A Potted Background History
The first recorded reference to Kombucha as a health drink was apparently reported over two thousand years ago in the Tsin Dynasty of the Chinese Empire in 221 B.C.. It was then known as “the Divine Tsche”.
Some 200 years later, in 14A.D., a Korean Herbalist called Kombu treated the Japanaese Emporor Inkyo for various ailments and it became known as Kombu Ch’a (The herbalist’s name plus the Chinese word for tea “Ch’a”.
In mediaeval times, Japanese warriors would carry hip flasks of Kombucha into battle to maintain their health and give them energy.
Since then, Kombucha culture has had a consistently favourable record for promoting good health and has been part of natural medicine that has been part of everyday life in the Far East and Eurasia until relatively recently, and has increasingly made inroads into western thinking over the last few years.
Kombucha has long been part of traditional folk medicine in rural Russia where for much of the time the peasant culture was untouched by Western medicine. Unsurprisingly, the first modern scientific research on Kombucha was initiated in the Soviet Union.
Indeed, the Nobel prizewinning author Alexandr Solzenitsyn wrote in his autobiography “The Cancer Ward” that Kombucha helped to save his life whilst he was incarcerated in the Siberian slave camps in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Through the second part of the twentieth century, Kombucha enjoyed some marginal faddish success in Europe (Germany and Italy) and to some extent was popular in Australia through the work of Harald Tietze, a German born herb grower in New South Wales.
Its main resurgence came about in the 1990’s on the West Coast of the USA largely thanks to its popularity with HIV sufferers. Consequently, the main interest in Kombucha has been amongst people who feel that medical practices are not adequately successful with chronic diseases, particularly those relating to deficiencies in the immune system.
It’s likely, then, that with greater recognition of environmental and stress factors on day to day life, together with the limitations of conventional medicine, that the potent anti toxic and immune enhancing properties of Kombucha will become increasingly recognised and accepted as part of treatments of illness.
How does Kombucha Work?
For the past 150 years medical treatment has been based on the idea that a particular disease is caused by a specific disease-causing germ. Such “germ theory” dates only from the mid-nineteenth century and led to the development of antibiotics whose purpose is to kill off offending germs.
Undoubtedly, antibiotics have a valuable place in the control of life-threatening illnesses and have saved many lives over the years. However, overuse of antibiotics results in an increasing number of problems:-
- Increase in the number of diseases caused by antibiotics themselves (iatrogenic diseases).
- Weakening of the body’s immune system through the use of antibiotics, making recovery from the original illness and new germs and viruses more difficult.
- The emergence of bacterial strains which become resistant to antibiotics.
- Antibiotics have been developed by the pharmaceutical industry using synthetic chemicals which compromise healing the body’s whole system without side effects. Which, in turn, need to be treated with further drugs etc. etc.
Antibiotics means “Against Life” (Anti = Against; Bios = Life), whereas Probiotics means “For Life” (Pro = For; Bios = Life).
Kombucha works with the probiotic life of the body rather than destroying microbes, which is the purpose of using antibiotics.
Probiotic Kombucha encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut in a similar way to acidophilus bacteria, the active ingredient in live yoghurt.
Kombucha should be seen as a food unusually rich in nutrition, rather than just a health drink. As in yoghurt, the bacteria that it contains are a great source of nutrition, but also contains a wide range of organic acids, vitamins and enzymes that give it an extraordinary property. It contains, amongst other organic acids and vitamins:
- Vitamin B – Vitamin B1, B2, B6 and B12 that provide energy, help to process fats and proteins and which are vital for the functioning of the nervous system.
- Vitamin C – a strong detoxifier, immune booster and energy booster.
- Lactic Acid – essential for a healthy digestive system and for energy production by the liver, and is not found in the tissues of people with cancer.
- Acetic Acid – an antiseptic and inhibitor of harmful bacteria.
- Glucuronic Acid – is one of the few products that can cope with pollution from the products of the petroleum industry as well as plastics, herbicides, pesticides and resins. It “kidnaps” the phenols in the liver which are then eliminated by the kidneys. Another by-product of glucuronic acid is glucosamine, the structure associated with cartilage, collagen, and fluids which lubricate the joints.
- Amino Acids – produce important enzymes, such as glutathione which is a powerful antioxidant providing protection from pollution, alcohol, and which is depleted from the body when you are on a pharmaceutical drug regime.
Because of its role in pH regulation and of the above detoxifying acids, Kombucha is a valuable restorative of liver function.
The most commonly observed effects of Kombucha are:
- Balancing the metabolism of the body.
- Cleaning the Blood and helping to regulate the pH level of the body.
- Improving liver, gall bladder and digestive functions.
- Detoxifying the body and improving the immune system.
- Raising energy levels.
Kombucha is not, however, a universal cure for all illnesses. Many other factors need to be taken into account which affect good health such as diet, exercise, lifestyle, emotional outlook and psychological make-up as well as the length of time that you have had a particular imbalance or disease. When feeling tired, ill or out of sorts it can be hard to take positive steps towards a better lifestyle and better health. Kombucha’s role is to assist the body to function properly, by relieving some symptoms and giving the energy and encouragement to improve our health.
Kombucha does not have to be taken as a remedy for people who are ill, but most importantly as preventative therapy to keep the body functioning well.