Safety, Interactions, Legal Issues

No human clinical trials have investigated either the safety or the efficacy of kombucha. Lead poisoning has been reported in instances of kombucha tea being fermented in lead-glazed ceramic containers.8 

Fungal and bacterial contaminants are common, with more than 20 cases of cutaneous anthrax as well as liver damage and allergic reactions reported.9 

Other harmful contaminants found in kombucha include such molds as Aspergillus. Excessive consumption has resulted in life-threatening metabolic acidosis.10

In one class-action lawsuit, consumers have alleged that a major manufacturer of commercial kombucha products labeled the drink with specific claims of near-miraculous health benefits.11 

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is investigating claims that kombucha products are alcoholic.12 Multiple samples analyzed contained 0.5% alcohol by volume, thereby qualifying it as an alcoholic beverage.12

Extreme caution should be used in the consumption of kombucha tea. Children, pregnant or nursing women, and immunocompromised persons should never ingest this product.


Cost, How Supplied, Dose


Homemade kombucha is extremely inexpensive because its only ingredients are tea, sugar, and yeast. Commercial products retail for about $4 per 16-oz bottle. For people just beginning the kombucha adventure, it is recommended that they start off with just 1 oz to 2 oz per day.1

Summary

In spite of many favorable testimonials regarding kombucha consumption, insufficient evidence exists to support recommending the use of this product. The reports of toxicity are significant enough to warn patients against buying or fermenting their own supply. 

Sherril Sego, FNP-C, DNP, is a staff clinician at the VA Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where she practices adult medicine and women’s health. She also teaches at the nursing schools of the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas.

References

  1. American Cancer Society. Kombucha tea. Available at www.cancer.org/. 

  2. Sreeramulu G, Zhu Y, Knol W. Kombucha fermentation and its antimicrobial activity. J Agric Food Chem. 2000;48(6):2589-2594.

  3. LeBlanc CS. The kombucha tea recall. Health Law Perspectives. 2010. Available at www.law.uh.edu/healthlaw/perspectives/homepage.asp
  4. Battikh H, Chaieb K, Bakhrouf A, Ammar E. Antibacterial and antifungal activities of black and green kombucha teas. J Food Biochemistry. 2012;37(2):231-236.

  5. Greenwalt CJ, Ledford RA, Steinkraus KH. Determination and characterization of the anti-microbial activity of the fermented tea Kombucha. Happy Herbalist.Available at
  6. J Sci Food Agric. 2014;94(2):265-272.

  7. Bhattacharya S, Gachhui R, Sil P. Hepatoprotective properties of kombucha tea against TBHP-induced oxidative stress via suppression of mitochondria dependent apoptosis.  Pathophysiology. 2011;18(3):221-234. Available at www.pathophysiologyjournal.com/article/S0928-4680(11)00003-4/fulltext.

  8. Phan TG, Estell J, Duggin G, et al. Lead poisoning from drinking Kombucha tea brewed in a ceramic pot. Med 
J Aust. 1998;169(11-12):644-646.

  9. adjadi J. Cutaneous anthrax associated with the Kombucha “mushroom” in Iran. JAMA. 1998;280(18):1567-1568.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unexplained severe illness possibly associated with consumption of kombucha tea—Iowa, 1995. MMWR. 1995;44(48):892-893, 899-900.
  11. Mirando K. Gretchen Patch v. Millennium Products, Inc., Civil Action Case No. 10-CV-7244 ODW (Ex). Available from: www.topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/829-kombucha-tea-class-action-lawsuit
  12. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Kombucha FAQS. Available at www.ttb.gov/faqs/kombucha-faqs.shtml.

All electronic documents accessed July 3, 2014


This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor