It caught my eye again, this bottle holding a brownish liquid, with what looked like soaked mushrooms floating on top. This time, upon entering my local spa, I was intrigued enough to find out what it actually is. The sweet girl who takes care of the spa reception and health bar explained that this was kombucha, a probiotic tea which they brew themselves from scratch. Tempted enough, I decided to try kombucha for the first time.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented, sweetened and lightly effervescent black or green tea, native to China. The fermentation occurs thanks to a colony of bacteria and yeast, which produces a taste similar to apple cider. It gets better: in addition to the yeast and bacteria, kombucha also contains gluconic acid – small amounts of alcohol and vinegar. These by-products result from fermentation of sugars in the tea, carried out by its live starter and described earlier as the soaked mushroom floating on top. It may also hold some levels of B-group vitamins, depending on how it was produced.

Why Is Kombucha Good for Me?

Although there’s no strong evidence and conclusive clinical studies, research has shown that kombucha may have health benefits:

1. It is a rich source of probiotics, which feed good bacteria in the gut. This is particularly important for digestion and prevention of health conditions such as inflammation.

2. Using green tea breeds polyphenols, which act as antioxidants and fight free radicals in the body, thus protecting against cancer and disease.

3. It also has anti-microbial effects due to the by-product, gluconic acid (vinegar), which works against infection.

4. It lowers the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood (LDL) and therefore protects against heart disease.

5. It lowers blood pressure and has a positive effect in the management of type-2 diabetes, as it slows down the digestion of carbohydrates.

6. It increases blood circulation and has a detoxifying effect. It also reduces menopausal symptoms and anxiety levels.

One of the videos praising kombucha

Does Kombucha Have Any Side Effects?

Given that kombucha is a fermented drink and can be home-brewed, the risks of contamination and even toxicity are always there. In contrast to the lack of clinical evidence on the benefits of kombucha, good medical documentation of the possible harmful side-effects was carried out for the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine in 2009. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, toxic hepatitis – an inflammation of the liver, alcoholic jaundice due to liver problems, and lactic acidosis – the build-up of lactic acid in the body, which can lead to renal problems.

Despite the lack of evidence on the health benefits of kombucha, it’s still a healthier alternative to sugary drinks, if consumed in moderation. It can be enjoyed as a post-workout drink, for breakfast or any other time of the day. However, the fact that there is no guidance about the safe levels of consumption does not prove to be very helpful. This means: keep in mind a good balance of the claimed benefits and the documented side-effects when you add kombucha to your diet.

Have you tried it? Did it work?

Let us know in the comments section below!