What Is Kombucha? The 10 Facts You Need to Know

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on


If you’re into health food, you may have heard of kombucha. Kombucha is a lightly fermented tea which has achieved considerable popularity among the healthy eating crowd. Advocates claim it enhances cognition, stimulates immune function, supports weight loss, can be applied as a therapy for almost any ailment, and even promotes longevity. [1] [2] But, before you dive into your first cup, it’s a good idea to know why it’s good and what to look out for — so here are the 10 must-know facts about kombucha!

1. What is Kombucha?

Kombucha consists of tea, sugar, clean water and a SCOBY. “SCOBY” stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. The sugar feeds the yeast and bacteria which form the SCOBY layer — the very identifiable, thick, mushroomy layer that rests on the top of the kombucha. This SCOBY adds the flavor, acidity and promotes the fermentation which creates the health benefits of kombucha. It also contains a small amount of alcohol (only .5%-3% depending on fermentation), gluconic, acetic, lactic acids and some substances that discourage bacteria. Many people describe the taste of kombucha as sweet and acidic, almost like soda with a slight vinegar taste.

As for its origins, kombucha is traditionally associated with Asia, Russia and Germany but became a popular drink globally by the late 1990’s. Exploratory animal research offers substantial evidence to support the health claims that kombucha drinkers have known for decades. [3]

2. How is Kombucha Made?

Remember as you read this, kombucha is a fermented drink. To make kombucha, tea is steeped in purified water and sugar is added. To this mixture, a culture of fungus and bacteria is added. Typical fermentation time runs about 14 days. [4] The culture used is a very specific SCOBY, and anyone looking to brew their own (often recommended), should find a detailed recipe to ensure best results and maximum safety. Safety? Yes, you want to be sure you’re only using friendly organisms that are free of contaminants.

3. Why It’s Best to Make Your Own

Fresh food is the best food and that’s especially true for kombucha. Making it at home ensures the freshest ingredients with the greatest amount of active nutrients. Studies have shown that commercially produced kombucha loses much of its antioxidants when stored in warehouses and on store shelves. An active fermentation process in storage can also cause films to form, this substantially degrades the quality. Although various processes have been tried in order to improve storage quality, none have proven successful. [5]

4. A Caution About Making your Own

Keep the fungus and bacteria culture “clean” when making your own. While the SCOBY contributes to the health value, any common mold will contaminate the product. Contaminating mold would appear black, green or blue. If this appears on the culture, dispose of it, clean and sterilize all containers and tools used to make the kombucha and start over.

5. The Probiotic Benefits

The bacteria-fungus culture creates a tea loaded with beneficial probiotic organisms. The benefits of probiotics are well documented and linked to digestive health and immune function, just to note a few. One study found that kombucha may provide substantial activity for controlling e. Coli and Staph bacteria, a common benefit of many probiotics. [6]

Different brewing factors such as tea selection, brewing time, sugar, and fermentation time alter the specific nutrients and probiotics present in any given batch. If you make your own, you can work with these different elements to create the batch which makes you feel the best!

6. How Kombucha Protects the Liver

Research suggests that kombucha tea consumption does appear to have protective effects for the liver. [7] One animal study reported that kombucha decreased levels of toxins known to cause liver damage. [8] A similar study reported of anti-stress benefits from the tea. [9] These benefits are unique to Kombucha and do not result from unfermented teas.

7. Kombucha May Even Promote Lung Health

Chinese researchers discovered a unique, potential application for kombucha tea. Used as an inhalant, kombucha was found to remove silica from lungs in an animal model. [10] This may be extremely promising for the men and women with construction, masonry and mining jobs who are exposed to dangerous silica dust. The American Lung Association estimates over 2 million men and women are exposed to such lung contaminants and have the potential for developing complications. [11] Although still exploratory, it’s exciting to hear that kombucha may be a potential life saver and support normal lung function.

8. Kombucha and Blood Sugar

Metabolic problems and liver and kidney dysfunction are frequent side effects of diabetes. Good news, the antioxidants created by kombucha fermentation may help support liver, kidney and pancreatic function. [12] Shown to suppress glucose levels and increase HDL cholesterol levels in animal trials, researchers have indicated kombucha may be a good health support option for those with diabetes. [13]

9. Kombucha and Stomach Ulcers

Research in 2010 indicated the antioxidant effect of kombucha may heal stomach problems from excess acid build-up, such as ulcers. It’s reported that kombucha appears to protect the layer of the stomach which prevents acid erosion of stomach tissue. This results from reduced levels of stomach acid, and has been suggested as a support option for those with stomach ulcers. [14]

10. Kombucha and the Kidneys

When researchers tested kombucha on kidneys damaged by environmental toxins, they found that the antioxidant potency of kombucha tea may repair damaged kidney tissue. [15] These findings suggest kombucha tea has potential for many uses beyond the health-focused benefits advocated by traditional consumption and research supported by current research.

