Kombucha, a fermented beverage
with real "Zing" in it
by Tom Valentine, at Search for Health Magazine


Photos added by Günther W. Frank
Comment by Günther W. Frank: Tom Valentine's article (Search For Health, Volume 1, Number 6, July/August 1993) brought Kombucha to the United States in 1993. Since then this ancient beverage has spread all over the United States.


Something ancient has come to America, and you need to know about it so you can strive to prevent diseases like cancer and arthritis; so that you can protect your family's health by simply drinking this traditional homemade beverage, called Kombucha, to detoxify and energize your bodies.

Here are some comments from doctors investigating Kombucha back in the 1920's:

"Dr. Maxim Bing (1928) recommends the 'Kombucha sponge'as a'very effective means of combating hardening of the arteries, gout and sluggishness of the bowels. By using good fresh culture a very favorable effect begins to take place, which in cases of hardening of the arteries expresses itself by a drop in blood pressure, a cessation of feelings of anxiety, of irritability and aches and pains, headache, dizziness, etc. The sluggishness of the bowels and its concomitant symptoms can likewise speedily be improved. Particularly favorable results are obtained in cases of hardening of the kidneys and the capillary vessels of the brain, whereas hardening of the cardiac vessels is less favorably influenced.'

Dr. E. Arauner (1929) says that the "Kombucha culture has been used for hundreds of years by the Asiatic people of his homeland because of its surprising success as the most effective natural folk remedy for fatigue, lassitude, nervous tension, incipient signs of old age, hardening of the arteries, sluggishness of the bowels, gout and rheumatism, hemorrhoids and diabetes."

A more up-to-date testimony from a woman in the Netherlands is as follows:

"I've been suffering from multiple sclerosis since 1982. I've now had good results with Kombucha. This has a detoxifying effect on the body. I began drinking the tea in 1989. At that time I could only go a few meters outside the house, leaning heavily on two canes, and my condition was getting visibly worse. Now I can get out again for about 20 minutes, without canes-and I'm not tired anymore. The result of a medical check-up was the renewal of the certificate of ability to hold a nominal driver's license. I'm even going to try a little skiing again this year (1992). With a Kombucha culture you can prepare your own natural remedy all your life long. I hope this account will contribute towards other people experiencing an improvement in their state of health through Kombucha."

Health giving products of fermentation

Now that we have your interest, here's the whole story: Fermentation is the process of inducing a chemical change in a complex organic compound by the action of one or more enzymes, which are produced by microbes. This process has served mankind since the dawn of civilization and even in our age of technological wonders, some simple God-given ferments continue to serve human health far more effectively and economically than all the drugs and complex compounds in the arsenal of modern science.

At Search for Health we have been fascinated by the products of fermentation and how they can be used to improve human metabolism and physiology. For example, We've long known that lactic acid is a ferment of the friendly bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus, as well as being a part of human cell metabolism. For this reason we have had a keen interest in lactic acid, especially the health benefits of the good (+) lactic acid as opposed to the bad (-) lactic acid, as well as the other health giving products of fermenta- tion. Lactic-acid was featured in our March/April 1993 issue and updated in the May/June and July/August issues.

Something ancient has come to us

With our long-standing interest in mind, you can readily see why we were very excited when a subscriber told us about a beverage made from the ferments of an "ancient Manchurian tea fungus" and sent us a viable culture in the mail.

Although it was new to us, and will be new to most of you, the " Kombucha" is not at all new-it is truly ancient. In fact the name derives from that of a Korean physician, Kombu, who was called to treat the Japanese Emperor Inkyo back about the year 415 AD.

During the past three months we have personally experimented and produced the Kombucha beverage which is known by many names in Europe and Asia. For example it is called Kvass in parts of Russia. We have also imported and made available, two books, originally written in German but now in English, that provide comprehensive details about this remarkable fermented tonic, and we are continuing to research and learn.

The two books are: Kombucha, Healthy Beverage and Natural Remedy from the FarEast, by Günther W. Frank (150 pages) and Tea Fungus Kombucha, The Natural Remedy and its Significance in Cases of Cancer and Other Metabolic Diseases, by Rosina Fasching (60 pages). The books are published in Austria. Information on how to buy these books from Search for Health is found on page 40.

Günther Frank's book is detailed and quite objective. He has researched the available literature thoroughly and lists all the varying opinions on how best to make the beverage and care for the cultures that have been handed down over the centuries.

We were pleased with Frank's thorough treatment of the many variables and opinions about Kombucha.

