Kombucha

Kombucha

Kombucha

Common Names

  • Champagne of Life
  • Manchurian mushroom
  • Tea Fungus
  • Kargasok Tea
  • Haipao
  • Combucha
  • Spumonto
  • Tschambucco

For Patients & Caregivers

Kombucha tea has not been shown to treat cancer or AIDS in humans.

Kombucha is a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria that grows inside a semi-permeable membrane. Kombucha tea is prepared by fermenting sweetened black tea with kombucha for 7 to 10 days. The resulting tea is slightly carbonated and acidic, and has been used to treat a wide variety of symptoms and diseases. Kombucha tea has high levels of caffeine, sugar, and B vitamins which may account for some of its purported benefits. Kombucha has been shown to have wide antibiotic and antioxidant effects in animals, but few benefits have been shown in humans.

Contamination associated with fermentation of kombucha tea has resulted in serious adverse effects.

  • To treat atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
    Scientific evidence is lacking to back this claim.
  • To treat cancer
    Animal studies have shown that kombucha has antioxidant effects, but human studies are lacking.
  • To treat diabetes
    No scientific evidence supports this use in humans.
  • To treat AIDS
    This claim is not backed by research.
  • To lower blood pressure
    No scientific evidence supports this use in humans.
  • To stimulate the immune system
    Animal studies demonstrate immune-stimulating activity, but there is no evidence to support this use in humans.
  • Growing kombucha in unsanitary conditions has resulted in contaminated products.
  • Lead poisoning has been associated with kombucha tea brewed in glazed ceramic pots.

You have a suppressed immune system: Contaminated kombucha beverages can activate the immune system.

You are taking drugs that are sensitive to stomach pH levels: Kombucha may reduce the absorption of these drugs.

  • Stomach problems
  • Yeast infections
  • Anthrax contamination
  • Allergic reaction
  • Jaundice
  • Head and neck pain
  • Impairment of liver function
  • Muscle inflammation
Back to top

For Healthcare Professionals

Prepared by fermenting sweetened black tea with a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria, kombucha tea has been used to treat a wide variety of symptoms as well as certain diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and diabetes (3). The high caffeine and sugar content of the tea may account for increased energy some users have reported following consumption of the product (4). In vitro and animal studies show potent antioxidant, immunostimulating (5), hypolipidemic (20), and hepatoprotective (6) (18) (19) (21) effects with limited toxicity (7), but clinical studies in humans are lacking (8).

Because of the fermentation process, kombucha can easily become contaminated. Allergic reactions, jaundice, serious illness, and occasionally death have been associated with the consumption of home-grown kombucha tea (9) (10) (11). It may also reduce the absorption of drugs that are sensitive to stomach pH levels (12).

  • Acne
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cancer treatment
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • GI disorders
  • Headaches
  • Health maintenance
  • Hemorrhoids
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Hypertension
  • Immunostimulation
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Stress

Preparation of kombucha tea yields a slightly carbonated, acidic, fermented drink. Antimicrobial activity against a large number of pathogenic microorganisms even at neutral pH and after denaturation have been demonstrated. This suggests that kombucha contains antimicrobial compounds other than acetic acid and large proteins (13). In addition, kombucha tea has been shown to have high levels of B vitamins (14).

Because of the method of culture, it is easy for kombucha to become contaminated with other organisms. Contamination with anthrax (10) and Aspergillus  (14), a fungus that is dangerous to people with lowered immune systems, have been reported. Green tea can stimulate the fermentation process better than black tea; however, it is generally not used (3).

  • Growing kombucha in unsanitary conditions has resulted in contamination.
  • Lead poisoning has been associated with kombucha tea brewed in a glazed ceramic pot.

Patients with suppressed immune systems should not consume kombucha beverages produced in an uncontrolled environment (1).

Case Reports

Topical: Cutaneous anthrax was observed in 20 people who applied kombucha grown in unhygienic conditions (10).

