Ask the Experts


by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: What do you think of the drink kombucha?

A:Not much. The fermented tea made headlines in the 1990s, when proponents claimed it detoxified the body, increased energy and cured everything from AIDS to cancer. When clinical studies failed to support those assertions, kombucha’s star dimmed and little more was seen of this brew, which is essentially black or green tea fermented with a culture of yeast and bacteria.

Interest in the vinegary beverage, which has a slight fizz and alcohol buzz, has perked up again lately. The health claims continue, but good studies in humans are still lacking. The drink largely remains a cottage industry, and is often homemade— in which case, batches may be contaminated with molds, bacteria and lead. In rare instances, kombucha has been linked to lactic acidosis, a life-threatening reaction.

Commercially made kombucha is growing in popularity as well, though not without some controversy, too. Last year, at least two manufacturers removed their kombucha beverages from store shelves over concerns that they contain too much alcohol.

We can’t recommend kombucha, whether it’s homemade or store-bought. You should especially stay away from it if you want to avoid alcohol, have a compromised immune system or are pregnant or nursing.