While he described a number of notions about brewing Kombucha, he also tells the reader how best to prepare the beverage for therapeutic purposes. Yet, at the same time Frank did not hype the Kombucha as a "cure all" which some others are tending to do.

Rosina Fasching outlines the clinical work of her noted uncle, Rudolf Sklenar MD, who improved many chronically ill patients using the Kombucha beverage as the primary therapy.

Kombucha converts tea and sugar
into a healthy, nutrious detoxifying beverage

Our research already tells us that although it is an outstanding, health-giving, immune-boosting drink, Kombucha is not a cure all and people should not expect miracles even though a few " seeming" miracle cures will surely occur in individuals whose bodies will respond rapidly to a habit of fermenting and drinking Kombucha.

The Kombucha "fungus" turns black tea and white sugar into a healthy drink. That's right, "black tea and sugar" are the feedstock for this culture. Since white sugar is prohibited in our home and we drink only the organic green tea, our first thoughts about the viability of this traditional beverage were negative. However, when we noticed that two of the key metabolites of the fermentation of tea and sugar by Kombucha were glucuronic acid and good (+) lactic acid as well as a balance of all the B-vitamins, we allowed sugar into our house and went to work brewing batches of sweetened black tea.

The potentially large amount of glucuronic acid in the beverage is especially exciting to us, just as it was to Soviet scientists and cancer researchers back in the final years of Joseph Stalin -a tale we're about to tell. Glucuronic acid is not readily commercially synthesized, but the healthy human liver makes large amounts of it to detoxify the body. In the liver the glucuronic acid binds up all poisons and toxins both environmental and metabolic and rushes them to the excretory system. Toxins once bound by glucuronic acid cannot be resorbed into the system so we are rid of them.

Harmful substances are eliminated

Günther Frank put it this way in his book: "In my opinion, the good effects Kombucha has been observed to have on gout, rheumatism, arthritis, etc., can be probably explained by the fact that harmful substances deposited in the body, through conjugation with the glucuronic acid contained in the beverage, are rendered water soluble and made capable of being passed through the kidneys and eliminated with the urine. By conjugation, which is a sort of bio-transformation, exogenous and endogenous substances are bound with glucuronic acid as glucuronides, which are also called conjugated glucuronic acids."

Do people need Kombucha? The question is: do people today have healthy livers? We have pointed out time and again, and author Frank points it out in his book on Kombucha-can anyone be certain that their livers are healthy and properly functioning in these times of high pollution and toxicity combined with contaminated nourishment and plenty of stress? Frank put it this way: A healthy liver producing adequate glucuronic acid "becomes critical when the environment contains, excessive amounts of freely circulating toxic sub- stances or when excessive amounts of endogenic metabolic toxins (from drugs, booze and junk foods) accumulate in the body."

The modern American living in a polluted urban environment, drinking, cooking with and bathing in poor quality, chemicalized tap water; eating refined, denatured, chemicalized junk foods which are in turn grown in depleted soils is literally overloading his liver.

And we haven't even mentioned smoking, alcohol consumption, drugs, antibiotics or mercury amalgam tooth fillings! Anyway, it is painfully obvious that detoxifying is of the utmost importance to modern Americans, and the Kombucha beverage appears to offer an abundance of the key detoxifier, glucuronic acid.

An amazing story about Soviet cancer researchers

In his book, Frank relates an amazing but true story -about Soviet cancer researchers in the crucial years just before Stalin died in 1954.

Taking a page from the police tactics of the KGB, Soviet cancer researchers determined to find out why, where and how this dread disease had increased so dramatically following World War II. Using the probing techniques made infamous by the KGB, the Soviet researchers analyzed the cancer epidemiology community by community in minute detail-taking into detailed account all the environmental factors.

There in the midst of dreadful cancer statistics two districts in the region of Penn on the Kama river in the central western Ural mountains stood out like neon lights. The districts of Ssolikamsk and Beresniki had hardly any cancer cases reported, and those few with cancer often turned out to be people who had only recently moved into the area from elsewhere.

How could this be? Environmental conditions were not any better than other districts-in fact the region had potassium, lead, mercury and asbestos mining with production facilities spewing plenty of pollution. In fact trees in the area and fish in the Kama were dying.

In typical KGB fashion, two teams of scientific investigators were set up, one in Ssolikamsk, the other in Beresniki. They probed into private lives and investigated and analyzed. In the end they were puzzled. Günther Frank points out in detail how the people of these two districts drank as much vodka as other Russians, but did not seem to have the social drunkenness problems, nor the poor -work record usually associated with drinking. The problem was finding an explanation for this curious improvement.

