|Kombucha Tea:- Whats All the Hoopla? Part 1 Basic information on Kombucha|
|Kombucha Tea:- Whats All the Hoopla? Part 2 An Interview with Günther W. Frank|
*)Let me add a remark here: Although commonly called the Kombucha Mushroom, it is not really a mushroom at all, but a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast resembling a malformed jelly fish.. This living culture replicates during the fermentation process yielding another culture, often referred to as a baby. The culture is a jelly-like mass, looking somewhat like a pancake or sponge, slimy and grayish in color. Günther W. Frank
Can it be that this beverage, apparently known and used for centuries, truly effects a dramatic turnaround from a wide variety of human ills? The mushroom, propagated at home by drinkers of the tea it produces, has modern-day proponents of natural remedies talking.
The problem here is that reports of its efficacy are mainly anecdotal. Even though the information is impressive in its quantity and diversity, Kombucha tea, at present, is consigned to the ranks of folk-remedies.
Many of those in the TMA community, including our publisher, count themselves among Kombucha teas enthusiastic supporters.
The following information has been adapted by TMA from a two-part article in The Open Line, a Spokane, Washington consciousness-movement newspaper.
- June Rouse
As we were preparing this article, the newest issue of New Age Journal appeared with their Kombucha Tea article, which I found to be negative. I personally brew and drink the tea on a daily basis, and I feel better with it than without it. I make no claims as to it being any kind of panacea. But I like it and have chosen to make this information available for you to accept or reject, as you choose.
- Guy Spiro
Numerous doctors and scientists have concerned themselves with the effects of the Kombucha beverage as a home remedy. They speak of its therapeutic effectiveness as based on gluconic acid, glucuronic acid, L-lactic acid and acetic acid, as well as the life-supporting vitamins C and the B-group. As has been shown especially by Russian researchers, many of its components have antibiotic and detoxifying characteristics that play a decisive role as support for the biochemical processes of the body.
The active substances of the Kombucha tea address themselves to the whole body system. Through its friendly metabolistic properties, it can reestablish a normal condition in the cellular membranes without any side effects, thus promoting the quality of ones well-being. Today, a growing cadre of users are propagating the mushroom and at the same time creating a brew of tea which, they say, maintains both physical and mental vitality.
Research done on the tea has been documented through the years by authors in different countries. The reports we received came mainly from Germany and Russia beginning early in the 1900s and continuing into the 1980s.
According to our research, Kombucha tea has been used for over 2000 years. (When I read something like this Im never sure how old it really is. Is it just over 2000 years or is it close to 2500 or 2900? And when do we change the number to 3000? So the time thing can merely be used as a reference to the fact that it has been around for a long time.)
Kombucha, the Germanized form of the Japanese name for the mushroom, is used internationally. Günther Frank, the author of Kombucha: Healthy Beverage and Natural Remedy from the Far East, apparently the only contemporary major work about Kombucha, reports 84 different names for the tea that can be made from it. Some of the names are: Manchurian Tea, Fungus Japonicus, Fungo-japon Kombucha, Pichia Fermentans, Cembuya Orientalis, Combuchu, Tschambucco, Volga-Spring, Mo-Gu, Champignon de Longue Vie, Teekwass, Kwassan, Brinum-Ssene, and Kargasok Tea. Just reading the names can give you an idea of some of the places it is known in the world.
That depends on which research you read. One of the places was China, and the story goes like this: The first recorded use of Kargosok Tea was during the Chinese empire of the Tsin Dynasty in 221 B.C. At that time, it was referred to as The Remedy for Immortality or The Divine Tsche. In 414 B.C., Dr. Kombu, from Korea, brought it to Japan during the reign of Emperor Inkyo. Afterward, this tea was used throughout China, Japan and Korea, and was later introduced into Russia and India. Another report says, It comes from the area of East Asia and came into Germany via Russia around the turn of the century. Still another tells us it comes from Japan. And yet another says it comes from Manchuria . . . and so it goes.
