Kombucha: Health or Hype?

Author: Jocie Antonelli


Lately it seems like everyone is talking about kombucha tea. If you are not familiar with it, it’s simply a fermented tea that combines tea, bacteria, yeast, and sugar. The result is a fizzy fermented elixir that has been consumed for centuries. And it’s popularity only continues to grow as evidenced by sales reports showing yearly growth of 25% [1]. So what’s the big deal; why does it have such a loyal group of consumers and why are new ones turned onto it everyday?  

Probably the number one reason for the buzz is that it’s fermented. Fermented foods contain gut-friendly bacteria or probiotics that aid in digestion and boost one’s immune system. Other popular fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi. The knowledge about the importance of a healthy microbiome and an overall healthy body are solidly linked. Your microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms (also called microbiota or microbes) of thousands of different species [2]. These include not only bacteria but fungi, parasites, and viruses. In a healthy person, these “bugs” coexist peacefully, with the largest numbers found in the small and large intestines. We depend on these microbes to keep us alive, protect us from bad germs, break down food to release energy, and to produce vitamins. We can contribute to a healthy microbiome by consuming or taking probiotics. So it’s easy to see why more consumers are turning to kombucha as a healthy beverage.

Another benefit to kombucha is the tea itself. Tea leaves contain polyphenols, which act as strong antioxidants, fighting free radicals and oxidative stress in the body. This translates to a healthier body with lower risk of overall disease and a slower rate of aging. It also contains B vitamins, amino acids, and varying levels of caffeine leading to the energizing claims some consumers report when they drink kombucha.  

So overall, all signs seem to be pointing to a strong thumbs up. However, just because it’s healthy doesn’t make kombucha a magic potion. There aren’t a lot of good quality studies to support kombucha’s hype. There have been limited studies so far, and they’ve generally been performed in a laboratory and not in human subjects. Thus, the health claims and reports of people drinking the tea and feeling better are mostly anecdotal. Hopefully, some good clinical studies will be funded in the future.  

In the meantime, what’s the bottom line? Kombucha isn’t a cure-all, nor will any single food or drink ever be. However, it’s been around since ancient times lending credence to it having dietary value. We know some components of the tea have solid health benefits and are important to incorporate on a regular basis. So if you enjoy the fizzy cider taste, by all means, drink up! You’ll find kombucha on campus at:  Modern Market, Cafe de Grasta, Decio Cafe, and Crossings.



  1. Kombucha market worth USD 1.8 billion USD by 2020. Markets and Markets website.  http://www.markets an dmarket.com/PressRelease/komburch.asp. Published 2015.

  2. Ursell, L.K., et al. Defining the Human Microbiome. Nutr Rev. 2012 Aug; 70(Suppl 1): S38–S44.