Wellness Nutrition What Are the Health Benefits and Risks of Kombucha? By Mikayla Morell Mikayla Morell Mikayla Morell is a content writer and editor residing in Philadelphia, PA. She began her career as a freelance writer while also working as a phlebotomist in a local hospital. She wanted to use her certification in phlebotomy to support the shortage of hospital staff throughout the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She loves that she can combine her two main interests—writing and healthcare—in her work with Health.com. health's editorial guidelines Updated on February 16, 2023 Medically reviewed by Suzanne Fisher, MS Medically reviewed by Suzanne Fisher, MS Suzanne Fisher, RD, is the founding owner of Fisher Nutrition Systems. learn more Share Tweet Pin Email Kombucha is a black or green tea and sugar mixture that is fermented so it has a light effervescent—bubbly—profile. Active yeast changes the sugar during bacterial fermentation so there are trace amounts of alcohol in the beverage. There are also hard kombucha products on the market that have higher levels of alcohol. Many kombucha products promote the beverage as having health benefits. But is there any truth to those claims? Here's everything you need to know about kombucha and why you may not want to tout it as a health beverage. What Is Kombucha? Kombucha is a fermented tea, made by combining brewed tea with a SCOBY—a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, sometimes called a "mother"—and some sugar. Over the course of a week or two, the sugar feeds the bacteria and yeast, and the drink ferments into tangy, slightly fizzy kombucha. Kombucha Contains Probiotics Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found naturally in fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha, and are also sold as supplements. What Are the Benefits of Probiotics? There are different types of probiotics and they may provide different benefits. One review found that probiotic supplements increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut, although it's unclear whether this amount of healthy bacteria remains after a person stops taking the supplements. Other benefits may include: Preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea Preventing sepsis in premature infants Assisting with remission of ulcerative colitis Although there is a lot of research regarding probiotics, the overall health effects and benefits aren't fully understood. But research shows that there are many potential benefits for different health conditions. Do Probiotics in Kombucha Have Health Benefits? Even though there are some known benefits for probiotics, it is more difficult to determine the benefits of probiotics in kombucha. One reason for this is that there's no telling how many live probiotics are in a single bottle of kombucha. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that brands must accurately display the total number of organisms in a drink, but there's no way to know how many of those organisms are alive and how many are dead. Plus, even probiotics that are alive at the time of bottling might be dead by the time you drink the kombucha. So, consumers can't know how many probiotics are in any bottle unless they were to lab test every drink before consuming it. Kombucha Contains Antioxidants Kombucha also contains antioxidants which are substances, like vitamin C, selenium, and carotenoids, that can help to prevent or delay cell damage. One study found that kombucha contained strong antioxidant properties and that antioxidant activity can vary with different kinds of kombucha. Researchers found that levels of polyphenols and flavonoids—two types of antioxidants—varied significantly depending on what kind of tea the kombucha was made from and how long the kombucha fermented. However, all types did have significant levels of these antioxidants. The Risks of Drinking Kombucha While there may be some health benefits associated with kombucha, there are also risks. Risk of Home-Brewed Kombucha Brewing kombucha at home comes with risk of contamination if it is brewed incorrectly. The National Capital Poison Center reported these adverse health events: One case of cardiac arrestSeveral cases of hepatitisOne case of severe muscle weakness and inflammation of the heart musicOne case of death So if you aren't confident in your abilities to brew kombucha at home, it may be safer to avoid trying it. Risks of Store-Bought Kombucha Kombucha might contain more alcohol than you think. Although small amounts of alcohol are created as part of the fermentation process, kombucha isn't classified as alcohol because it typically has less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV)—which is the cutoff point. But, some batches of kombucha have been recalled because the alcohol level was higher than it should be—some of which had an ABV of 3%. Who Shouldn't Drink Kombucha? Because of the alcohol, the live bacteria, and the risks associated with kombucha, it's recommended that the following people avoid drinking it: Young children People who are pregnant People who are immunocompromised A Quick Review The idea that kombucha is a superfood is a result of marketing and wellness hype. While kombucha does contain antioxidants and probiotics, there are also a few risks associated with the beverage; but these are mostly associated with incorrectly brewing kombucha at home. If you want to improve your gut health, a nutritious overall diet will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to health. As for the kombucha lovers out there, the antioxidants and probiotics may provide some benefits but be sure to opt for store-bought kombucha. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Coelho RMD, Almeida AL de, Amaral RQG do, Mota RN da, Sousa PHM de. Kombucha: review. International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. 2020;22:100272. doi:10.1016/j.ijgfs.2020.100272 Khalesi S, Bellissimo N, Vandelanotte C, Williams S, Stanley D, Irwin C. A review of probiotic supplementation in healthy adults: helpful or hype? Eur J Clin Nutr. 2019;73(1):24-37. doi:10.1038/s41430-018-0135-9 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Probiotics: what you need to know. US Food and Drug Administration. Policy regarding quantitative labeling of dietary supplements containing live microbials: guidance for industry. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Antioxidants: in depth. Jakubczyk K, Kałduńska J, Kochman J, Janda K. Chemical profile and antioxidant activity of the kombucha beverage derived from white, green, black and red tea. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(5):447. doi:10.3390/antiox9050447 National Capital Poison Center. Kombucha tea: health tonic or dangerous.