Kombucha is a fermented tea popular around the world and lately in the United States that has been associated with health benefits as well as risks. Although some claim that this tea can prevent cancer, improve digestion, and stimulate the immune system, there have been reports of serious side effects. Some people have experienced allergic reactions and digestive problems, while others have had toxic reactions and developed metabolic acidosis. The side effects of Kombucha may outweigh any reported health benefits for some individuals.
Digestive problems including upset stomach and allergic reactions are commonly reported side effects of Kombucha. Some consumers may experience nausea, vomiting, and neck pain. There have also been cases of jaundice associated with Kombucha.
Some other side effects are more serious but rare. The acidic content of the tea can cause metabolic acidosis. This condition is the result of a high level of acidity in the blood and can cause a stroke or even result in death. Another of the rare but serious side effects of Kombucha is possible liver damage.
The way that Kombucha is often brewed can contribute to some known side effects of the drink. Kombucha is actually a colony of yeast and bacteria that is mixed with green or black tea and fermented. As the tea is commonly made at home in nonsterile conditions, a person could be at risk from drinking Kombucha that has contamination resulting from the growth of harmful molds and bacteria.
If Kombucha is brewed in glazed ceramic pots, the tea acids can leach lead from the glaze. Consuming Kombucha brewed in this way can result in lead poisoning. As lead builds up in the body over a long period of time, it can cause severe health problems and may even be fatal.
Additional side effects of Kombucha may result from the alcohol content in unpasteurized versions of the tea. The alcohol content of some brands may be as high as 3 percent, or the equivalent of certain beers. Some Kombucha consumers have reported feeling buzzed, and many retailers in the United States have pulled the drink from their shelves pending a resolution.
There is little direct evidence at this time that Kombucha provides any of the health benefits associated with this beverage. Anecdotal accounts as well as lab and animal studies make up the bulk of supporting evidence. No major medical journal has published the results of any human trial to date. Kombucha should be consumed with caution until there is definitive evidence available of its benefits and risks.