Do you make or drink kombucha? What tips do you have? What benefits have you noticed? Please leave a comment below and share your experience with kombucha with us!

References (15)
  1. Hartmann AM, Burleson LE, Holmes AK, Geist CR. Effects of chronic kombucha ingestion on open-field behaviors, longevity, appetitive behaviors, and organs in c57-bl/6 mice: a pilot study. Nutrition. 2000 Sep;16(9):755-61.
  2. Hauser SP. [Dr. Sklenar's Kombucha mushroom infusion--a biological cancer therapy. Documentation No. 18]. Schweiz Rundsch Med Prax. 1990 Feb 27;79(9):243-6.
  3. Greenwalt CJ, Steinkraus KH, Ledford RA. Kombucha, the fermented tea: microbiology, composition, and claimed health effects. J Food Prot. 2000 Jul;63(7):976-81.
  4. Vijayaraghavan R, Singh M, Rao PV, Bhattacharya R, Kumar P, Sugendran K, Kumar O, Pant SC, Singh R. Subacute (90 days) oral toxicity studies of Kombucha tea. Biomed Environ Sci. 2000 Dec;13(4):293-9.
  5. Jayabalan R, Marimuthu S, Thangaraj P, Sathishkumar M, Binupriya AR, Swaminathan K, Yun SE. Preservation of kombucha tea-effect of temperature on tea components and free radical scavenging properties. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Oct 8;56(19):9064-71. doi: 10.1021/jf8020893. Epub 2008 Sep 10.
  6. Cetojevic-Simin DD, Bogdanovic GM, Cvetkovic DD, Velicanski AS. Antiproliferative and antimicrobial activity of traditional Kombucha and Satureja montana L. Kombucha. J BUON. 2008 Jul-Sep;13(3):395-401.
  7. Wang Y, Ji B, Wu W, Wang R, Yang Z, Zhang D, Tian W. Hepatoprotective effects of kombucha tea: identification of functional strains and quantification of functional components. J Sci Food Agric. 2013 May 28. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6245.
  8. Murugesan GS, Sathishkumar M, Jayabalan R, Binupriya AR, Swaminathan K, Yun SE. Hepatoprotective and curative properties of Kombucha tea against carbon tetrachloride-induced toxicity. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2009 Apr;19(4):397-402.
  9. Pauline T, Dipti P, Anju B, Kavimani S, Sharma SK, Kain AK, Sarada SK, Sairam M, Ilavazhagan G, Devendra K, Selvamurthy W. Studies on toxicity, anti-stress and hepato-protective properties of Kombucha tea. Biomed Environ Sci. 2001 Sep;14(3):207-13.
  10. Fu NF, Luo CH, Wu JC, Zheng YY, Gan YJ, Ling JA, Liang HQ, Liang DY, Xie J, Chen XQ, Li XJ, Pan RH, Chen ZX, Jiang SJ. Clearance of free silica in rat lungs by spraying with chinese herbal kombucha. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:790792. doi: 10.1155/2013/790792. Epub 2013 Aug 19.
  11. American Lung Association. Understanding Silicosis. (last accessed 2013-12-05)
  12. Bhattacharya S, Gachhui R, Sil PC. Effect of Kombucha, a fermented black tea in attenuating oxidative stress mediated tissue damage in alloxan induced diabetic rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Oct;60:328-40. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.07.051. Epub 2013 Jul 29.
  13. Aloulou A, Hamden K, Elloumi D, Ali MB, Hargafi K, Jaouadi B, Ayadi F, Elfeki A, Ammar E. Hypoglycemic and antilipidemic properties of kombucha tea in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 May 16;12:63. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-63.
  14. Banerjee D, Hassarajani SA, Maity B, Narayan G, Bandyopadhyay SK, Chattopadhyay S. Comparative healing property of kombucha tea and black tea against indomethacin-induced gastric ulceration in mice: possible mechanism of action. Food Funct. 2010 Dec;1(3):284-93. doi: 10.1039/c0fo00025f. Epub 2010 Nov 3.
  15. Gharib OA. Effects of Kombucha on oxidative stress induced nephrotoxicity in rats. Chin Med. 2009 Nov 27;4:23. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-4-23.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • Brad Clark

    Thank you Dr. Group!

