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Kombucha is a traditional drink nearly 2,000 years old, with origins that trace from 19th century Russia through Japan and China, into today's U.S. health culture. Present day versions of the drink are marketed by tea and energy drink distributors -- and the market for kombucha topped nearly $295 million in profits during 2009. Given the high rate at which Americans consume this assumed "healthy" beverage, it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of such a drink.

How It's Made

Kombucha tea is brewed from what is called a "mushroom" or "mother culture," which is a solid gelatinous mass made from yeast and formed bacteria. These cultures can be made at home or bought online for home brewing. It is important to consider, however, that without proper monitoring and cleanliness, the brew can easily be contaminated with grown toxic molds. By keeping a low temperature and acidity level, as well as following proper procedures, the kombucha can be brewed safely.-

Health Benefits of Kombucha

Kombucha carries high levels of B vitamins, which can protect the pancreas and liver from the adverse effects of stress hormones. It is also proven to affect antioxidant levels and promote higher glucosamine levels that ease joint pain, according to kombuchahome.com. The beverage has moderate levels of glucaric acid, which can help prevent the spread and development of cancer cells, notes Food Renegade and PubMed.gov.

Historic Cases of Kombucha Benefits

In his autobiography, 1970 Nobel Prize-winning author Alex Solzhenitsyn claimed that drinking kombucha helped cure his stomach cancer while imprisoned. In lieu of this claim, President Ronald Reagan began drinking kombucha in 1987 to halt the spread of his cancer, according to "Kombucha" by Tom Valentine.

Adverse Effects of Kombucha

Kombucha may cause allergic reaction, or other adverse effects in those taking hormone replacements or other medications. Cases have shown that repeated daily intake of kombucha at as little as 4 oz. daily can lead to lactic acidosis and myositis, both of which affect muscle inflammation and the buildup of muscle acid. Additionally, the possibility of fermentation or improper brewing can lead to the intake of the toxic fungus, aspergillus. In 1995 the Center for Disease Control named daily kombucha intake as a possible cause of the death and illness of two Iowa women who both suffered from severe muscular acid buildup. Repeated intake of kombucha can also cause liver damage, in that its effects on the pancreas and liver are quite strong.

About the Author

Emily Stokes

Emily Stokes graduated from Dickinson College with a B.A. in English and is pursuing graduate studies in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Stokes has worked as a writing tutor at the Eberly Writing Center in Carlisle, Pa., and as a subcontracting writer for SKY University, LLC.