Kombucha tea has become increasingly popular in recent years because it has been claimed to have a large number of beneficial effects including the prevention of cancer, relief of arthritis, treatment of insomnia, stimulation of the immune system and even the regrowth of hair. The tea is brewed from the Kombucha mushroom which is actually a symbiotic yeast and bacteria aggregate surrounded by a permeable membrane. The "mushroom", which grows like a round flat grey fungus about the size of a dinner plate, is fermented in sugared tea to obtain the Kombucha tea. The mushrooms are sold or distributed by naturopaths and other alternative practitioners and are often passed on from person to person. The tea has been described to contain a mixture of many substances including alcohol, glucuronic acid, acetic acid, heparin and lactic acid.
In the last year, ADRAC has received two reports of hepatotoxicity in association with Kombucha tea. There have also been reports of both hepatotoxicity and lactic acidosis in the United States. 1,2 In one Australian report, a woman presented with rash, fever, rigours, nausea and vomiting after drinking Kombucha tea for a month. Investigations revealed abnormalities in liver function tests, white blood cells, and ESR. She recovered after treatment with steroids. The other report was of a 35 year old female who developed severe hepatitis after prolonged ingestion of the tea.
ADRAC is concerned that these reports suggest that Kombucha tea may be toxic and is keen to learn of the extent of the problem. Any patient who develops unexplained hepatoxicity or other severe illnesses should be assessed not only for a drug history but also ingestion of herbal and other alternative treatments such as Kombucha tea.
1. Perron AD, Patterson JA, Yanofsky NN. Kombucha "mushroom" hepatotoxicity. Ann Emerg Ned 1885l 25L 660-1.
2. Centers for Disease Control. Unexplained severe illness possibly associated with consumption of Kombucha tea - Iowa, 1995. MMWR 1995; 44: 892-900 (JAMA 1996; 275: 96-98).
From:- ADRAC BULLETIN VOL. 16, NO 2, MAY '97
Click here to return to alternative medicine pages
Click Here to return to MyPractice Pages