    As a long time fan and proponent of Kombucha, I’ve drank the tea for many years now. Over those past several years I’ve often heard, time and again, that the tea’s health benefits were a hoax. Most likely this misguided information was started and passed along by the corrupt FDA and pharma-drug companies (or brainwashed followers) that would like us to believe prescription medication is the only answer for wellness.

    It’s nice to see actual studies that you’ve linked in this article that back up the benefits of Kombucha.

    I love what you are doing in regards to alternative medicines and a natural means to wellness. I’m a big fan of you and the Health Ranger. Keep up the great work!

    Also, I want to mention that I’ve tried several of your products and have been very happy with the results.

    Finally, I’m not sure if you’ve already done so, but I’d love to know your take on the dangers of chemically-extracted vegetable oils. I believe this to be one of the leading causes of a majority of health problems we as a society suffer from. And, I believe it is something that far too many people are unaware of.

    In a future article perhaps? 🙂

  • Jeannine Piro

    I have been brewing Kombucha for several years now and can claim the health benefits of it. I started a Kombucha Club and was making about 50 bottles per week for a small “donation”. One of my members had suffered from ulcers until drinking the kombucha, she said she could finally sleep on her back again and stopped all the nasty burping.
    Another rmember had a MRSA infection which he claims the kombucha cleared it up. The point is that it helps the body to be able to fight the toxins. I drink my lemon water first thing in the morning, then my glass of kombucha. I makes for a nice living probiotic.

  • ghc_health

    Right on! Thanks for sharing your experience. Where is your club located and how can people contact you if they wish to participate?

  • ghc_health

    Hey thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it.

    Chemically extracted vegetable oils… are you referring to lye?

  • Brad C.

    Actually, I was referring to chemically extracted oils using hexane. Basically oils that aren’t cold-pressed.

  • There are a lot of solvents being used that nobody would ever consume alone but are used for ingested products because “they evaporate away.” But do they? It’s definitely something we need to better examine.

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  • To each their own and many people may seek to avoid it if they are against any sugar consumption or the low alcohol content. It seems for others the benefits typically outweigh those detractions.

  • Troplyn

    I have been brewing and drinking Kombucha for roughly 2 years now.I love it.One person did point out to me recently that the leaves of the tea plant accumulate high levels of fluoride which they take up from the soil,especially teas grown in China which I was not aware of.I brew mine with rain water to avoid the fluoride in our drinking water.After researching I have found out that tea produced in Japan has less flouride and also organic green tea.Just need to find some organic green tea grown in Japan now.

  • Ginger Hanneken Castro

    I am new to making kombucha and would like to know how much is recommended to drink daily ? Is it ok to let children ? I know it contains alcohol but it dosent constitute as an alcoholism beverage or does it? I do appreciate your site and videos Dr Group as well as making great products thank you.

  • I’m not sure that there’s a recommended daily amount. Most people just have it as they please. It’s probably best not to give it to infants; sort of how you wouldn’t give them honey, either. Otherwise I’ve heard of children having kombucha without any issues.

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  • Rohinton

    I used to brew Kombucha about 10 years ago. I had a large, cool basement where the brew would mature over 12-14 days. I never once had a problem with sort of contamination. The final product was always delicious and healthful. There was just my wife and myself drinking it and we drank about 2-3 cups each day. But the SCOBY’s multiplied so fast and I was left with about 100 of them in a few months. I even offered to give them away for free but nobody wanted them. Of course people know much more about KT today. During the time we drank KT, I noticed a radical change in my energy levels and also noticed that the various aches and pains I had simply disappeared. My wife also enjoyed great health and 20/20 eyesight. Her migraines also disappeared. Bottom line: if you have an unexplained discomfort that will not go away, try KT for about 90 days. Your body may thank you for it.
    There are many recipes for brewing KT. Use a clean SCOBY and the best purified water. Use a good brand of tea and make sure the teabags do not have any metal staples. Do not put honey or molasses in the brew. My experience is that SCOBY’s don’t like this stuff. If you brew it right, this my well be a health experience to remember. Here’s to a perfect brew and great health !!