Although the word mushroom is used throughout the reports, it has neither a stem nor the growth pattern of mushroom. Actually, its a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria, a member of the fungi family.
The membrane consists of a gelatinoid and tough mushroom-web in the form of a flat disk. Kombucha lives in a nutrient solution of tea and sugar in which it constantly multiplies through germinating. The fungal disc at first spreads over the entire surface of the tea and then thickens. When one treats the mushroom correctly, it germinates, thrives, and with proper care it can accompany its owner for life.
During the fermentation and oxidation processes, the tea mushroom feeds on sugar - and in exchange, like a tiny biochemical factory, it produces other substances, said to give the tea its value: glucuronic acid, L-lactic acid, vitamins, amino acids, antibiotic substances and other products.
I have omitted this part of the text. You can find all that in
my article The Fascination of Kombucha Günther W. Frank
The wide variety of complaints relieved by Kombucha is almost not comprehensible. But it is explainable on the basis that Kombucha does not target a specific body organ but, rather, influences the entire organism positively by effecting a stabilization of the metabolic situation and the detoxifying effect of its glucuronic acid. In many people, this leads to a heightened endogenic defense capacity against those toxic influences and environmental stresses which inundate us from many sides. The result is the invigoration of a damaged cellular metabolism, and the restoration and firming up of ones well-being.
The answer to this question varies, depending on whose research you read and the reasons for which one is to drink it. Author Bacinskaja in 1914 noted that the drink is effective for stomach-intestinal activity and recommended that a person drink a small glass of it before every meal and then increase the portions gradually. Others, in different reports, say to drink only four ounces twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. This is a detoxifying beverage, so how much you drink would probably be determined by how much you want to flush through your kidneys and colon. Still others caution that more of a good thing is not necessarily better.
The Kombucha tea can be made in ones home for just pennies. Because the mushroom constantly grows, one can begin with just a piece of a mushroom tea membrane and allow a health-promoting source of drink to bubble up. As from ancient days, todays Kombucha tea drinkers prepare the beverage at home and pass the tea mushroom from friend to friend as a sign of friendship and mutual helpfulness. The tea mushroom has high vitality and a great capacity for regeneration. If it did not have this high biologic energy, it would not have survived the long time-span from its reported discovery in the Chinese Empire more than 2000 years ago.
Whoever has the necessary knowledge can deal successfully with the tea mushroom just as one deals with other open foodstuffs in ones household. When you follow instructions, you can produce an impeccable, tasty, wholesome and effective Kombucha beverage. The mushroom will increase and accompany its owner lifelong and serve him or her well.
The recipe for making the Kombucha beverage you will find on the page How to make your own Kombucha Tea
For more information about the kombucha mushroom and tea, look for the book Kombucha: Healthy Beverage and Natural Remedy from the Far East by Günther W. Frank. From the jacket: His advice rests on his own experience and research as well as that of others, and includes a survey of the literature in both German and other languages from the beginning of this century on. He refers to present day scientific research in the USSR, where very thorough study, hitherto hardly heard of in the West, has been made. The reader is enabled to come to an individual and independent evaluation of Kombucha.
Next months edition of The Monthly Aspectarian will round out the information in this issue with Open Lines interview of Günther Frank.
The following interview appeared in the September, 1994 issue of The Open Line, Spokane, WA. Adapted by June Rouse from an article in "The Open Line", September, 1994.
Open Line: Günther, why do you need so much sugar in the tea recipe? And why do you have to let the tea brew for fifteen minutes when normally five minutes at the most is enough?
