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Kombucha Tea Therapy

by Alick & Mari Bartholomew(more info)

listed in nutraceuticals, originally published in issue 32 - September 1998

Kombucha tea was known in the East, and found its way across Russia in the 1800s, becoming widely established as an effective folk medicine in many rural communities. In the 1950s it surfaced dramatically when Soviet doctors discovered whole communities which had apparently been protected from dangerous environmental pollution by a nutritious drink called 'tea-kwass' or Kombucha tea.

Both of us have had an interest in healing for many years, Alick through his work as a therapist at the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, and Mari as a Healing Shiatsu practitioner. A cousin of Alick's in California gave us a culture, from which have derived several hundred thousand starter cultures for people in Britain and beyond. We could immediately see the networking potential of Kombucha and how it could allow people to help themselves, friends and family to better health, and so in 1994 we started the Kombucha Tea Network UK.

Komucha tea process

How the Kombucha Tea Network Operates

From the beginning the Kombucha Tea Network has been a voluntary organisation, attracting a growing band of dedicated brewers, a few of whom became coordinators in their local area of the country. All areas of Britain and Ireland are now covered, with twenty coordinators, each with their own trusted band of Kombucha brewers producing healthy starter cultures, and making available the Kombucha Starter Pack of culture and handbook and offering advice to beginners.

There were two main concerns which we faced in the Kombucha Tea Network. One was to dispel over-sensational claims for Kombucha's benefits as a panacea for all ills. It is difficult, in a symptom-based medical system, for people not to expect a cure for their specific illness, rather than seek an understanding of the underlying causes of that illness or imbalance. The human body constantly seeks health and balance, but when it has been abused for many years, this balance is compromised. Once brought back to strength through detoxification, improved functioning and an enhanced immune system, the body can initiate its own natural mechanisms for healing. One of the aims in writing our book was to promote a better understanding of this process of self-healing, and Kombucha's role in the process.

Our other major concern was to foster a high standard of Kombucha tea brewing, to dispel myths and discourage misinformation which lead to a degrading of the quality of Kombucha tea, or to failure of the culture. The Kombucha Tea Network, with its wide experience, offers through its handbook comprehensive information based on sound theory and practice.

Encouraging Self-Empowerment

Kombucha has helped with a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions. Some of the most enthusiastic responses we have had to Kombucha have come from those people with difficult long-term illnesses such as arthritis, digestive disorders, high blood pressure, poor circulation, high cholesterol and cancer, and from older people, many of whom doctors have been unable to help. In addition, alarming numbers of young people are developing illnesses resulting from poorly functioning immune systems, such as eczema, acne, allergies, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME), etc.

When Kombucha was widely publicised by the media two years ago as a trendy new health craze, of the thousands who started to brew many gave up because they were not getting their 'quick fix', were not able to make a pleasant tasting drink, or because their culture failed. We believe that to brew Kombucha tea successfully, people need to have as much information as possible and to understand what they are doing. It is also very helpful to know of the dozens of other applications of Kombucha. For example, Kombucha tea is excellent applied topically, as a compress, or added to the bath, and made into an effective cream that can be used to heal leg ulcers and fungal nail infections. Kombucha can also be used in food recipes, with animals, in the garden and all around the home

How Does Kombucha Work?

Kombucha is an effective metabolic balancer (helping the various organs work together), probiotic (supporting the beneficial bacteria), adaptogen (balancing processes that get out of kilter) and detoxifier. The probiotic case for Kombucha is that it encourages healthier intestinal flora by introducing lactic acid-producing bacteria. These work in a similar way to acidophilus bacteria, the active ingredient in live yoghurt. An old saying, 'healthy gut, healthy body,' puts it simply. The acidity level of the gut is all-important, as is the health of its microbial flora which play a crucial role in the functioning of the whole body.

Bacteroides and Bifidobacteria

The bacteria in the intestines can be divided into two main types;[1] the less acid-forming bacteroides are responsible for the decaying matter in the colon; elderly people tend to have more gastric disorders; these stem from a low hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, creating more room for fungi and parasites to take hold; bacteroides are encouraged by a diet high in fats and proteins.

The more acidic ones, called bifidobacteria, are more beneficial because they produce essential organic acids, such as acetic, lactic and folic acids, which raise the acidity of the intestines, preventing invading pathogens from taking hold. In addition, by keeping down the bacteroides population, they discourage the putrefaction from becoming toxic. The bifidobacteria are favoured by a diet high in carbohydrate, fibre and lacto-vegetarian food and are more common in individuals who were breast-fed as babies. They are also assisted by drinking Kombucha tea.

Kombucha – a Nutritious Food

Kombucha has a wide range of organic acids, vitamins and enzymes that give it its extraordinary value. It contains the range of B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, B6 and B12, that provide the body with energy, help to process fats and proteins, and which are vital for the normal functioning of the nervous system. There is also vitamin C which is a potent detoxifier, immune booster and enhancer of vitality.