It is "tea kvass", the old babushka said

Then it happened that one of the scientific team leaders personally visited the home of a family selected to be studied. It was a warm summer day and the family was away- only an elderly "babushka" was at home.

The old woman offered Dr. Molodyev a refreshing beverage. What was it, he asked? She responded that it was "tea kvass." The doctor knew of a "kvass" that was fermented from bread (the "Brottrunk" from rye bread fermentation we have mentioned in earlier issues).

The Russian bread-kvass is a slightly sour weak beer that is made from rye flour and malt, bran and flour, or from black bread and apples, which are left to ferment in water to which various other ingredients are added. The acid contained in Russian Kvass is primarily lactic acid. The recipe for rye-bread-kvass you will find here .
But Dr. Molodyev had never known of this particular product named tea kvass. Molodyev inquired and learned from the babushka all about the "tea wine" made from the "tea sponge."

The "spongy mushroom thing" floating in the sugary tea was not exactly appetizing to look upon, but, as the elderly woman explained: the drink was tasty enough and "very healthy, easy to digest, and what's more, it is free!"

Spongy thing looked ugly, but drink was tasty

It tumed out that Dr. Grigoriev in Beresniki also stumbled across tea kvass at about the same time and it was soon confirmed that nary a home in the region was without the fermenting crocks of kvass or Kombucha.

"Here was a cheap and beneficial folk beverage. Even alcoholics drank large quantities of it before, during and after drinking alcohol. The remarkable thing about this was that after consuming large quantities of alcohol, drinkers showed hardly any signs of inebriation. Drunken offenses and accidents--either on the road or at work--caused as a result of consuming alcohol were extremely rare," the Soviet researchers noted. "The consumption of alcohol and tobacco was rather higher in the areas investigated than in other regions of the USSR."

The Central Bacteriological Institute in Moscow determined they were dealing with "the little known Kombucha, or Japanese tea sponge." The scientists further determined that the sponge-like mushroom culture was actually a jelly-like mass formed by symbiotic growths of bacterium xylinum and nestlike deposits of yeast cells of the genus Saccharomyces. To this symbiosis, Frank writes, "also belong: Saccharomyces ludwigii, Saccharomyces of the apiculatus types; Bacterium xylinoides, Bacterium gluconicum, Schizosaccharomycespombe, Acetobacter ketogenum, Torula types, Pichia fermentans and other yeasts."

The Soviet microbiologists decided that the "tea fungus" was not a "fungus, but a lichen." Even though one of the products of the fermentation is a "lichen-like antibiotic," Frank disagrees and states as follows: "A lichen is a symbiosis of algae and fungi, and requires light as a source of energy in order to build up chlorophyll by photosynthesis, a typical feature of algae. Kombucha, on the other hand, flourishes even in the dark, precisely because it contains no algae components."

In his book Frank goes into detail on the microbes and the biochemistry in easy to understand language.

His tale of the Soviet cancer researchers also delves into the fascinating politics of the USSR in the final years of Joseph Stalin, and links this cancer research to the intrigue of the Soviet hierarchy at the time of Stalin's demise. This story alone is worth the price of the book, but Kombucha is much, much more.

Former President Ronald Reagan is said
to have Kombucha a key part of his cancer fighting nutrient program

In that same chapter we learn from Frank's Soviet source that President Ronald Reagan was informed of the benefits of Kombucha and that he made it a part of his personal regimen after cancer had been diagnosed in his body. This intriguing bit of inforrnation is not surprising when we realize that stories persist that the former President was also advised to take beta-carotene in the form of emulsified vitamin A and the Wobenzymes, both from Germany. The fact is: Ronald Reagan is going strong today, and he was diagnosed with cancer many years ago. Perhaps he does drink Kombucha regularly.

Photo left: Günther W. Frank (right), author of the popular book "Kombucha - Healthy beverage and Natural Remedy from the Far East" has a good-natured chat with the wax image of Ronald Reagan in a London museum. The author said the former president would not comment on whether he drank the Kombucha beverage as reported. Frank did receive a letter from the Reagans, but they neither confirmed nor denied using the traditional fermented beverage personally.

Regardless of the Reagan intrigue, the Soviet experience is part of the large body of documentary evidence that the beverage made from the Kombucha fermentation of tea and sugar is, indeed, a dramatic immune system booster and body detoxifier. In our nation and in our present time, our bodies surely need plenty of both - immune boosting and detoxification. This is essentially why we are so excited about the prospects of Kombucha here in America and why Search for Health will strive to spread the word, and the cultures, as widely as possible.