Günther: I deal in great detail in the book on this, so simply and briefly: The nutrient solution has to feed the microorganisms in the Kombucha culture. We must therefore prepare the nutrient solution according to the requirements of the yeasts, principally. (The bacteria feed in their turn partly on the metabolic products of the yeasts, and partly on the nutrient solution itself). The microorganisms need the sugar in order to become activated. In nutrient solutions with a low concentration of sugar (carbohydrate), correspondingly fewer active substances are released. In lay terms, the sugar is eaten by the yeasts. The tea infusion, on the other hand, serves as a source of nitrogen and promotes the growth of the microorganisms.
The reason for having a rather longer time for brewing the tea is so that as much of this nitrogen as possible, as well as the mineral salts, etc., passes into the nutrient solution .
Open Line: What about using herbal teas?
Günther: As a basic principle, black tea is recommended. In spite of the advantages of black tea as a nutrient solution, there are plenty of people who use herbal teas to make Kombucha, either because black tea doesnt agree with them or because in addition to the effect of the Kombucha culture, they want to bring in the therapeutic value of the herbs as well, or for whatever reason. However, no variety of tea should be used which contains too many volatile oils (e.g., sage, peppermint, camomile, mint, dill, rosemary, St. Johns Wort, etc.), because such tea mixtures can, in the long run, alter the active substances in the Kombucha culture.
Open Line: What are the disadvantages of herbal tea as compared with black tea?
Günther: Many herbal teas contain more volatile oils and greater amounts of phenol than black tea. These constituents have a bactericidal effect (that is, they destroy bacteria) or a bacteriostatic effect (they inhibit bacteria), and thus can affect the bacterial components of the Kombucha culture.
The volatile oils accumulate in the upper part of the fermentation fluid. Thats where the Kombucha culture floats, or, when it sinks down a bit, where a new culture forms. So the volatile oils can work directly on the Kombucha culture. They can change it in the long run, in that they suppress the development of the less resistant constituents in the membrane of the culture.
Scientific experiments have demonstrated that black tea breaks down cholesterol and other fats in the blood and the body. An investigation of this kind was undertaken in Finland, in March, 1987.
Open Line: Why does the Kombucha culture need oxygen?
Günther: The metabolic processes of the Kombucha culture are dependent on fresh air. Therefore, care must be taken that there is always a sufficient supply of oxygen.
For this reason, the container should have a wide opening, and the liquid should not lie too far below the lip. A large surface area has a beneficial effect.
You should not smoke in the same room. Apparently, the culture could then dissolve or go moldy. You wouldnt want to keep your culture in the kitchen where you might have a greasy, steamy atmosphere that could have a negative effect.
Open Line: How much Kombucha should one drink, and when?
Günther: In the extensive world literature, there are few directions to be found as to how much Kombucha one should take, and when. The recommendations go from a couple of wine glasses a day to a liter a day. Three times a day was the most recommended. Morning before breakfast, noon after food, and evening.
You can regard this recommendation as a temporary rule of thumb. Its a guideline, but theres no necessity to stick to it. You should find out for yourself what is the best dosage for your own needs. Each person is unique, with their own constitution and sensibilities and individual biological predisposition. I know of some people who only drink three liqueur glasses a day. On the other hand, there are others who drink larger quantities, including between meals as well, and who feel very well on it.
Open Line: Why should the first glass be taken in the morning on an empty stomach, but the other glasses after meals?
Günther: I presume that by recommending this dosage, Dr. Sklenar [researcher] wanted to cover as broad a range of effectiveness as possible, using the great variety of substances contained in Kombucha. It is known in pharmacology that absorption of certain active substances (e.g., certain fungicides) into the bloodstream or lymphstream is reduced if taken before meals. On the other hand, other active substances should be taken on an empty stomach. Kombucha contains a great number of substances. The small amounts of antibiotic substances contained in Kombucha are rendered especially effective when the beverage is taken in the morning on an empty stomach whereas, for example, the organic acids stimulate a better functioning of the digestive processes when the beverage is taken after the more ample midday and evening meals. But as Ive already said, I dont see any need to be particularly dogmatic about the above- mentioned recommendations. Our body is a good barometer if we understand how to recognize its reactions and interpret them correctly.
