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Kombucha

Health Benefits You Should Know About

By

Updated July 03, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Kombucha (also known as "kombucha tea") is a fermented beverage said to offer health benefits ranging from improved digestion to prevention of cancer.

How Kombucha Is Made?

Kombucha is made by fermenting black tea with a culture of yeasts and bacteria (commonly referred to as a "kombucha mushroom"). Although bottles of pre-made kombucha are available in most health food stores, you can also prepare your own kombucha by taking a sample from an existing culture and growing a new colony in a separate container.

Health Benefits of Kombucha

Despite claims that kombucha can boost immunity and fight off certain health conditions, there is very little evidence that kombucha actually offers any health benefits.

Among the few scientific studies on kombucha's heath effects is a 2003 study on rats, which found that kombucha may possess antioxidant and immune-stimulating properties. Another study on rats, published in 2001, concluded that kombucha may help reduce stress and protect liver health. There have been no human studies to support these or any other findings on kombucha's health effects.

Common Healing Uses of Kombucha

Health claims for Kombucha include treatment and/or prevention of the following:

  • insomnia
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • multiple sclerosis
  • cancer
  • acne
  • atherosclerosis
  • constipation
  • diabetes
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • headache
  • hemorrhoids
  • high blood pressure
  • osteoarthritis
  • stress

Is Kombucha Safe?

There have been many reports of serious concerns/adverse events associated with drinking kombucha. These include:

  • stomach upset
  • yeast infections
  • allergic reaction
  • jaundice
  • nausea
  • headache
  • liver toxicity
  • contamination with anthrax
  • lead poisoning (linked to drinking kombucha brewed in a lead-glazed pot)

In April 1995, two women who had been drinking kombucha daily for two months were hospitalized with severe acidosis (a condition marked by abnormal increase of acid levels in body fluids). One women died of cardiac arrest two days after admission, while the other recovered. Following this incident, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to take caution when making and drinking kombucha.

Sources

American Cancer Society, "Kombucha Tea". November 2008.

Dipti P, Yogesh B, Kain AK, Pauline T, Anju B, Sairam M, Singh B, Mongia SS, Kumar GI, Selvamurthy W. "Lead induced oxidative stress: beneficial effects of Kombucha tea." Biomed Environ Sci. 2003 16(3):276-82.

Ernst E. "Kombucha: a systematic review of the clinical evidence." Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2003 10(2):85-7.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, "About Herbs: Kombucha". August 13, 2009.

Pauline T, Dipti P, Anju B, Kavimani S, Sharma SK, Kain AK, Sarada SK, Sairam M, Ilavazhagan G, Devendra K, Selvamurthy W. "Studies on toxicity, anti-stress and hepato-protective properties of Kombucha tea." Biomed Environ Sci. 2001 14(3):207-13.

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