Oral kombucha consumption:

  • Severe illness and death   (9) (17)
  • Lead poisoning from kombucha brewed in a lead-glazed ceramic pot (15)
  • Hepatotoxicity and gastrointestinal toxicity including allergic reactions, jaundice and nausea, vomiting, head and neck pain (2) (11)
  • Yeast infections (12)
  • Myositis associated with pleural effusions, pericardial effusion with tamponade, and ’mechanic’s hands’ (22)

Kombucha tea is acidic. This may affect the bioavailability of drugs that depend on stomach pH levels for dissolution and absorption (12).


  1. Mayser P, Fromme S, Leitzmann C, Grunder K. The yeast spectrum of the ’tea fungus Kombucha’. Mycoses 1995;38:289-95.

  2. Perron AD, Patterson JA, Yanofsky NN. Kombucha “mushroom” hepatotoxicity. Ann.Emerg.Med 1995;26:660-1.

  3. Greenwalt CJ, Steinkraus KH, Ledford RA. Kombucha, the fermented tea: microbiology, composition, and claimed health effects. J Food Prot. 2000;63:976-81.

  4. Majchrowicz M. Kombucha: a dubious “cure”. GMHC.Treat.Issues 1995;9:10.

  5. Dipti P, Yogesh B, Kain AK, Pauline T, Anju B, Sairam M et al. Lead induced oxidative stress: beneficial effects of Kombucha tea. Biomed.Environ.Sci. 2003;16:276-82.

  6. Pauline T, Dipti P, Anju B, Kavimani S, Sharma SK, Kain AK et al. Studies on toxicity, anti-stress and hepato-protective properties of Kombucha tea. Biomed.Environ.Sci. 2001;14:207-13.

  7. Vijayaraghavan R, Singh M, Rao PV, et al. Subacute (90 days) oral toxicity studies of Kombucha tea. Biomed.Environ.Sci. 2000;13:293-9.

  8. Ernst E. Kombucha: a systematic review of the clinical evidence. Forsch.Komplementarmed.Klass.Naturheilkd. 2003;10:85-7.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unexplained severe illness possibly associated with consumption of Kombucha tea—Iowa, 1995. JAMA 1996;275:96-8.

  10. Srinivasan R, Smolinske S, Greenbaum D. Probable gastrointestinal toxicity of Kombucha tea: is this beverage healthy or harmful? J Gen.Intern Med 1997;12:643-4.

  11. Kombucha—toxicity alert. Crit Path.AIDS Proj. 1994;31-2.

  12. Sreeramulu G, Zhu Y, Knol W. Kombucha fermentation and its antimicrobial activity. J Agric.Food Chem. 2000;48:2589-94.

  13. Gamundi R,.Valdivia M. [The Kombucha mushroom: two different opinions]. Sidahora. 1995;34-5.

  14. Phan TG, Estell J, Duggin G, Beer I, Smith D, Ferson MJ. Lead poisoning from drinking Kombucha tea brewed in a ceramic pot. Med J Aust. 1998;169:644-6.

  15. MICROMEDEX(R) Healthcare Series. 120. 2004. Thomson MICROMEDEX.

  16. SungHee Kole A, Jones HD, Christensen R, et al. A case of Kombucha tea toxicity. J Intensive Care Med. 2009 May-Jun;24(3):205-7.

  17. Murugesan GS, Sathishkumar M, Jayabalan R, et al. Hepatoprotective and curative properties of Kombucha tea against carbon tetrachloride-induced toxicity. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2009 Apr;19(4):397-402.

  18. Aloulou A, Hamden K, Elloumi D, et al. Hypoglycemic and antilipidemic properties of kombucha tea in alloxan-induced diabetic rats.BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 May 16;12:63.

  19. Bhattacharya S, Manna P, Gachhui R, Sil PC. Protective effect of kombucha tea against tertiary butyl hydroperoxide induced cytotoxicity and cell death in murine hepatocytes.Indian J Exp Biol. 2011 Jul;49(7):511-24.

Back to top
Back to top
Email your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.

Last Updated