturopath.
Cholesterol levels, high. We all know that high blood lipid levels (excessive cholesterol) and hypertension (high blood pressure) ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in North America. Drinking kombucha tea has been found to decrease blood cholesterol levels.
Chronic fatigue syndrome. Many researchers have reported that people attribute drinking kombucha tea to healing chronic fatigue syndrome. If chronic fatigue is due to intestinal or liver problems, as some people believe, kombucha tea, with its cleansing and balancing abilities, could be a key factor in preventing and overcoming this syndrome.
Colds. Cold viruses take hold of us mainly when we’re stressed, tired, or depressed or when the immune system is compromised. Because kombucha functions as a natural antibiotic, regularly drinking kombucha tea can help prevent or alleviate colds. Adding vitamin C to a cold prevention program is vital. Some holistic healers also recommend echinacea for cold prevention. KefiActive offers two products that are designed to fight colds: KefiActive Astragalus Membranaceus Root, which combats frequent colds, and KefiActive Echinacea, which fights off upper respiratory tract infections.
Constipation. Constipation is often chronic and caused by eating the wrong foods or getting insufficient exercise. Much like diarrhea, constipation has reportedly been cleared up quickly by kombucha tea. Perhaps that’s because drinking kombucha tea helps to restore intestinal flora.
In addition to drinking kombucha tea, another good habit that prevents constipation is eating a sufficient daily amount of fiber-rich food, or roughage. Eating foods such as green salads, fruits, and whole-grain breads becomes even more important with age, because digestion tends to become more sluggish and needs all the encouragement it can get. Roughage and kombucha tea are excellent natural laxatives, and if you’re incorporating both into your diet, you won’t be likely to develop constipation. According to experts, even the classic prune juice remedy shouldn’t be needed when drinking kombucha tea.
Diarrhea. Kombucha tea seems to clear up diarrhea quickly. Scientific studies in Russia indicate that bacterial dysentery also responds well to kombucha tea.
Fluid retention. Testimonials support findings that drinking kombucha tea can reduce excessive fluid retention in the legs.
Gout. Gout can result when a person eats too much rich food over many years. Because kombucha tea balances the intestinal flora and stimulates metabolism, drinking the tea could be a helpful remedy for gout. Juice fasting that incorporates kombucha tea could also help alleviate gout.
Immunity. Because drinking kombucha tea energizes and boosts metabolism, it automatically fosters the health of the immune system. In addition, I suggest taking additional steps to heal an impaired immune system. These steps include adopting a holistic lifestyle, eating a healthful diet, and sticking to an ongoing detoxification program. Such actions are particularly important in the case of severe impairment, such as liver poisoning or HIV infection. Other diseases, including cancer, also may be easier to overcome when the immune system is operating at full capacity. Of course, we would all like to have a superbly functioning immune response. Drinking kombucha tea seems to be a valuable move in that direction.
Impotence. In kombucha tea, we have a panacea for impotence. Potency depends on vitality, which the tea can support. (Drinking the tea wouldn’t be effective, however, in cases involving a physical or severe mental disability.) In addition, Rudolf Sklenar and others have reported that kombucha tea can have a toning effect on the male sex organs.
Kidney problems. Among other therapies, drinking adequate amounts of healthful liquids is necessary to flush the kidneys and keep them in top shape. Drinking kombucha tea could aid kidney flushing. According to Harald Tietze, comparison trials conducted by a physician named A. Wiesner resulted in an 89 percent success rate of kombucha over an interferon drug.
Kidney stones. People who don’t drink enough fluids are generally more prone to developing kidney stones. For this reason, simply drinking tea is beneficial because tea drinkers have increased fluid intake. In addition, studies have shown that drinking kombucha tea helps dissolve the stones.
Multiple sclerosis. Betsy Pryor reports impressive testimonial evidence that kombucha tea heals multiple sclerosis. In addition, Harald Tietze says that a woman from Holland claims she was healed by drinking kombucha tea. According to a letter published in the Dutch magazine Op Zoek, the woman started drinking kombucha tea and in less than one year she was no longer tired and even got her driver’s license back. She also said she planned to go skiing again. Of course, clinical studies are needed to confirm whether this encouraging experience can be replicated among others with multiple sclerosis.
Prostate problems. Extremely common in older men, prostate problems are thought to affect half of men over age fifty. Many natural remedies are available. Alternative health experts suggest that drinking kombucha tea regularly decreases bladder inflammation and can therefore alleviate prostate inflammation too. Other natural remedies include hemp oil, organic nettle root, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, willow, and zinc supplements.
When it comes to prostate cancer, even orthodox medicine is increasingly recognizing that invasive therapies or surgery may not always be the best answer. A panel of doctors suggested that men should no longer get routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests. As reported in the New York Times in October 2011, the rationale for discouraging men from having PSA tests is based on the fact that men suffering from extremely slow-growing prostate cancer die of other causes before the prostate cancer becomes life threatening.
Psoriasis. Some medical practitioners reportedly recommend kombucha tea for psoriasis. In addition to drinking the tea, those with psoriasis can apply the tea directly to the skin. Testimonials tend to confirm this. Adding nutrient silica gel to the diet is another good way to clear up and prevent skin disease, especially for people who are genetically predisposed to it. Stress also seems to play a role in triggering skin rashes. In such cases, removing the source of the stress while increasing the intake of B-complex vitamins can be helpful.
Rheumatism. Harald Tietze writes that a physician named A. Wiesner reported a 92 percent success rate using kombucha tea to treat trial subjects with rheumatism. The subjects’ pain diminished and they were able to move limbs freely.
Sleep disorders. Despite established guidelines for sleep requirements by age (babies need about sixteen hours per day, and older adults need around seven hours), sleep is highly individual and therefore variable. Sometimes I need twelve hours of sleep and other times I need only three. For a person who has no underlying ailments, drinking a glass of kombucha tea just before bedtime can help overcome problems with falling asleep and not sleeping soundly.
Stomach problems. See “bowel problems” above.
Tonsillitis. Russian researchers have reported that kombucha tea can reduce the inflammation of tonsillitis. In my opinion, tonsils should be removed surgically only in the direst circumstances. My own naturopathic family doctor saved me from tonsillectomy, and I have always credited my resistance to infections and colds to my protective tonsils fighting off intruders.
Reprinted with permission from Kombucha Redisovered: The Medicinal Benefits of an Ancient Healing Tea by Klaus Kaufmann, DSc and published by Books Alive, 2013.