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  • Kombucha

    I am looking for information that I am able to cite as to why Kombucha is labeled as L5. This is a fermented tea made with sugar, vinegar and a scoby mushroom. Thank you!

  • #2
    Hi, thanks for your post.

    We rated Kombucha an L5 based on a 1995 CDC report of several people becoming severely ill (including one fatality) after drinking large amounts of it. I cannot find a published followup to the original investigation or and only one additional case in the last 20 years. In 2013, the CDC published a lengthy guide on how to safely home-brew this product and avoid a dozen different nasty problems. Citations are at the bottom of this message.

    While this may not seem like a strong condemnation of Kombucha, we maintain a very conservative stance when it comes to herbal medications. They are unregulated, poorly studied, and quite variable in content. It is extremely difficult to predict the effect that the active compounds will have on a baby or how they will interact with other medications. Use at your own risk.

    1: Nummer BA. Kombucha brewing under the Food and Drug Administration model Food Code: risk analysis and processing guidance. J Environ Health. 2013 Nov;76(4):8-11. PubMed PMID: 24341155.
    2: SungHee Kole A, Jones HD, Christensen R, Gladstein J. A case of Kombucha tea toxicity. J Intensive Care Med. 2009 May-Jun;24(3):205-7. PubMed PMID: 19460826.
    3: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unexplained severe illness possibly associated with consumption of Kombucha tea--Iowa, 1995. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 1995 Dec 8;44(48):892-3, 899-900. PubMed PMID: 7476846.

    -James Abbey, MD


    • #3
      I was looking up Kombucha for a client and noticed that it is not included in the 16th edition of Medications and Mother's Milk. I also searched the Infant Risk website (and the app) and did not find anything. Is Kombucha still considered an L5? Is there a reason it is not listed in the book or app anymore?


      • #4

        Each time we renew the book, we go through and eliminate rarely used drugs, so that we can include really important new drugs. Kombucha is so rarely used it was deleted in order to save space. The book has gotten so large that we are beginning to delete certain drugs of lesser importance.

        The L5 rating still stands. This is potentially hazardous product and a breastfeeding mother should not use it.

        Tom Hale Ph.D.