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Just like friends can pass along sourdough starter, a small, round, flat, gray, gelatinous object has become a popular gift among those interested in natural medicine. You insert this object in sweetened black tea and let it ferment for 7 days. By the end of the week, you have a strong-tasting drink and a big, flat, gray, gelatinous object you can cut up and pass on to your friends.
Described variously as Manchurian mushroom, Kombucha tea, or just Kombucha, this tea is said to have been used for centuries to cure a wide variety of illnesses. The earliest known scientific analysis of Kombucha occurred in Germany in the 1930s, and subsequent studies have provided accurate information about this dubious product. 1 The word kombuchaliterally means "tea made from kombu seaweed." However, what is called Kombucha tea today has no seaweed in it. Furthermore, despite the name Manchurian mushroom, Kombucha is not a mushroom either. The gelatinous mass is a colony of numerous species of fungi and bacteria living together, and the same microorganisms permeate the tea. The precise composition of any sample of Kombucha depends to a great extent on what was floating around in your kitchen when you grew it.
The most common microorganisms found in Kombucha tea include species of Brettanomyces, Zygosaccharomyces, Saccharomyces, Candida, Torula, Acetobacter,and Pichia.However, some analyzed specimens have been found to contain completely different organisms, and there is no guarantee that they will be harmless. 2
This database does not recommend the use of homemade Kombucha tea. Commercially produced Kombucha should be safer, but it has no known medicinal effects.