Probiotic Organic Acids

There are two organic acids produced by Kombucha which encourage the activity of the resident bifidobacteria, thus restoring a healthy balance with the bacteroides:

Lactic acid which is essential for healthy digestive action (through its derivative lactobacilli) and for energy production by the liver, and is not found in the tissues of people with cancer.

Acetic acid which is an antiseptic and inhibitor of pathogenic bacteria.[2]

Kombucha's Vital Organic Acids

Other valuable organic acids produced by the Kombucha culture, some of which have a more direct effect on other organs include:[3]

Glucuronic acid, normally produced by a healthy liver, is a powerful detoxifier and can readily be converted into glucosamines, the foundations of our skeletal system.

Usnic acid has selective antibiotic qualities which can partly deactivate viruses.

Citric acid is an antiascorbic.

Oxalic acid encourages the intercellular production of energy, and is a preservative.

Malic acid also helps the liver to detoxify.

Gluconic acid is a sugar product which can break down to caprylic acid to work symbiotically with —

Butyric acid (produced by the yeast) protects human cellular membranes, and combined with Gluconic acid which is produced by the bacteria, strengthens the walls of the gut in order to combat yeast infections such as candida.

Nucleic acids, like RNA and DNA, transmit information to the cells on how to perform correctly and regenerate.

A product of the oxidation process of glucose – glucuronic acid – is one of the more significant constituents of Kombucha. As a detoxifying agent, it has come into its own today in our highly polluted world. It is one of the few agents that can cope with the pollutive products of the petroleum industry, including all the plastics, herbicides, pesticides and resins. It 'kidnaps' the phenols in the liver which are then eliminated easily by the kidneys. Another byproduct of glucuronic acid are the glucosamines, the structures associated with cartilage, collagen and the fluids which lubricate the joints. Collagen reduces wrinkles, while arthritis sufferers have their deficient cartilage and joint fluids replenished.

Amino acids, which are constituents of proteins, produce important enzymes, such as glutathione a powerful antioxidant which provides protection from alcohol and pollution, and which is depleted by drug regimes.

Sugar, Yeast and Tea

When Kombucha tea is made correctly, all the sugars are fully converted into organic acids during fermentation, enabling Kombucha tea to be is safely drunk by diabetics and candida sufferers. Also the yeasts found in the Kombucha culture do not stimulate the candida yeasts as they are of a different type; candida sufferers have therefore often found considerable relief in taking Kombucha. Black or green tea may be used as a nutrient for the culture, but as green tea has anti-carcinogenic properties, is benefical to the heart and blood circulation and is particularly nutritious, it is preferable to use.

Balancing the Body

Metabolic balancing is perhaps the most important function of Kombucha. This is one reason why it is not symptom specific – why it does not always help a specific immune-related illness, but rather seems to go to a person's own weakness or personal imbalance. Such a substance which has no specific harmful effect is called an adaptogen.[4] Kombucha's adaptogen effect is seen mostly through its influence on the liver, the blood and the digestive system, where it normalises the acidity or pH.

The Acidity Factor

Human metabolism depends on the acid-alkaline balance which is constantly responding to the food that we eat, the air that we breathe, and to our emotional state. The body has a remarkable balancing system that maintains the different organs at the pH level each requires for health. A cell's pH balance is disturbed by toxins, which create more acidity. The body gets rid of toxic acids by various means. One is through breathing – that is why deep breathing is so therapeutic – it makes the blood more alkaline. Another is by flushing out – one of Kombucha's roles is to flush out the toxins through the kidneys.

The Liver Filters Toxins

The liver is vital to life; it has the ability to restore itself and has many functions – to assist digestion, to store important vitamins and minerals, to metabolise proteins, fats and carbohydrates to provide energy for the body, to recycle red blood cells, and remove toxins from the body. Because of its role in pH regulation and of its detoxifying acids, Kombucha is a valuable restorative of liver function.

Blood – Brings Life to the whole Body

When blood gets too alkaline calcium tends to crystallise out of the blood solution.[5] These crystals are deposited near the joints, causing joint tenderness, arthritis, rheumatism and allergies. Older people's blood becomes more alkaline, which can affect their circulation, oxygenation and energy. An acidic blood condition can lead to diabetes where fat and protein wastes are not being discharged. Another acidic condition results in adrenal depletion and general exhaustion.

Conventionally, blood is thought to be sterile. But through his dark-field microscope research, Professor Gunther Enderlein has shown that it is teeming with microbiological life. Normally these micro-organisms are in a mutually beneficial symbiotic state of balance but, for example, the lowering of the oxygen content of the blood, nutritional deficiency and toxicity may lead to the development of pathogenic microbial flora which can result in disease in other organs of the body. These micro-organisms can travel freely between the blood plasma which surrounds the blood cells, and the interstitial fluid which surrounds the fixed tissue cells of the body.[6] Kombucha is known to have a balancing effect of the pH of the blood which is likely to make it less hospitable to pathogenic bacteria.

