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by author, natural beauty expert & cancer survivor Britta AragonRSS



Kombucha Tea No Cancer Cure-All—and Possibly Dangerous

By Britta Aragon on January 27, 2011 | 12 Comments

The latest “miracle cure” in the fight against cancer seems to be Kombucha tea. And boy are the claims fantastic, anywhere from lowering cholesterol to improving the appearance of skin to coloring hair to helping with menstrual problems to relieving migraines to curing and preventing cancer. Is any of this true?

In a nutshell, Kombucha tea is much like any other tea—it has some health benefits, but it’s no cure-all, and if used extensively, it can actually be dangerous.

The tea is made from what many refer to as a mushroom, but which isn’t technically a mushroom—instead, it’s a colony of bacteria and yeast that is said to resemble a pancake. To prepare it, you take a starter sample from an existing culture and grow a new one in a fresh jar. You then add this “mushroom” to sugar and black or green tea and allow it to ferment. When it’s finished, you have a liquid that contains a number of chemical compounds, including B vitamins and several acids like acetic, butyric, glucuronic, lactic, malic, and more.

At this time, there has not been a single human trial reported in a major medical journal that details any health benefits from drinking Kombucha tea. This doesn’t mean there aren’t health benefits—in fact, some old studies (performed between 1940–1960) reported some benefits on intestinal health, wound healing, and cholesterol levels. Even then, however, one Russian researcher warned that the possibility of any anti-cancer action lacked any foundation from a scientific-medical point of view.

The interest in Kombucha as an anti-cancer agent stems mostly from its perceived ability to help detoxify the body. Researchers have hypothesized that one of the acids in the tea may assist the liver in cleaning toxic waste, thereby making it more difficult for cancer cells to take hold. However, this is all speculation at this point as no studies have confirmed or denied such a possibility.

Meanwhile, if you’re considering adding Kombucha to your diet, it pays to employ a few safeguards. Cleanliness is especially important, as during fermentation you run the risk of growing unwanted contaminants that can later make you sick. People with compromised immune systems, especially, need to be overly cautious and ensure all utensils and containers are free of germs and that the proper temperature and pH levels are maintained.

Even if you’re buying the tea from a health food store, again be extra careful if you are fighting an illness. (Check out this post for more information.) Next, realize that there have been some reports of Kombucha causing stomach upset and allergic reactions, most likely because of the bacteria and yeast. Finally, the American Cancer Society reports on a couple cases of severe life-threatening reactions in people consuming a lot of the tea, specifically severe “acidosis”—an abnormal increase in acid levels in bodily fluids. No direct link to Kombucha tea was proven, but the drink is highly acidic and the FDA warned consumers to use caution. Because of this high acidity, the liquid can also leach lead from ceramic containers, so consumers are warned not to use ceramic pots for brewing.

If you or a loved one is facing cancer, determining what to use in the battle for your health is a very personal decision. Just be sure you use your head as well as your heart, do your research, and realize that those peddling Kombucha as the next miracle cure are more interested in your wallet than your health. (The Mayo Clinic recommends that until we have more studies, it’s best to avoid using the drink.) Remember too that over the years, we’ve seen miracle cures come and go. If they really worked, wouldn’t we all be cancer free by now?

What do you think about Kombucha tea? Please share.

Photo courtesy Tarek Maassarani via Flickr.com.

Posted in: Alternative Therapies and Lifestyle, Nutrition


12 Comments to “Kombucha Tea No Cancer Cure-All—and Possibly Dangerous”

  1. Legend says:

    Excellent insight on the efficacy of the tea. And I love the recognition of the point, ” If they really worked, wouldn’t we all be cancer free now?”
    People should be asking themselves this question every time they make a purchase based on seemingly impossible claims.

  2. Britta says:

    Thanks so much Legend for your comments! I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a shame what some of these manufacturers are able to claim. Shows an extreme lack of regulation. – Britta

  3. Kt says:

    I enjoyed reading your very interesting and informative article. Regarding your conclusion, sadly there seems to be very little incentive for scientific studies of any natural remedies that can’t be patented by big pharmaceutical corporations and sold for big bucks. Money hardly seems to be the motivation for those recommending Kombucha Tea since it is something anyone can make at home with nothing more than a few pennies’ worth of sugar and tea and a tablespoon or so of cider vinegar if one doesn’t have access to a starter “mushroom.”