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  • Steve Mason

    I make continuous kombucha in Red Deer by combining several separate brews at different stages to take advantage of the varied bacterial strains which develop at different stages, then bottle with flavourings in Mason jars. I sell some of my surplus to a couple clients and advertise on kijiji. Its not a money making scheme, it costs a lot to buy top quality all-organic ingredients, tea, sugar, and flavourings, usually ginger, turmeric, and fruit. My regular clients prefer my brew to the bought stuff!

  • Marc

    Japan is being massively irradiated bt fukashima … so sad no news bc there is no known solution

  • Emem Johnny

    Hi, i need some of your excess kombucha if it’s clean. I want to start brewing. How can i get some?

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  • Laurie

    Hey there! I’m just down the road from you, in Airdrie. Maybe I could possibly, someday trip on down and taste your wares with my ma? She’s into healthy stuff, too. (We could meet at a Tim Horton’s or something, just like when one has an internet date, and you need to meet in public. I’m just guessing, lol.) I just bought a bottle of commercial Botanica Kombucha from Vita Mart in Edmonton. Ordered it Thursday, got it Friday, great service. Haven’t opened it yet. I’m afraid I won’t like it after spending $20 on a 250ml bottle. AND after seeing “The SCOBY” on a few sites, I hate to admit it, but I can’t deal with that. Makes me a little squeamish.

    You wouldn’t also happen to make bone broth, would you? Now THAT is my dream, to find someone to pay to make it for me. And I decided not to buy “Vital Proteins” from the States — one reviewer said that it does smell faintly of HAIR. Which I can totally see, considering they obtain the gelatin powder from hides of cows, but the company said it’s supposed to be odorless. I just wish they made it from the bones, like normal folk, lol. I sort of doubt the nutrition of making it from hides v. bones! Anyhooo, please let me know, and I can give you my email address if you’re still dealing the ‘bucha. Hope you’re still “out there”. (Also, I’ll try scoping Kijiji for your ad.) Thanks, Steve!

    P.S. That’s great that you put turmeric, ginger, etc. in your ‘bucha! Extra, EXTRA healthy!! Woo hoooo.

    Laurie Lawson

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  • Laura Carter

    I just recently began brewing kombucha again after not using it for several years. When I started having bowel issues I noticed I was thinking about it and craving it more and more. I recently purchased a book called ‘the big book of kombucha’ and wow am so pleased to find people who have taken this marvelous tea and its ‘scoby’s’ to a whole new level. And by the way I can say the bowel issues are clearing up, my energy level is up, and skin conditions are clearing up also. Kombucha is a living drink and I will never be without it again. It’s just so much easier to stay healthy than try to regain health.

  • Mary

    Dear Dr. Group,
    Thank you so much for this opportunity!
    I have been brewing my Kombucha for several months already and I absolutely love it ! My concern is about fluoride and caffeine, not sure if the scoby breaks them down or if they remain intact as a downside of my favorite drink…
    I even tried brewing tea with other leaves like wild american persimmon and also tried maté tea although is high in caffeine (at least to get rid of fluoride) but apparently the scoby didn’t like either…
    Would you please shed some light ?
    Thank you in advance!

  • DoubtingThomas

    I wondered that too, this website sheds some light on the subject: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/fluoride-in-kombucha-should-you-be-concerned/

  • Louise Marcello

    I’m a 100 lb overweight, arthritic, 62 yr old, uterine cancer survivor with broken bones all over her body from former athletic pursuits. I was turned onto Kombucha tea by my younger brother who swears by the stuff. At first, I was skeptical by all the claims of health benefits from drinking “Booch”, but I have to say I want to scream it from the rooftops to anyone that is willing to listen that the claims are true! My 5th brew is about done and I protect it as if it were a magic elixir from the gods. The benefits I’ve experienced so far are heightened energy, disappearance of aches and pains, clarity, eating less and a want to make healthier choices, sleeping better, and stomach issues that were developing are no longer an issue. Cannot say enough about this magical brew. I’m looking forward to a long relationship with this stuff. Besides, I love the slightly tart, slightly sweet, effervescent flavor. Now, my body craves this instead of sugary sodas and foods that were aging me faster. In the short time I’ve been drinking Kombucha I even see a subtle difference in my hair and nail strength. I recommend everyone start a batch…yesterday!

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  • Peter A Lucas

    Is Kombucha safe for those suffering from pancreatitis?

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