Contamination and Toxicity

It is important to remember that Kombucha has a home-brewing safety track record of two millennia. Contamination of the culture by moulds is not a problem if normal standards of kitchen hygiene are observed and if the ambient temperature of the fermentation is adequate. If it occurs, the culture and brew are disposed of, just as one would a mouldy tomato paste. Kombucha tea has its own protection against pathogens, as it contains an antibiotic and, containing acetic acid (vinegar) it is self-protecting. Those who mention toxicity in connection with Kombucha misunderstand the nature of what is called a 'healing crisis' – the discomforture experienced with rapid detoxification of the liver. Kombucha is a powerful detoxifier and we always recommend anyone who begins taking Kombucha starts with a small amount to avoid any discomfort, gradually building up to the normal dose of 150mls (one wineglass) three times a day.

Research on Kombucha's Benefits

There is an extensive literature (some 300 books and research papers) dealing with the analysis of Kombucha Tea and its therapeutic effects. The independent medical research has been conducted principally in Russia and in Germany over the whole of the present century.

Among early reports were those listing the benefits of Kombucha for stomach, digestive and intestinal disorders. One of the most famous of the later researchers was Dr. Rudolf Sklenar of Oberhessen who recognised the detoxifying properties of glucuronic acid in Kombucha for removing waste matter such as cholesterol and toxic deposits. He developed a biological cancer therapy based on Kombucha, and it is his recipe which is still generally used today and for the production of the commercially bottled brew. He became a champion for the remedy, which he found helped invigorate the entire glandular system and the metabolism. He successfully treated arthritis, constipation, obesity, arteriosclerosis, impotence, kidney stones, rheumatism, gout and significantly, cancer, especially in its early stages.

Kombucha Therapy

In our book we wanted to share our own research, together with information and experiences told to us by people on the Kombucha Tea Network UK, and their feedback on how people have been helped by drinking Kombucha tea. We are also in contact with doctors and complementary health practitioners who have shared their own experiences of how Kombucha therapy has helped themselves, and their patients and clients.


1 Bryant, Monica, "The Shift to Probiotics", Jour.Alt.Med., Feb.1996.
2 Fasching, Rosina, Tea Fungus Kombucha: The Natural Remedy and its Significance in cases of Cancer and other Metabolic Diseases, Ennsthaler, 1991.
3 Frank, Gunther, Kombucha: Healthy Beverage and Natural Remedy from the Far East, Ennsthaler, 1991.
4 Lark, Dr Susan, "Ginseng – the 'upper-fixer' of the biochemical world", Health-Life, Apr. 1995.
5 Pascal, Alana & Van der Kar, Lynne, Kombucha: How-to and What It's all About, Van de Kar Press, 1995.
6 Enby, Erik, "Mikrobliknande bildningar i blod vid kronsika sjukdomar" ("Microbe-like formations in the blood of patients with chronic diseases") Swed.Jour.Biol.Med, 1, 1984.

Kombucha has proved itself to be a quite remarkable therapeutic drink, made from sweetened tea into which a Kombucha culture (a symbiosis of bacteria and yeasts) is placed. It can taste similar to apple cider or a refreshing light wine, depending on the fermentation time and type of tea used, and you make it at home with a simple recipe at almost no cost. The Kombucha brew is left to ferment in a warm place for about a week. It reproduces a 'baby' culture every fermentation by binary fission, so you can pass on your spare cultures to friends who wish to start their own brew. Drinking Kombucha promotes good health and helps millions of people with its excellent detoxifying and immune-enhancing qualities. Its origins are lost in history, but in the earliest records two thousand years ago it was known as 'the elixir of long life'.

• There are at least six million Kombucha brewers world-wide
• Doctors, consultants and practitioners are now recommending Kombucha to their patients
• Kombucha is not just a health tonic; it is a complete therapy
• Kombucha Tea made at home has safety record of over two millennia
• Kombucha's applications include an effective cream for serious skin conditions, use in the bath, in food recipes, and with animals and plants


  1. Thomas Hupp said..

    Greetings Positive Health,

    We noticed your article on Kombucha Tea Therapy. We have a new book out called Kumbucha Rediscovered by Klaus Kaufmann. The book covers first person health benefits of the drink and complete brewing instructions. The book is available through our UK distributor, Publishers Group UK in London. If you give me an email address I can send on a digital sampler of the book or get PGUK to send on a review copy.
    Let us know.
    Best Regards,
    Thomas Hupp
    Book Publishing Company

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About Alick & Mari Bartholomew

Alick and Mari Bartholomew’s book is Kombucha Tea for Your Health and Healing – The Most in-Depth Guide Available (Gateway Books, £8.95). Anyone interested in learning more about Kombucha or wanting to brew for themselves should send an s.a.e. to The Kombucha Tea Network UK, PO Box 1887, Bath, BA2 8YA.

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