What It Is, How It Works, and How to Prepare It
By Stan Russell and Chakra Earthsong, Natural Cures™ Editor in Chief
Kombucha tea (pronounced kom-BOO-cha) is an ancient folk remedy from Asia whose history goes back beyond the birth of Christ. It is a refreshing beverage that has such a broad range of health benefits it almost seems to be the long-sought panacea for all human ills. Although it is not a panacea, its usefulness in maintaining health is especially significant today in dealing with metabolic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, HIV and other contemporary killers.
As with most folk medicines, extravagant claims have been made about “miraculous” cures attributed to Kombucha tea. Folk medicine has long been encumbered with claims of unproved powers, superstitions, anecdotal examples and spurious, questionable proofs of effectiveness. Educated people of a scientific orientation usually reject such claims and the remedies associated with them. However, Kombucha has been extensively studied by scientists, especially in the former USSR and in Germany, where it is sold in health food stores today. True to its reputation, it has been used successfully to treat some of the slightest as well as some of the gravest human health conditions.
Kombucha As A Cancer Treatment
Joseph Stalin, premier of the Soviet Union, was said to have had an obsessive fear of dying of cancer. After World War II the number of cancer cases in the Soviet Union increased dramatically from year to year. In 1951 the Russian Academy of Science and the Central Oncological Research Institute in Moscow began to analyze statistical data on the variations in number of cancer cases in the regions, districts and cities of the USSR.
They noted that there were hardly any cancer cases in the districts of Solikamsk and Beresniki in the Central Urals, and those few cases were only in people who had recently moved there.
Two teams of 10 scientists each, plus support people, were sent to investigate the environmental conditions and lifestyles of the people who lived in those districts in the hope of discovering clues that might lead to an effective treatment for cancer. They studied the origins of the population, age groups, ethnic distinctions, eating, drinking, sleeping habits, and other variables.
They discovered very high levels of environmental pollution. Potassium, lead, mercury, asbestos mines and their associated processing plants were creating toxic living conditions much worse than those occurring in the older industrial areas of the USSR. Trees were dying, as were fish in nearby waters.
Aside from the increased toxicity of the environment, the investigators could find very little that was substantially different from populations in other areas of the USSR. Ironically, there was a higher level of alcohol and nicotine consumption, but much lower levels of absenteeism and arrests for drunken offenses. Morale of workers was higher than in other areas. Norms for work production were constantly being exceeded. No explanation could be found for these anomalies.
One of the team leaders was visiting the home of a family as part of the investigation. The wife and husband were at work and the children were at school. An old lady was there, doing housework. She offered him a cool beverage which he found pleasant, tasty and refreshing. When he asked what it was, the old lady said it was “tea kvass.” The scientist was surprised. The only kvass he knew was a fermented Russian beverage similar to beer, made from rye or barley. The old lady explained that “tea kvass” was not made from rye or barley, but from sweetened tea which had been fermented by means of a “tea fungus.” She showed him 10 stoneware jars in an adjacent room which had cloths tied over their mouths. She uncovered one. It smelled strongly of fermentation. Floating on top of the liquid was a large, round, translucent, whitish, jelly-like thing, flat as a pancake. This was the “tea fungus.”
By coincidence, the other team working in the Beresniki district also stumbled onto this almost unknown “tea kvass” during their researches. Investigation disclosed that in both regions just about every household produced this “tea wine” and consumed it in ample quantities.
Even alcoholics drank quantities of it before, during, and after drinking alcohol. Although consuming large quantities of alcohol, drinkers showed hardly any signs of inebriation. Offenses of drunkenness and accidents on the road or in the workplace were rare.
No scientist on either team could identify or classify the “tea fungus.” The Moscow Central Bacteriological Institute was able to identify it from color photos and samples as Kombucha. They relied primarily on a book written in 1926 by a German, W. Henneberg.
Rich in Vitamins, Minerals and Beneficial Acids
Investigation revealed that Kombucha, among other things, has antibiotic effects and produces a variety of beneficial substances including glucuronic acid, folic acid, lactic acid (the good kind) and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12.
Glucuronic acid has extraordinary detoxifying effects. It binds with toxins generated by the body’s own metabolic processes and also binds with toxic substances from the environment (contaminants in water, air and food) and carries them out of the body in the urine. Toxins bound by glucuronic acid cannot be reabsorbed by the intestines or urinary system.
Under normal conditions of health the liver is able to generate all the glucuronic acid the body needs to detoxify itself.
In these modern times our bodies are under continuous stress from toxic substances in the food we eat, which include toxic sprays that have been applied to vegetables, antibiotics given to animals whose flesh we eat, airborne toxic substances in the air we breathe from automobiles and industries, and toxins that we choose to take into our bodies such as nicotine, alcohol, antibiotics and other drugs, recreational or therapeutic.
Under such continual, unrelenting attack the weakened liver can not produce enough glucuronic acid and degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis can take hold.
Clinical tests revealed that after drinking Kombucha, the urine of patients who had never taken Kombucha before contained significant traces of such environmental toxins as lead, mercury, benzol, cesium, etc., demonstrating its extraordinary detoxifying powers.
Body’s Building Blocks
In addition, glucuronic acid is the building block of such important polysaccharides as hyaluronic acid, the substance from which connective tissue develops; chondroitin sulfuric acid, the substance from which cartilage evolves; mucoitin sulfuric acid, the substance of stomach lining and the clear, gelatinous matter of the eyes; and heparin, which prevents the blood from coagulating.
Kombucha also contains usnic acid which has strong antibacterial effects and can also partially inactivate some viruses.
All of these contribute to Kombucha’s ability to rejuvenate the body. Kombucha has been used successfully to treat connective tissue disorders, inflammation and degeneration of the joints (arthrosis and arthritis,) damage to the stomach, intestinal and colon lining and complaints of the eyes.
Many scientists dismiss folk remedies as “unsubstantiated, anecdotal superstitions.” This was especially true in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. However, they did permit experiments to be conducted with some cancer patients who were in prison hospitals and labor camps.
One such patient, the famous dissident, Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitzyn, developed stomach cancer which metastasized to the lungs, liver, bowel and other parts of the body. He was able later to describe his experiences in his books, “Cancer Ward,” “The Right Hand,” and in his autobiographies. He believes he was completely cured as a result of drinking Kombucha tea as an adjunct to radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Another interesting anecdotal example is that of former president Ronald Reagan, who was reported in 1983 to have had cancer which had metastasized to the bowel, bladder and nose. He was unable to cope with chemotherapy and further metastases appeared. One of his physicians allegedly recalled reading of Alexander Solzhenitzyn’s complete recovery in a Soviet hospital. Solzhenitzyn, who was living in the United States at the time, was contacted and was able to provide important information. Samples of Kombucha were obtained from Japan and administered to President Reagan. He responded well and subsequently recovered completely.
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