Open Line: Health-conscious people dont use white sugar. Can you address that?
Günther: Kombucha drinkers are generally health-conscious people who think about what they are eating and drinking. They know that with regard to sugar, in the field of whole food irrespective of a variety of other often mutually contradictory views about nutrition everyone is agreed that the use of refined white sugar should, in principle, be disapproved of. The use of sugar in the preparation of Kombucha, therefore, worries many people and gives them a guilty conscience.
We know that every cell requires sugar. The human organism is able to produce the requisite blood-sugar from other carbohydrates. It is therefore not dependent on refined sugar in order to do this.
The Kombucha culture, however, is dependent on the supply of sugar because it cannot produce it itself in sufficient quantities on its own. It has to be supplied with sugar in the nutrient solution. Sugar plays an important part in the metabolism of the Kombucha culture during the feeding, breathing and fermentation of the microorganism. The Kombucha culture can only accomplish as much as the energy it is supplied with. The metabolic processes, including the process of conversion of energy connected with them, are essential for all organisms. Therefore, sugar cannot be dispensed with when making Kombucha.
So you see, sugar is not added to Kombucha in order to make the beverage taste sweeter, but to form a good nutrient solution for the culture. The culture feeds on the sugar and draws energy from it as well as from the minerals and the nitrogen which have passed into the liquid from the tea leaves . . . energy which is needed for its metabolic activity while it makes the various component parts of the Kombucha beverage, grows, and forms offshoots.
Open Line: Can honey be used instead of sugar?
Günther: Opinions diverge considerably about whether honey can be used instead of sugar when preparing Kombucha. The volatile oils in the honey allegedly alter the Kombucha culture considerably, at least in the long run. It must also be borne in mind that among the more than a hundred different vital and aromatic substances which are otherwise desirable in honey, there are also substances which repress and destroy bacteria, and prevent their growth.
The bacteriostatic effect certainly speaks for the wholesomeness of honey. But what happens when these substances inhibit the microorganisms in the Kombucha culture and prevent their vital functions? There have been people who announced with a beaming smile: It works with honey, too. Everything went well for a while and then, after a year, the cultures activity came to a standstill.
Each person can decide for themselves whether they want to use honey or sugar. As a precaution when experimenting, however, I would always keep a reserve culture in black tea sweetened with sugar, as an insurance, so to speak, just in case the experiment should prove unsuccessful.
I do not want to conceal the fact that this advice conflicts with the experiences of people I know to be reliable, who claim that no recognizable difference between the use of sugar and honey has been discovered. Many people put forward the fact that a Kombucha beverage of a particularly aromatic character is obtained by using honey. I personally consider the taste of Kombucha to be a secondary issue. The health aspect should be of primary importance. Other advocates of the use of honey state that the mucin in the honey had positive effects on the Kombucha tea.
As far as weight is concerned, you should use rather more honey than you would sugar because the proportion of sugar in honey, depending on the type of honey, lies between only seventy and eighty percent. You dont need to use expensive honey. It can be a cheap mixture of different honeys. The important thing about the quality of the honey is that it should be extracted cold and not heated above forty degrees Centigrade. In contrast to sugar, the honey should only be added when the tea has cooled down to lukewarm, as otherwise the constituent substances which you set great store by, of course will be damaged.
Open Line: How long does the Kombucha culture remain alive and active?
Günther: Schmidt  quotes some instructions for cultivation which say that the culture is killed through exposure to sunlight and being scalded. I wholeheartedly agree. Putting the culture into tea that is too hot can just kill it off at once. The exposure to sunlight damages the culture, which is why the fermentation container should not stand in bright sunlight but in shadow or in a dark place.
