5 March 2012
Is Celebrity Favorite Kombucha Really a Health and Anti-Aging Cure?
Daily Beast reported
Madonna, Halle Berry, and Gwyneth Paltrow have been snapped swigging the sweet-and-sour fermented tea, which fans credit with curing everything from acne to cancer and turning back the biological clock—and new scientific studies seem to agree. So is kombucha a drinkable fountain of youth?
It costs just a few bucks per bottle in your local supermarket and is claimed to reverse the aging process and cure everything from baldness to cancer. For pennies, it can even be brewed at home, if you don’t mind a little slime.
So who wouldn’t join Madonna, Halle Berry, Lindsay Lohan, and Gwyneth Paltrow on the kombucha bandwagon, especially now that new scientific studies appear to support all those claims? A sparkling golden fermented beverage that packs a massive antioxidant punch and looks and tastes like a cross between Champagne and vinegar, kombucha is now a $150-million-a-year industry that’s growing exponentially, despite worries about possible side effects and health risks.
Comprising acetic acid, malic acid, butyric acid, oxalic acid, lactic acid, and a teensy bit of alcohol, kombucha has been a standard refresher, alleged hangover cure, and all-around home remedy in Asia and Eastern Europe for millennia. Its origins and etymology are veiled in mystery: cha is Chinese for “tea,” but debates rage over those first two syllables. Some say kombucha was brought to Russia by Manchurian traders. Others trace it to southern China, Korea, and Japan. Some go so far as to call it ancient.
Which culture created it? When something’s being touted as the next best thing to manna, everyone wants to say, "We had it first."
“In many cases—but not all—foods that have long, rich cultural and medicinal traditions often turn out to have proven scientific benefits,” says registered dietitian Sharon Palmer, author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Still, she adds that “although celebrities bring attention to many issues of diet and nutrition, that doesn’t mean they are always correct or give the best advice.”
Kombucha was withdrawn from Whole Foods and other stores in the summer of 2010 due to concerns over its alcohol content. By that fall, it was back on the shelves.
Because the rubbery white wodge that fuels its fermentation resembles a mushroom cap, kombucha is often mistakenly called “mushroom tea.” That mat is actually a culture: in technical terms, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Fed a steady stream of super-sweet black, green, or white tea—one cup of sugar per gallon—it will replicate indefinitely, producing ever more wodges, each of which can be reused indefinitely.
Mid-20th-century Russian and German studies credited kombucha with reducing or curing dysentery, dyspepsia, high blood pressure, gastritis, colitis, gout, kidney stones, and even cancer. Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn credited kombucha with curative properties in his novel The Cancer Ward. After his own bout with cancer, Ronald Reagan became a fan. Celebs have followed suit ever since: Reese Witherspoon, Anna Paquin, and Orlando Bloom have been snapped clutching bottles of “booch.” Now a new wave of studies might boost sales even higher.
One cell-based study, destined for the June 2012 issue of the journal Swiss Society of Food Science and Technology’s, asserts that kombucha “has prophylactic and therapeutic properties” including antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. Its authors speculate that kombucha “may be very healthful” in combating yeast infections, thrush, and other forms of candidiasis.
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