Kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-cha), or ‘Booch’ for short, is a cool fizzy beverage that hit the market in health food stores a few years ago. This fermented drink that is made with tea, bacteria, sugar and yeast actually has been tracked back to ancient China. This interesting concoction started out as a rage among the health-seeking crowd around 2010 and has continued to gain popularity with many individuals now making their own Booch at home. Also, known as the “mushroom tea” even though there are no real mushrooms in it, the name is derived from the slimy sludge that floats near the top of the bottle. This flat, pancake like sludge, is known as the SCOBY (for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY is where all of the microorganisms live and is used for homebrewers to produce smaller cultures and share with their friends. Some of you may be thinking “Ewww”. So why is this new fermented sludge drink so popular?
Kombucha has gained popularity specifically in the Complementary and Integrative Health world. Kombucha continues to be popular with individuals wanting to use it as a probiotic or for detox purposes. Kombucha is thought to stimulate the immune system, prevent cancer, improve digestion and improve liver function. However, there have been other reports claiming that Kombucha produces adverse side effects such as stomach issues, allergic reactions, liver damage, toxicity and metabolic acidosis and infections. Research is very limited at this time on Kombucha; however, several scientific articles link home brewing to many of the adverse effects. Kombucha is often brewed in homes under nonsterile conditions, which makes contamination very likely. Since Booch has gained such popularity among celebrities and health seekers, many companies are now brewing this slightly tangy tasting drink, which makes it a bit safer.
So should we all be consuming Kombucha? For some individuals this tangy fizzy drink is refreshing and invigorating; however, for others they can’t seem to get past the vinegary taste and compost smell. Kombucha packs some of the same prebiotics found in yogurt and kefir; however, due to the lack of evidence available at this time, it is unclear if Kombucha tea can deliver on all of its health claims.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics