When tragedy strikes, as it has in Japan, people are forced to confront questions they never thought to ask before. In this case, there are serious questions about radiation, its effects on the body and how to protect oneself in both the short and long term, provoking an unnecessary run on iodine pills.
There is a growing chorus in favor of eating fermented and macrobiotic foods and drinking Kombucha to help protect against radiation. But is there any basis that the health benefits of Kombucha extend into this arena?
At least 3 studies from the last few years indicate that YES; Kombucha can help reduce the negative effects of radiation exposure in humans. Alrighty, let’s put on our thinking caps and delve into the anecdotes, legends and science behind this assertion.
For decades, doctors and alternative health professionals have been recommending Kombucha to their patients. Though most cancer organizations do not endorse the use of Kombucha Tea as a specific treatment option, that misses the point of Kombucha’s benefits, specifically as a daily health tonic meant to prevent disease and assist the body’s natural processes.
German doctor Rudolph Sklenar famously claimed to use Kombucha to treat cancer (among many other diseases in early stages) with fantastic results. Today, alternative treatment courses sometimes involve adding Kombucha to the daily routine.
Relatedly, some people claim Kombucha alleviates or prevents chemotherapy sickness due to reduction in absorbed radiation. This assertion is the most relevant to the current question: Can Kombucha protect the body against harmful radiation?
25 years ago, Russian residents near the town of Chernobyl suffered through the worst nuclear accident in human history. The effects of the radiation released on the local population (and the entire world) has been debated ever since, with some early studies claiming only isolated health problems associated with the accident.
However, recent studies have more accurately captured the horrific, long-term effects on the health of plants and animals both in the region and all over the world with the dramatic release of radiation, linking nearly 1 million deaths worldwide to the explosion at Chernobyl. Surprised? Not exactly.
Legends of Kombucha
Russia serves as backdrop for one of the most common Legends of Kombucha. (Note: I call these stories “Legends” not because I think they are false but because they come to us largely without proof, in a modern day sense.)
The Russians, concerned with an increase in cancer rates post WWII, launched a full scale investigation. While increased pollution from industrialization was determined the likely culprit, there were two regions that were discovered to be nearly cancer free.
Upon further study, it was determined that the people of these regions (the Solikamsk & Berezniki districts) had been drinking Tea Kvass (Kombucha) ever since the Czar had introduced it hundreds of years before.
Respected Kombucha author (and e-mail buddy) Günther Frank elaborates on another Russian legend:
It is well documented that there are pockets of people, who are centenarians, clustered not only in the mountainous Caucasia’s where they are most celebrated, but also in outer rural areas like Yakutia in Siberia, or the Poltaya District of the Ukraine, as well as Tibet and Spain…There is an area in Russia called Kargasok [ED: One of Kombucha’s many other names is “Kargasok Tea.”], where the people are a dairy and vegetable-eating populace who cherish family ideals and traditions.
They are a hearty outdoor folk who work hard as carpenters, bookkeepers, and farmers who usually live well over 100. These Elders are revered, as active and valued members of society and family…the Russian centenarians attribute their longevity not only to their work habits, but also to the Yeast Enzyme Tea which has been in their diet for hundreds of years.
Nobel-Prize winning Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn writes in his book “Cancer Ward” that Kombucha Tea cured his stomach cancer during his internment in Soviet labor camps. (Some claim he meant Chaga, however Günther Frank’s book states that Solzhenitsyn confirmed it was Kombucha in interviews after he defected to the U.S. in 1974.)
It is rumored that upon hearing of this remedy, President Ronald Regan began drinking Kombucha Tea and was cured of his own cancer.
Recent Scientific Studies
Again, just because the above legends have no scientific evidence to back them up does not mean I believe them to be false. On the contrary, I find collective wisdom to be just as important as scientific evidence. When both science and tradition point to the same answer, I am most satisfied.
Have you heard the rumor that there have never been studies about Kombucha done on people? Well, that’s incorrect. Two of the three studies quoted here used humans as subjects.
Detoxification is at the heart of Kombucha’s powerful benefits to the body. It has long been established that Kombucha Tea helps detoxify the liver & kidneys. However it has also been discovered that Kombucha can provide preemptive protection against environmental pollutants such as TCE (Trichloroethylene) for example, a common ground water contaminant. This 2009 study (pdf) demonstrated that Kombucha Tea “repair(s) damage caused by environmental pollutants such as TCE and may be beneficial to people who deal with these chemicals.”
That makes these recent studies on Kombucha and radiation all the more exciting. For example, this study (2008 – pdf) focused on rats that were exposed to Cadmium Chloride & Gamma Radiation (very bad). Kombucha Tea was administered to the rats before exposure.
When they were injected with the Cadmium Chloride or dosed with radiation (or both), rats consuming a steady diet of Kombucha Tea absorbed lower levels of toxins than those who were not. The report’s conclusion states:
According to the results obtained in the present study, it appears that KT (Kombucha Tea) ferment administration to rats would decrease the toxicity associated with oxidative stress and thereby reducing the damage induced by exposure to cadmium and/or radiation.
Also, the following study (2010- pdf) looked for chromosomal aberrations (CAs) caused by radiation as they are considered to be the main culprit behind many forms of Cancer. According to the science, Kombucha does provide a “radioprotective effect against ionizing radiation.” It’s important to note that increased dosages provided increased protection. Here is their conclusion:
(T)he results of the present study clearly confirmed that g – radiation induces CAs formation in human lymphocyte cells. But, supplementation with KM – tea (Kombucha Mushroom Tea) can protects (sic) against g – radiation toxicity, by reduction effects of free radicals. Therefore, antioxidant role of KM–tea may be used as a ‘genotoxicity–limiting agent’ to reduce environmental effects of radioactive agents in the near future.
Let’s translate that very important finding into plain English:
Bad radiation causes your chromosomes to go haywire.
Daily Kombucha consumption limits these effects.
As always, Kombucha is a healthy addition to your routine and does not prevent or cure any disease. It can only help the body fight more efficiently, detoxify more completely and rebuild its defenses more regularly. The best defense against toxins will always be to never come in contact with them.
But in our daily life, avoiding all radiation is impossible. Choose healthful food and drink that assists the body’s natural healing processes, like Kombucha!
Have you received a specific health benefit that you attribute to drinking Kombucha? Leave your story in the comments below!
- Does kombucha tea attenuate the hepato-nepherotoxicity induced by a certain environmental pollutant?
- Possible Protective Effect of Kombucha Tea Ferment on Cadmium Chloride Induced Liver and Kidney Damage in Irradiated Rats
- Protective effect of kombucha mushroom (KM) tea on chromosomal aberrations induced by gamma radiation in human peripheral lymphocytes in-vitro