Pretty much any food or drink has some benefits, but the longer and more varied that list gets the more suspicious we tend to be. And not many edibles have a longer lists of purported health benefits than kombucha, a fermented tea from east Asia.
But we’re always open to being told we were wrong, and perhaps kombucha is indeed a miracle elixir that should be coming out of all our taps. So we spoke to dietitian Aisling Pigott of the British Dietetic Association to find out what research, if any, has been done into kombucha’s effects, but first let’s look into exactly what kombucha is.
What is kombucha?
Fizzy fermented tea, made with sugar and scoby. If you haven’t got a Scooby what scoby is, it’s an acronym that stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. You can buy some if you’re planning on making your own kombucha at home.
To make kombucha you add the scoby to sweetened black or green tea that has been left to cool, then cover and leave the mixture for a week or so while the magic of fermentation takes place. The result is a fizzy, sweet and sour drink.
What health benefits have been ascribed to kombucha and are any of them backed up by scientific research?
The list of benefits not claimed of kombucha is probably shorter, to be honest. Among other things, kombucha is claimed to bolster the immune system, counteract the effects of ageing, improve digestive health and even help prevent certain cancers. Unfortunately, the science just isn’t there to back up kombucha’s credentials right now.
“There are actually very few studies or evidence of any benefits at present,” says Pigott.
Are there any risks to drinking kombucha?
If you ladle in mounds of sugar into your kombucha then it’s not going to be great for you, but in general it’s not going to be harmful, so if you’ve become addicted to the stuff you can drink on.
“It depends on the preparation, and sugar and caffeine content,” says Pigott. “As with anything if you enjoy it and find it helpful, then great! Otherwise it’s probably not going to be a miracle cure.”