Kombucha will reproduce itself with every batch

Once you have one culture going to work on about three quarts of sweetened tea, you will double the number of cultures in your possession with every batch. That's right. You are dealing with a living process that reproduces itself. Once a robust culture has made a batch of beverage, which takes between 8 and 14 days depending on several factors, including personal taste and potential therapeutic value, the culture will have duplicated itself in the process. Now you have two cultures. Two more weeks and you have four, and on it goes.

Before long you can be almost overrun with Kombucha cultures-you may even run out of friends and relatives to give them to! This is why the old babushka called the healthy drink "free."

Ordinary Lipton's tea bags will do, although we prefer organic Oolong tea and organic green tea. (Yes, Frank tells how to make the beverage with Green tea and herb teas as well. However the Kombucha culture does not do well with fruit teas or in teas that have essential oils. Details in his book.)

We started with a round shaped culture that came as a gift from our subscribers in Arizona, then we received two rectangularly cut pieces of culture from Günther Frank. As of this writing we have 16 very robust "mushrooms" and hardly enough containers for another round. We've simply tossed out several cultures that didn't appear robust and healthy-they make a great compost, or you can whip it up in a blender and make a skin care preparation.

You are dealing with a living process

You will find that Kombucha beverage making is a natural process and therefore may be inconsistent. Sometimes a culture will not reproduce properly.

On the other hand, we have found Kombucha fermentation to be far more consistent than rye bread starter made from scratch. This is because the microbes of the Kombucha "pancake" are a relatively secure and hardy symbiosis, while "starter" is derived from the microbes in the air.

To our way of thinking the Kombucha is not really "spongy" because it isn't soft and porous. It's more like a rubbery pancake because the yeast coats the mass with a slick, smooth skin.

As for concerns about the refined sugar, which all health conscious individuals express, Frank provides this note: "You should take into account that after a normal fermentation period of 14 days only 3 grams of simple sugars (monosaccharides) per 100 grams of Kombucha tea remain in the drink."

Making the beverage is easy

Making the beverage is very easy to do. We noticed that some versions of the Kombucha story making the rounds insist that there is only one way to do it or else the devil will get you. For example, we were told only to use brown sugar-not dark brown and not white, not even the unrefined. Frank points out that white sugar actually works the best for the culture. Frank has no taboos against using stainless steel cooking pots, but like anyone who advocates health, he recommends against using aluminum cookware.

We were advised to use glass or ceramic cooking pots and to never touch the culture or the liquid with metal utensils or cookware. We thought this to be good advice because glass and ceramic were around thousands of years ago and stainless steel was not. We brew the tea in pyrex casserol containers and ferment the brew in good quality glass jars. Frank's book gives detailed descriptions on how to make Kombucha and additional information comes with any order he sends from Germany.

The taste of the fermented beverage ranges from sweet apple juice to apple cider vinegar. The more vinegary, the more acidic it is. Some people prefer the tart to the mild. The variables are controlled by the length of the fermentation period as well as the amounts of sugar and tea used in a batch. Also, the fermentation continues even after the beverage is bottled and placed in the refrigerator.

As of this writing, we have not yet found a lab capable of giving us analyses of the glucuronic acid and other metabolites of the beverage we have made. When we get results, we'll keep you posted.

Kombucha enhances natural
robust cellular oxidation processes

The health benefits of drinking the Kombucha beverage every day are still likely due to aciditying, cleansing and detoxifying effects. In her book, Rosina Fasching concludes that the "cancer fighting" nature of the drink lies in its ability to return the body's systems to their robust natural state. She credits the theories developed by Günther Enderlein for explaining how it works to destroy the "terrain" needed by cancer enhancing microbes in order to grow, reproduce and cause trouble. By cleansing and correcting the pH of the "terrain" the Kombucha beverage enhances natural robust cellular oxidation processes. The Enderlein school of thought states clearly that this protection of the interior "terrain" of the body can be accomplished only by natural means -- not by modern drugs.

Mrs. Fasching, like many researchers today, noted that even Louis Pasteur, who pioneered the germ theory of disease, admitted in the end that "the microbe is nothing the terrain (environment) everything".

"The Kombucha fungus sprouts in an acidic environment and thus eliminates or retards in its development the primitive cancer causing microbe which thrives in an alkaline environment and thus renders it, or keeps it harmless for man. The treatment of cancer as well as of precancerous stages including tumors, has a simple key: fungus versus fungus!"

That may, or may not, be a viable scientific explanation for why Kombucha seems to retard cancer. We can only assume that the Soviet experience testifies to cancer prevention qualities. We can also urge authorities to give the Enderlein thesis a thorough and fair trial.

