Kombucha tea is a mixture of sugar, black and/or green tea, fungi cultures (mainly the Kombucha mushroom), and bacterial cultures. It may contain numerous undefined species of bacteria and fungi, which produce acetic acid and alcohol as byproducts of metabolism.
Historically popular in China, Russia, and Germany, kombucha tea has now gained attention and use worldwide for a variety of purposes, including immune support, AIDS, and cancer. However, kombucha tea may also cause serious adverse effects, including incubation and transmission of anthrax.
Alternate names include Champagne of Life, Fungus Japonicus, Kargasok tea, Kwassan, Manchurian Fungus, T'Chai from the Sea, and Spumonto
Method of Action
One study conducted in vitro indicates that kombucha tea may prevent the growth of many microorganisms, including E.coli, different species of Salmonella, and others. Such growth inhibition most likely occurs due to competition for nutrients and space in vitro. No evidence exists to suggest antimicrobial action after ingestion in humans.
Analysis of kombucha tea indicates that it contains high levels of
Kombucha has been used historically for memory loss, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatism, aging, hypertension, increasing T-cell counts, arthritis, hair regrowth and immune strengthening. Some proponents claim it may be useful for AIDS and cancer.
However, clinical studies have yet to validate any medicinal purpose of kombucha.
Ingestion of kombucha tea has been associated with numerous adverse effects, including yeast infections, head and neck pain, and possibly death. Kombucha was also determined to be the cause of an anthrax outbreak that infected 20 people in Iran.Abstracts
People with compromised immune systems (AIDS, etc.) should not use kombucha tea due to possibility of opportunistic infections.
Centers for Disease Control: Unexplained severe illness possibly associated with consumption of Kombucha tea--Iowa, 1995, MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 1995 Dec 8;44(48):892-3, 899-900
Greenwalt CJ, Steinkraus KH, Ledford RA: Kombucha, the fermented tea: microbiology, composition, and claimed health effects, J Food Prot 2000 Jul;63(7):976-81
Mayser P, Fromme S, Leitzmann C, Grunder K: The yeast spectrum of the 'tea fungus Kombucha', Mycoses 1995 Jul-Aug;38(7-8):289-95
Phan TG, et al: Lead poisoning from drinking Kombucha tea brewed in a ceramic pot, Med J Aust 1998 Dec 7-21;169(11-12):644-6
Sadjadi J. Anthrax associated with the Kombucha "mushroom" in Iran. JAMA 1998;280:1567-8.
Sreeramulu G, Zhu Y, Knol W: Kombucha fermentation and its antimicrobial activity, J Agric Food Chem 2000 Jun;48(6):2589-94
Srinivasan R, Smolinske S, Greenbaum DJ. "Probable gastrointestinal toxicity of Kombucha tea: is this beverage healthy or harmful?" Gen Intern Med. 1997;12:643-644.
The Review of Natural Products by Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Co., 1999.
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