Wiechowski  mentions that the growth of the Kombucha culture and, consequently, a further increase in acidity comes to an end after a more or less long time. . The length of time would depend on the different circumstances under which the Kombucha culture grows. Irion  writes about the lifespan of Kombucha culture and says that if the culture is handled correctly, it can be used from four to six months and will produce 200-300 liters of beverage. The culture is spent and must be renewed as soon as the beverage becomes too sour, or if mold begins to form on the skin of the culture. Mold may grow in the Kombucha culture though this is extremely rare just as it may grow on any foodstuff. According to Henneberg, mold forms particularly where there is an open source of mold somewhere in the room, or where spores can somehow alight on the culture. The worse the conditions provided for the yeasts and bacteria in the Kombucha culture, the greater are the chances of mold developing. Apparently, mold is also particularly likely to form where people smoke in the same room with it. Small amounts of mold can easily be removed by dabbing the spot with ordinary table vinegar. Arauner  says, If the surface of the skin on the culture shows dark brown wrinkled patches which tear easily, then this is a sign that the culture is beginning to die off, is losing its effectiveness and is of no further use. The old culture must then be removed and a new culture started off.
The Kombucha culture has, in fact, a very tenacious hold on life. Ive even heard of people who left the culture for months on end unheeded in the basement and then revived it by replenishing the nutrient solution.
Apart from whether it works well or not, an older culture will, in the course of time, look rather unsightly. Through the effect of the tannic acid in the tea, the yeast deposit, and the dye from the various kinds of tea which has colored it, the culture grows browner and browner and can finally becomes as brown as coffee.
You really mustnt let it come to that point because your culture is beginning to die off. Its better to use fresh young cultures obtained by timely propagation. So you should part from an old culture in good time and without scruples. If you follow this principle, the culture can, with careful handling and clean working methods, really give you lifelong joy because like any living organism, it constantly rejuvenates and propagates itself. In this way, you will always have strong cultures capable of producing vigorous fermentation. Dr. Bing emphasizes that the characteristic metabolism of the various microorganism in the Kombucha culture, upon which the therapeutic effect is based, is bound up with the living cells of this symbiosis and can only be fully carried out by good fresh cultures capable of vigorous fermentation.
If you should have a Kombucha culture which has degenerated through unfavorable environmental influences and which cant be regenerated again by an improvement in its living conditions, it is advisable to start again with a new culture. Otherwise, it really is much better always to use new cultures and to part from the old ones in good time. Then the question as to how long the Kombucha culture can live becomes entirely irrelevant. Then the apparently rather bold statement is true, that the Kombucha culture will prove to be a lifelong companion.
Open Line: When you go away on vacation what do you do with your mushroom?
Günther: I recommend the following method, which causes no harm: shortly before your departure, place the culture in an open container with freshly made tea with sugar in it, with the usual addition of a proportion of already-fermented beverage. Cover this container with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth and stand it in a fairly cool place. The activity of the culture slows down considerably because of the low temperature, but it doesnt die. You can leave it there for weeks. ...You can also keep it in the refrigerator. The culture takes longer to get going again after being kept in the fridge than when it has been kept in the basement or other cool place.
Open Line: Can the culture be dried?
Günther: Yes, it can. It then looks like a tough, brownish, leathery skin. When this skin is put into a nutrient solution (water, sugar and tea), it swells and the microorganism begin to reproduce again. Here is the danger, however, that depending on environmental conditions during the drying process, wild yeasts, etc., present in the atmosphere might settle on the culture.
The tough dried skin, by the way, has also been used for the production of imitation leather. Lindner  and Harms  reported that layers of Kombucha culture which had grown in imperfect concentric formation were tanned and then worked into kid gloves by the Auer Company.
Günther's book goes into considerable detail and includes many references.
It is an excellent book that is the result of many years of studying Kombucha.
I think this book is the original source of much of the current information
See the index of the book
and also where to buy the book.
Where to get a Kombucha starter culture?
Click here or visit the Kombucha Exchange below.
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Günther W. Frank
75217 Birkenfeld (Black Forest)