Kombucha (also tea mushroom, tea fungus or Manchurian mushroom when referring to the culture; Latin name Medusomyces gisevii is a fermented, slightly fizzy, sweetened black or green tea drink commonly consumed for its purported health benefits. Sometimes the drink is called kombucha tea for this to be distinguished from the culture of bacteria and yeast Juice, herbs, fruit or other flavorings are often added to enhance the flavor of the drink.
Kombucha is said to have originated in Manchuria, China, where the drink is traditionally consumed, or in Russia and Eastern Europe. Kombucha is now home-brewed worldwide and is also bottled and sold commercially by various companies.
Kombucha is produced by fermenting sugared tea using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) commonly referred to as a "mother" or "mushroom". The microbial populations in a SCOBY vary; the yeast component generally includes Saccharomyces cerevisiae, along with other species; the bacterial component almost always contains Gluconacetobacter xylinus to oxidize yeast-produced alcohols to acetic acid (and other acids). Although the SCOBY is commonly referred to as "tea fungus" or "mushroom", it is actually "a symbiotic growth of acetic acid bacteria and osmophilic yeasts in a mammalian mat [biofilm]". The live bacteria are said to be probiotic, one of the reasons for the drink's popularity.
Many incredible health benefits have been attributed to drinking kombucha. These include claims for the treatment of AIDS, aging, anorexia, arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, constipation and diabetes, but there is no evidence to support these claims. In addition, the drink has caused rare cases of serious side effects, including fatalities, possibly due to contamination during home preparation. Therefore, the potential drawbacks of drinking kombucha may outweigh the benefits, which is why it is not recommended for therapeutic purposes.