Kombucha tea is a sweet, slightly acidic beverage that is becoming increasingly popular among the health community today.
However, the beverage has been around for centuries with its origins traced back to China.
Today, Kombucha is marketed for its medicinal properties.
There is a link between Kombucha tea and a variety of health benefits.
According to numerous studies, Kombucha tea improves digestion, lowers bad cholesterol levels, and improves blood sugar management in the body, just to mention a few health benefits.
However, there are concerns about Kombucha tea’s alleged alcohol content.
Here’s a detailed discussion on whether the tea contains alcohol.
How is Kombucha tea made?
The “key” to ascertaining whether Kombucha tea contains alcohol or not lies in how it is made. Kombucha tea is made through fermentation. The beverage is made by adding yeast, sugar, and specific strains of bacteria to green or black tea. The mixture is then let to ferment for some time (a few weeks) at room temperature.
The fermentation process makes the yeast and bacteria in the mixture to form a “mushroom-like” film on the surface. The process gives the tea its signature characteristics since it adds alcohol, carbon dioxide, acetic acid, probiotic bacteria, among other compounds.
Does Kombucha tea contain alcohol?
Fermentation breaks down sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Therefore, we can conclude that the tea contains some alcohol. The alcohol content is, however small, sometimes insignificant to the extent of being labeled non-alcoholic.
The alcohol content of the tea is below 0.5%, which is below the current United States Alcohol & Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau regulations for beverages to qualify as alcoholic. However, it’s worth noting that homebrewed Kombucha tea can have a higher alcohol content (up to 3% or more).
In a nutshell, you should be more concerned about Kombucha alcohol content when the tea is made at home. Commercial Kombucha tea doesn’t contain enough alcohol to qualify as alcoholic.
However, this doesn’t mean that everyone can take Kombucha tea. Pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn’t take homebrewed Kombucha tea since it can contain harmful levels of alcohol. Furthermore, such tea is unpasteurized, which may increase the risks of suffering from a miscarriage.
It is advisable for pregnant women to avoid anything that contains alcohol throughout their pregnancy. Breastfeeding mothers should avoid anything with alcohol since alcohol passes through breast milk.
Besides containing alcohol, Kombucha tea has some other properties which pose certain risks.
- Some commercial varieties aren’t pasteurized: Although most commercial varieties are pasteurized, pasteurization can’t be guaranteed with all varieties. Pasteurization kills harmful bacteria in foods and drinks, lowering risks of serious diseases like diphtheria, tuberculosis, and listeriosis
- Homebrewed Kombucha tea can cause serious bacterial infections among individuals with weak immune systems, children, older adults, and pregnant women
- Contains caffeine: As mentioned above, Kombucha tea is prepared by fermenting black or green tea, which contains caffeine. Although caffeine has several health benefits, it has been linked to some side effects like anxiety, poor sleep, restlessness, and headaches in some people. If you suffer from any caffeine-related side effects, it’s advisable to avoid Kombucha tea
- Can cause migraines: Although migraines and headaches are linked to caffeine, they can also be caused by other ingredients in Kombucha tea. Fermented beverages are rich in amino acids like tyramine which occur naturally. Some studies have linked tyramine to headaches and migraines. If you suffer from headaches or migraines after taking Kombucha tea, it’s advisable to keep off the beverage
- Homebrewed Kombucha tea can be dangerous
Homebrewed Kombucha poses serious health risks more than commercial varieties. The reasons behind this are simple – home brewing increases chances of contamination, which can cause serious disease and even death in severe contamination cases.
The 3% alcohol content which can vary upwards posses serious risks to individuals who aren’t supposed to take alcohol i.e., pregnant mothers.
If you choose to make Kombucha tea yourself, you must prepare it properly, otherwise, consider buying commercial varieties instead. Such varieties are pasteurized and made in highly regulated environments by professionals who know the exact contents of the final tea.
Potential benefits of Kombucha tea
Although Kombucha tea has some downsides, especially when it is prepared at home, it is also associated with some notable health benefits. Some of the Kombucha tea benefits you stand to enjoy include:
- Rich in probiotics: Kombucha tea is rich in probiotic bacteria which are linked to health benefits like; weight loss, improved digestive health, and reduced feelings of anxiety and depression
- Regulates blood sugar levels: Research studies also suggest that Kombucha tea can regulate the sugar levels entering the bloodstream
- Reduced heart disease risk: Animal research also suggests that Kombucha tea can reduce the level of bad cholesterol while boosting good cholesterol levels simultaneously. The tea can also prevent LDL cholesterol oxidation
- Reduce the risk of getting certain cancers: According to test-tube studies, Kombucha tea can suppress the growth as well as the spread of certain cancers. This health benefit is linked to the tea’s antioxidants. However, it’s worth noting that human studies haven’t confirmed this benefit
- Can boost liver health: Kombucha tea is also better than black tea as well as enzyme-processed tea in regards to protecting the liver from harmful substances and treating damage
Kombucha tea has benefits that are backed by science. The tea has probiotics, can help to manage blood sugar, is good for the heart, and it is capable of fighting cancer. The tea is also good for your liver.
However, the tea offers these benefits when it is manufactured properly. Kombucha tea should be pasteurized to kill any bacteria. It should also contain a small amount of alcohol (less than 0.5%). The presence of bacteria and alcohol in homebrewed Kombucha teas can’t be controlled. These concerns are addressed by commercial varieties.
However, commercial varieties aren’t universally safe and beneficial. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should stay away from the tea for reasons discussed above. The same applies to alcohol addicts.