There is also this bit of information from food preserving tradition reported by Frank "Acids have a preservative effect that they produce in the foodstuffs to be preserved a pH value which certain microbes can no longer tolerate, in particular those which create toxins... To a certain extent the Kombucha beverage preserves itself. Any alien organisms are repressed through the acids it produces."

Kombucha yeasts fight Candida, they do not encourage it

Since Kombucha is called a "mushroom" by many people and a "fungus" by others, and since it is a "yeast" as well as a bacterial ferment, there are those who will automatically warn all candida albicans victims-those with chronic candiasis-to stay away from Kombucha.

"Not so!" Cried Günther Frank when we asked him about this. He argued that the Saccharomycodes is a yeast that does not have spores and is therefore not in the family of candida, so it can be actually antagonistic to the troublesome yeast that infects so many people.

Frank explained:"Whereas most of the ascomycetes such as penicillin, ergot, bread mould, mildew, thrush (candida) and others reproduce by means of spores, most of the yeasts, reproduce vegetatively by means of budding. In addition there is the combination of budding and fission. The fission yeasts reproduce by means of fission like bacteria, they don't bud nor have spores. The Pombe fission yeast of the Kombucha culture belongs to this type."

Ancient ferment with a healthy promise

The wide variety of health benefits attributed to Kombucha over the many years of its existence are chronicled in Frank's book. We repeat a few of them here:

"Bacinskaya had already established by 1914 that the beverage was effective in regulating the activity of the intestinal tract. The author recommended drinking a small glass before each meal, and gradually increasing the amounts.

Prof. Rudolf Kobert, Privy Councillor, (1917-18) recalled that an infallible cure for rheumatism was prepared using Kombucha culture.

Prof. Wilhelm Henneberg also writes that a beverage prepared by means of the Kombucha culture, called tea kvass -in Russia, is reputed to be a means of combating all kinds of illness, especially constipation.'

According to Dr. Madaus in Biological Method of Healing, 1927, the Kombucha culture and its metabolic products have an excellent effect on the regeneration of cell walls and it is therefore an excellent remedy for "hardening of the arteries." We've already quoted Drs. Bing and Arauner at the beginning of this feature.

Many tales of health benefits

Then there are the modern testimonials to Kombucha that take up several pages in his book. Here is a sample:

15 year old boy from the Netherlands: "The misery began when I was 10 years old, and it lasted 4 1/2 years. At first the itching began in my arms, and I scratched them till they bled, especially in bed at night ... after six weeks I went to the doctor. I was given a course in penicillin and ointment, because one arm was inflamed from scratching. This lasted for about a year and a half. I kept getting more ointment, one lot after the other and it was the same with the penicillin. Finally, I had to go to a hospital specialist.

"The doctor talked about some intestinal bacteria which was the cause, of the trouble. Then I was given more medicine, which made me feel numb, but the itching remained... but now my mother's been making Kombucha tea for the past six months. I began drinking it right away, and after only one week the itching was gone. I feel as if I've been born again. Even the scars are hardly visible any more. I'd like to tell everybody to stop taking medicine and drink Kombucha."

Kombucha can become a major player
in the healthy household

At Search for Health we share sentiment of the statement by the woman from the Netherlands quoted at the beginning-we would like to see millions of Americans experience an improvement in their state of health, and Kombucha is another powerful weapon in anyone's arsenal.

However, there is a caveat. We learned from our experiences with Essiac, and Paud'Arco or Taheebo-- astounding herbal remedies from times past or from primitive cultures-that things don't work the same in our modern, polluted, hectic world as they are reputed to have worked historically- Kombucha has outstanding acids and nutrients to offer, but do not expect that it will allow you to continue an unhealthy lifestyle with impunity. You can't ignore nutrition, smoke, drink and abuse your body, then expect Kombucha to cover for you. It doesn't work that way. Kombucha can certainly become a major player in the healthy household but don't expect it to raise anyone from the dead. It is not a miracle, it's a beverage from a natural, healthful process of fermentation.

Another thing--a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. So before you begin to tinker with a culture, read both books and understand what you are doing. It will pay tremendous dividends. We found a lot of misinformation circulating about Kombucha, that's why we contacted Germany and did our research.

We look forward to many letters to the editor from you, telling us about how Kombucha helped improve your health.


PS: The address of Search for Health is
Mr. Tom Valentine, Search for Health, 6017 Pine Ridge Rd. #220, NAPLES, FL 33999
Phone (941) 353 9688 Fax (941) 353 8696


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