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Kombucha

Medically reviewed: June 7, 2018

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is not a fungus or a mushroom, but rather a cellulose skin or mat fermented in a black tea and sugar mix. Kombucha tea is a resultant sour-tasting, fermented liquid broth, described as resembling sparkling apple cider. Black or green tea has been used, and a number of other beverages, teas (including fruit-based teas), Jerusalem artichoke, milk, and whey, have also been described.

Scientific Name(s)

Yeast/bacteria fungal symbiont

Common Name(s)

Kombucha is also known as kombucha tea, kombucha mushroom, Manchurian tea, combucha tea, spumonto, tschambucco, teekwass, kwassan, kargasok tea, "fungus" Japonicus, Manchurian "fungus," Dr. Sklenar's kombucha mushroom infusion, champagne of life, t'chai from the sea, zoogleal mat, and pellicle.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The name "kombucha" is derived from Japanese; it is brewed in a seaweed (kombu) tea (cha). In Western countries, the product typically is grown in black tea; spores are floated on the surface of brewed, sweetened black tea. The vegetative part of the fungus doubles in mass approximately every week. The mass then is divided and the new portion is grown on a new tea mixture. As the growth matures, it ferments the beverage slightly and it is consumed for its possible medicinal properties. Drinking fermented teas has long been popular in Eastern countries, and the use of this particular growth may date back several centuries.

Kombucha tea has grown rapidly in popularity in the past year, and has been promoted as a miracle cure for a wide variety of illnesses ranging from memory loss to premenstrual syndrome. Despite claims for its drug activity, some experts believe that the tea meets the US Food and Drug Administration requirements as a fraudulent product: reference to non-US medical studies, an appeal to vanity, ancient origins, and alleged cures for a wide variety of ailments. Some of these claims include curing cancer, rheumatism, and intestinal disorders, as well as reversing the effects of aging.

General uses

Evidence does not support the drug claims for kombucha teas; rare case reports of severe toxicity exist.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no clinical evidence to support specific dosing for kombucha.

Contraindications

Use in people with weak immune systems, and during pregnancy and lactation is not advised.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Cases of nausea and allergic responses have been reported.

Toxicology

Information is limited. Rare case reports of severe toxicity exist.

References

1. Kombucha. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons eAnswers. St. Louis, MO: Clinical Drug Information LLC; August 2015. http://online.factsandcomparisons.com. Accessed October 2015.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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