  4. Brad says:

    “…realize that those peddling Kombucha as the next miracle cure are more interested in your wallet than your health.”

    I find this hysterical and hypocritical when you consider that Kombucha costs pennies to make and yet chemo treatment makes the medical and pharmaceutical industry thousands of dollars per patient.

    “If they really worked, wouldn’t we all be cancer free by now?”

    Ha, that line really made me laugh! The answer is an astounding no! As I said, cancer treatment in the traditional way of doctor visits and chemo is a billion dollar industry. If a cure for cancer was ever formally announced rather than swept under the carpet, do you realize what would happen? The medical and pharmaceutical industry along with government, would lose billions of dollars, thousands of people, possibly hundreds of thousands would lose their jobs and the global economy would likely collapse.

    People need to use the gray matter between their ears and think for a minute! Who stands to gain if something like Kombucha was publicly revealed to cure cancer and who would stand to lose by this? You guessed it, the average Joe would gain and big gigantic corps would go broke. Now keeping that in mind, do you ever see cancer being cured, publicly? If so, then I have a bridge to sell you near San Francisco.

    Think about it, cancer research has wrangled billions of dollars in funding (half a billion last year alone) yet they still have not found a cure. However, we can fly from one part of the world to another in less than a day, send and consume data in seconds with mobile phones and the Internet and even send humans into space. Yet, we can’t cure cancer. Hmm, makes one wonder.

    Something to further consider: “Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote in his autobiography that his stomach cancer was cured by regular consumption of Kombucha tea. After President Ronald Reagan came to know about the author’s claim, he decided to use Kombucha tea to prevent his cancer from spreading. The president survived his cancer, and died of old age in 2004.”

    Now answer this: if Ronald Reagan who was president of the most powerful country in existence and was considered vitally important to said country, therefore having arguably the best medical opinions at his disposal, if he turned to Kombucha, what does that tell you?

    Believe what you will, but I’m convinced there is not just one cure for cancer, but many! Unfortunately as Kt alluded to, none of those cures would make anywhere near enough money to justify the loss of billions, if made known to the public.

    So, you keep believing what you choose to believe, meanwhile I’ll keep drinking my Kombucha, taking my calcium and magnesium supplements, my food-based vitamins, and balancing my body’s pH.

    …Oh, did I mention I haven’t been sick in over two years. I see doubters like you often. You are the ones around me that are sick all the time, while I never get anything more than a sniffle.

    May we will all someday overcome our individual ignorance.

    Best of luck and God bless!

  5. Britta Aragon says:

    Hi, Brad. First of all, thank you for your response. We’re always glad to hear back from readers of the Cinco Vidas blog, even if opinions differ from ours.

    I understand what you’re saying, completely. Though Western medicine has it’s place—after all, I went through chemo myself—I wholeheartedly believe in a more holistic approach to wellness and healing, and I agree that the pharmaceutical industry definitely doesn’t have all the answers. However, when I’m presenting information and trying to help educate people about the various options out there, I have to go with the research. And I have to be particularly cautious not to advise people to abandon what their doctors are saying in favor of a tea, for example, when so far, science has not proven that it will cure their cancer. To do otherwise would just be irresponsible.

    My goal is not to stop people from using Kombucha tea, but simply to give them all the facts. We stated in this post the health benefits of the tea, and didn’t say it had no power against cancer—only that so far, we have no scientific studies supporting such an assertion. We would be the first to applaud you for taking vitamins, balancing your pH, and drinking tea, as all these things have been shown to be healthy steps. The point here is that people need to take all the facts into consideration before making a decision—especially with something as important as deciding how to treat their cancers. Reading that something is a “miracle cure” on the Internet may lead some people to take steps that could actually be harmful to their health. That Kombucha may cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, and more serious risks for some people are things the public needs to know. On the other hand, if the benefits are helpful to others, that’s great too.

    We wish you continued good health!

