Can I make kombucha from herbal tea?

Have you ever wondered if you can brew kombucha using a herbal infusion instead of traditional tea?

Maybe you are doing something like a “locavore challenge” and only eating and drinking what can be grown or produced within 100 miles of your home. Maybe you are a prepper of some sort, wanting to know if your kombucha scoby will survive on your local tea substitute plants. Or maybe you like the idea of bitter-herb spring tonics, but find them to be too, well frankly, bitter!

This question about using herbal tea to make kombucha is one of those queries that you’ll see come up time and time again in fermenting forums. It’s a variation of the “do I have to use normal tea?” question, and is usually answered with the traditional wisdom that ordinary black, green or oolong etc tea is what kombucha needs and that to stray from that is to invite disaster.


It appears that, like much of life, the truth is much less straightforward.

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Is Kombucha Healthy? A general introduction.

Simply Kombucha

The following article is adapted from the ‘Health Claims’ chapter in my book Simply Kombucha.


Kombucha has a long history of being promoted as a health drink. Almost every blog or article I read about kombucha has a list of medical complaints or illnesses that it is supposed to heal or at least help with.

All the early kombucha books from the 1990s are full of hints and tips about using kombucha to heal wounds, beat arthritis, or combat hair-loss. Even AIDS was claimed to respond to this amazing “miracle mushroom”.
On closer reading I found that the authors of those books also tended to speculate about cosmic rays and crop circles, making me a touch skeptical about their medical opinions, no matter how expert they were in the art of brewing kombucha. So I looked online to see what the current state of opinion was about kombucha’s healing powers.

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Kombucha for heart health

Drinking kombucha could improve your heart risk factors, and increase the odds of full recovery from a heart attack


Did you know that drinking kombucha could help protect against heart attack?

Well, now you do. 🙂

Today’s research article demonstrates that, in rats at least, a daily dose of kombucha leads to higher HDL cholesterol (the good kind), lower triglycerides, and a better outcome if a heart attack does happen.

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Kombucha prevents kidney damage from an industrial solvent. In rats.

kidney damage rats

Today’s paper is similar to last week’s, and indeed was referenced by last week’s authors as evidence that kombucha can counteract the effects of oxidative stress.

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Effect of kombucha on rats with drug-induced type 1 diabetes.

diabetic ratsWrapping my head around the ins and outs of this week’s paper has taken me a bit more time than usual. There is a lot going on here, but come along with me and we’ll go on a journey of discovery together. If anything still isn’t completely clear, please leave a comment and I’ll have a go at re-wording or explaining things.

This is a paper where the initial results look awesome, but on closer inspection need to be treated with care.

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Occasionally someone will react badly to kombucha

emergency department door

I particularly wanted to look at this article as it is often quoted as evidence that kombucha is dangerous and shouldn’t be recommended as a health food. I think it is worth having a closer look at what it is actually saying so we can make up our own minds about it.

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Does kombucha help wounds heal faster? Inconclusive.

[Note: The research paper I discuss in this post has since been retracted. It was retracted in November of 2016. Reasons for the retraction were not given. I discuss the retraction of scientific papers in this post here, and the link to the retraction is here.]

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