Kombucha...
The Myths, The Magic, The Hype

By Ariana Estelle-Symons, Ph.D., Copyright 1997
From the Kombucha Konnection Newsletter, June 1997


A few days ago there were three 'Kombucha growers/drinkers' gathered in my little shop. One of these people (we'll call him Bill) was complaining that his Kombucha had developed the 'dreaded mold'. The conversation that followed was most interesting. Seems that one of these people (lets call her Lucy) had been growing Kombucha for a couple of years and had received one of those instruction sheets that help to propagate the myths about Kombucha. I simply 'lurked' in the background, knowing this was going to be 'newsletter material'. Bill and Lucy had both received their Kombucha starters from friends; well meaning friends who passed on the information that they had been given with their Kombuchas. The third member of this group was Betty, a client of mine who has been growing Kombucha for about six months and received hers from Harmonic Harvest (me).

Well, Bill launched into a long dissertation about how he used only his 'wonderful well water', brown sugar and Lipton tea. He said that he'd had mold appear a couple of months ago, and . . . wouldn't you know it, called his friend who told him to 'cut off the bad spot, rinse with vinegar and re-use the contaminated Kombucha'. Lucy jumped in to tell him that according to her directions, his first mistake was the 'well water' and that he should use nothing but distilled. She also told him that since distilled water is 'purified' that it was not necessary to boil the water - simply toss in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Now Lucy has only been brewing for about six weeks, but 'knows someone that knows someone that knows someone' that is a personal friend of a personal friend of Betsy Pryor of Laurel Farms in California. Well, I may not agree with Betsy Pryor on a lot of things about the growing of Kombucha, but I know for a fact that she would never say such a thing. Her instructions clearly state that the water for brewing Kombucha must be boiled. Then Lucy informed Bill that the brown sugar was the culprit, and that he should be using nothing but 'raw sugar', since it is all natural!! They continued this discussion, finally ending up in a heated debate about whether or not it's okay to brew in discarded plastic ice cream containers. Seems that Lucy has been using them and thinks they are great - nice size, easy to handle, and she gets them free from a restaurant. Bill, on the other hand uses only 4 quart glass pyrex bowls.

Betty, having been pretty quiet up until this time, says, "well, according to my instructions, you should never use brown or raw sugar, only white, granulated sugar'. Well she was attacked from both sides with "don't you know that white sugar is bad for you?". Bless her heart, she'd really done her homework and had read the newsletter with the article about sugar. She spent about five minutes explaining that brown and raw sugar both contain impurities and that her Kombucha thrives on white sugar. Lucy and Bill were attentive and agreed that it probably made sense.

Then Lucy launched into the 'spiritual aspects' of Kombucha, complete with all of the myths that have circulating over the years. Here are a few of them:

It was, to put it mildly, an interesting afternoon at Harmonic Harvest. After everyone had calmed down a bit, we put on the audio tape 'What The Heck Is Kombucha?', the tape that I send out in all my 'growing kits'. As I expected, Lucy disagreed with most everything on the tape, especially the part where I say that I make no medical claims for Kombucha, and that I don't think it cures disease, but that I believe that by helping to detoxify the body, that Kombucha assists the body in healing itself.

Well, Bill will probably continue to use his 'wonderful well water' and brown sugar, Lucy will no doubt continue to use raw sugar and discarded ice cream containers, but the chances are good that Betty will use purified water (boiled), white sugar, and glass fermenting containers. And I have a feeling that of these three people, Betty will have less problems. You know what they say about 'leading a horse to water'.

As for the 'spiritual' meaning of Kombucha . . . it's true that many people pray over it, chant over it, sing to it, burn special candles near it . . . the list goes on. But, what's the harm? A few moments of prayer or quiet contemplation never hurt anyone or anything. And if it makes you feel better to chant or sing . . . by all means . . . do it!

Outer Space???  Who knows?? Maybe so. What difference does it make? I don't really care if it came from Jupiter or Chicago. What I do care about is: it makes me feel better. It has, over many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years made many millions of people feel better, thereby, improving their quality of life. What more could anyone ask?

Complete darkness???  Nope, another myth. Ordinary light will not harm Kombucha. Direct sunlight can harm the culture - so just don't grow it on the windowsill on the sunny side of the house.

Negative people????  Now that truly is 'Kombucha Hype'. However, when people are feeling ill or suffering from a long standing chronic condition, they might tend to be negative. But, if drinking Kombucha makes them feel better, it's amazing how some of these 'negative' people do a complete 'turn around' and begin to view life differently. I've known some pretty grouchy, negative, skeptical people that have grown perfectly wonderful Kombucha.

Money changing hands?????  Well, if you are fortunate enough to have a friend that grows Kombucha, chances are that your friend will share the harvest with you. But, for some, the alternative is to purchase a 'growing kit' from a reputable grower, someone that has a little experience with Kombucha, a 'track record' so to speak.

Kombucha & jewelry?????  Frankly, this is one of the most bizarre myths. It probably stems from the idea that the Kombucha colony should not come in contact with metal, since it's such an acidic substance that it could 'leach' from the metal. Actually, the one reason I would suggest not to wear rings when working with Kombucha is that small particles of 'stuff' can lodge in the crevices and increase the chances of contaminating your Kombucha and causing mold. It's a good idea to wear latex gloves.

Kombucha Cures????  Again, this is 'hype'. Kombucha is NOT a cure all. It is my belief that it helps to detoxify the body and strengthen the immune system, giving the body the 'boost' it needs to begin healing itself.

So, if you are considering becoming a Kombucha grower/drinker. Sift through the hype and the mythology and the claims of cures. Trust your own inner guidance and intelligence to lead you to make the right decision. It is - after all - your body.


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Ariana

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