  6. Lardiver says:

    This site must be put up by friends of the drug companys trying to scare people into not trying kombucha, Personally I don’t tuch prescription drugs because I have seen enough people die from using them of cancer,

  7. Britta Aragon says:

    I understand your concerns with prescription drugs. I assure you, however, that we are not affiliated with any drug companies, and we do not promote any drugs in this post. We simply presented the research surrounding Kombucha as fairly as possible—the good and the bad—so that our readers are informed.

  8. Diana Konrad says:

    I don’t like the disconnect between the headline of the article “Kombucha Tea No Cancer Cure-All—and Possibly Dangerous” and then more down-to hearth fleeting answers to comments. You want to make a huge statement and at the same time weasel around with “neutrality”.

    Bottom line, I don’t believe in panacea properties of anything, but in my opinion our brains are the key for treating out bodies. We just don’t understand how to make them produce the right medicine at this time. Our “modern” medicine is going to be archaic to the one 1000 years from now so let’s not get all hung up on chemo-therapy as being irreplaceable. In fact there are many MANY cases where patients have shown remissions in incurable cancers with the power of their thought by being placed in favorable environment, travelling the world, feeling free and happy instead of gulping pills in depressing hospitals.
    Then there are Placebo effects. What do you call all that?? There is definitely a clear link between our emotional state and better health. But HOW does our emotional state improve our health and how can we manipulate it consistently? We don’t know really. We just know that somehow the brain chemically makes what we need.
    We are so used to pills and ailments that we just can’t believe in the power of our own selves. Also we constantly pollute our bodies with chemicals. Sorry, but there were no such rates of cancer 200 years ago. There also were no processed foods, radiation and 9-6 desk jobs. What does it all mean?? MAYBE – just maybe, cleaning up our bodies would not be a bad idea, huh??!!! Chinese have been notoriously good at that for 2000 years. They are obsessed with detox. I’ve been there and I’ve seen it in their culture. So why write off this Kombucha drink that’s been around for so long in China as dangerous?! You think you know more than them??

    Ok, this is just my logical process I wanted to share with you Britta, while sipping on organic raw Kombucha:). I just started drinking it and I plan to conduct my own testing on myself by drinking it every day for a year. If I find any bad symptoms within a year I will come back and warn everyone of course. If you don’t hear from me again, that means I’ve survived and maybe even thriving;)…

  9. Britta Aragon says:

    Thanks for your input, Diana. I agree with some of what you’re saying. I think I’ve made clear my intention with this post—to tell what we know so far about this ingredient via scientific research, and to make sure people are informed before relying on it as a cancer cure. I had seen this advertised as a cancer cure-all to unsuspecting victims who would part with substantial funds as a last hope to cure their disease, and that makes me sad. I wanted to provide the real picture of what the science has shown us so far. I’m thrilled for those who experience benefits from the tea. My hope is that unscrupulous marketers aren’t able to take advantage of people who at the end of their ropes.

  10. Laura W. says:

    Wow folks. Try it for yourself, listen to your body & see what happens. Personally i believe it to be a God sent miracle. Possibly the lactic acid wine mentioned in the bible? i do not doubt. 3 oz in the am & same in the pm, mixed with water, honey, juice, yogurt, soup, it’s endless the yummy combos that can be conceived. Feeling too acidic? Detoxing too quickly? Take less or try a “secondary fermentation” in bottles to mellow the taste & even more so boost the benefits. Evolving past the novice? The “continuous brew method” has much merit for those bold enough to explore further. Probiotic wonderland and true self-care responsibility is possible for pennies per beloved ounce! What can your Kombucha teach you about life?

  11. z.t. says:

    I drank a whole bottle from Whole Foods… i had a headache, chills, cold sweat, hot flashes. I still have a nauseated feeling but I’m feeling much better. Will never drink it again.

  12. Intesity says:

    You gotta find the right Kombucha. Some are kind of hard to drink. I’ve found one that tastes like a soda and is organic as well. By the way, I can appreciate opinions that look into the facts. Like the article mentions, one can get a little obsessed with it and OD. Everything with moderation would seem to make sense here.


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