What You Need to Know About Kombucha

Health Benefits You Should Know About

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, kombucha is sometimes prepared at home by taking a sample from an existing culture and growing a new colony in a separate container.

Uses of Kombucha

In alternative medicine, 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

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.

Caveats

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.

Using Kombucha for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend kombucha as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using it for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

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.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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