Kombucha tea

Thursday, February 21, 2008
Image: Getty

The new celeb health craze

Forget Kabbalah-blessed water, the latest celeb trend to take over Tinseltown has healing and anti-ageing super powers.

What is it?
This ancient Chinese ''wonder-drink'' is made from a mixture of green tea, black tea and sugar, which is metabolised by the Kombucha ''mushroom''. The mushroom is not really a mushroom, but rather a pancake-like culture of yeast and bacteria that has been given the name because of the shape and colour of the sac that forms on top of the tea as it ferments.

After seeping for 30 days, the yeast breaks down the sugar and combines with the tea to produce powerful antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. During fermentation the ''mushroom'' also produces a ''baby mushroom'' on its surface — traditionally these new mushrooms are then passed along to others who then make their own cultures.

What is does?
What doesn't it do? This super-potent concoction increases metabolism, eliminates toxins, reduces cholesterol, fights the effects of ageing, fights diabetes, supports the immune system and is even said to cure alcoholism. On top of this, it also encourages healthy skin and hair, aids digestive and intestinal disorders and promises to ease the pain for arthritis sufferers. Phew!

How does it work?
Kombucha tea introduces lactic acid-producing bacteria called probiotics, similar to acidophilus bacteria found in live yoghurt, which encourages healthy intestinal flora. As the saying goes, ''A healthy gut, a healthy body'', and so intestinal flora plays an important role in the functioning of all organs.

As well a being a great source of the gut-friendly probiotic bacteria, this ancient remedy also contains organic acids, vitamins and enzymes that all add to its super powers. It provides a range of vitamins, including B1, B2, B6 and B12, which release energy, help process fats and proteins and are vital for the healthy functioning of the nervous system. It also contains vitamin C, a great detoxifier and immune booster.

The down side…
It's not all good news — there have been some serious side-effects reported and even deaths from people who have had a few too many brews. The fermenting mushrooms are a breeding ground for contamination, so steer clear of harmful germs by making sure your vitality-building boost juice doesn't contain any mould or fungi.

Celeb fans
It seems everyone in Tinseltown is jumping on this energy-boosting bandwagon, including some of Hollywood's hottest stars. Kirsten Dunst, Lindsay Lohan, Madonna, Halle Berry and Meg Ryan have all ditched their Starbucks in favour of Kombucha after being spotted sipping the detoxifying tea.

Where can you get it?
Traditionally Kombucha tea is home-made, and Chinese legend even says that it only works if the new baby mushroom that is created during fermentation is passed on, free of charge, to someone that you know. But as the popularity of the brew has taken off the boost juice has now been bottled and is sold in selected health food stores. For those who find it hard to swallow, capsules and liquid extract are also available.

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