What Is Probiotic Tea?

Probiotic tea has gained popularity as a convenient and flavorful way to support gut health. Probiotic tea has been around for a very long time, and is one of the few ancient remedies which does actually have some decent science behind it. At least in supporting probiotics themselves.

The question of "whether probiotic teas are any better than having a probiotic pill and a cup of green tea?" is really where the debate starts.

And ultimately there are a few pros and cons of probiotic teas, and those are going to depend on whether we’re looking at a cold brew fermented probiotic option like kombucha or whether or not we’re looking at probiotic tea bags designed to be heated as you would with any other normal tea.

And the short answer is that cold brewed may have some additional benefits, but the supplemental type of probiotic tea bags are largely a fad with more drawbacks than positives. There are also some issues with the consistency of fermented probiotic teas, so a lot of people would be better of with a milk based probiotic culture, or some standardized probiotic pills so you can actually be sure you’re getting the exact probiotics you need for the condition you’re trying to work with.

Understanding Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate quantities. These beneficial bacteria play a vital role in maintaining a balanced gut microbiome, which is essential for digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall health.[1] While probiotics are naturally present in the body, incorporating them into our diet can help optimize their function and promote a healthy gut [2] and reduce bloating. The bit that matters when we're discussing probiotic tea however, is most can't surviving boiling water.

What is Probiotic Tea?

Probiotic tea is a type of tea that contains live beneficial bacteria, providing a convenient way to introduce probiotics into your daily routine. It comes in two primary forms: natural and supplemental.

Natural Probiotic Tea

Natural probiotic teas, such as kombucha and pu-erh tea, have been enjoyed for centuries and offer a range of health benefits. Kombucha, a fermented tea, is known for its tangy flavor and carbonation. It is produced through the fermentation of sweetened tea using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). [3] The fermentation process allows for the growth of beneficial bacteria, making kombucha a natural probiotic tea. [4]

Pu-erh tea, popular in Southwestern China and South Asia, is another natural probiotic tea with potential health benefits, including supporting healthy cholesterol levels although it is lesser known than kombucha. [5]

What Are Natural Probiotic Teas Good For?

These sorts of probiotic teas are not an exact science, as there benefits will depend on the bacteria present and type of tea used for the fermentation process, it does seem like the best options would be kombucha’s made with green tea.

The two main reasons being there are far more studies on kombucha’s than other probiotic teas, and far more known benefits to green tea variants and even green tea itself.

So, to start with Kombucha tea contains osmophilic strains of yeast, including Brettanomyces spp., Candida spp., Saccharomyces spp., and Zygosaccharomyces spp.

It also harbors acetic acid bacteria like Acetobacter spp., Gluconobacter spp., and Komagataeibacter spp., alongside Lactobacillus spp. [6]

In short hand, a lot of good bacteria grow in there, but there can be some issues as well which we’ll come to shortly.

Studies have shown that kombucha can aid in digestion, regulate the gut microbiota, reduce inflammation, and promote detoxification. It may also have potential benefits in managing conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders. [7,8,9]

Then we have some advantages to the tea element itself, for example green tea is known for its high content of flavonoids, specifically catechins, which are potent antioxidants.

These compounds have been extensively studied for their ability to scavenge reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, as well as to sequester metal ions. The antioxidant activity of green tea catechins has been linked to a range of health benefits. [10]

Moreover, green tea polyphenols have been reported to possess antimicrobial properties. Studies have shown that phenolics present in tea can inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and fungi without significantly affecting lactic acid bacteria, which are crucial for milk fermentation.

Additionally, some strains of lactic acid bacteria, such as Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus casei Shirota, have the ability to metabolize these phenolic compounds.

The polyphenols in green tea have also been found to exhibit prebiotic effects by modifying the intestinal microbiome. [12] They can inhibit the growth of certain bad bacteria while increasing the levels of beneficial bacteria, including bifidobacteria. This suggests that green tea may have a positive impact on gut health and overall immune function.

The exact science isn’t quite conclusive, but with this in mind there could be some extra benefits to a cold brewed natural probiotic tea.

The Downside To Natural Probiotic Teas

Firstly, you don’t really know what you’re getting as the composition of kombucha tea and the SCOBY layer is influenced by factors such as tea type, weather conditions, bacterial and yeast strains, and the source of the inoculum.

The SCOBY yield is highest during the initial 14 days of fermentation, after which microbial growth gradually decreases. So there is a time frame on it’s efficacy. [13]

While kombucha probiotic tea offers numerous health benefits, it is essential to be aware of potential side effects and safety considerations. Improperly prepared kombucha can pose health risks, especially for individuals with preexisting conditions.

The acidity of kombucha, attributed to acetic and lactic acids, helps inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms. However, contamination during the fermentation process can lead to the production of toxic metabolites and anti-nutritional components. [14] It is crucial for health and nutrition organizations to establish protocols and norms to ensure standardized production methods, raw materials, and quality control.

Supplemental Probiotic Tea (AKA Probiotic Tea Bags)

Supplemental probiotic tea, on the other hand, involves the addition of specific probiotic strains to tea. These probiotics are not a byproduct of fermentation but are intentionally added to enhance the tea's probiotic content. Supplemental probiotic tea is typically available in the form of tea bags, making it easy to brew and enjoy. The probiotic strains used in these tea bags are heat-resistant, allowing them to survive the brewing process and reach the gut alive.

The Benefits of Probiotic Tea Bags

There are some potential benefits to adding green tea to other live bacteria cultures, there have been a few studies involving adding it to milk which resulted in improved bacterial performance. [15]

But… There are more negatives

Unfortunately, these benefits do not make up for the restrictive nature of a brew at home tea product where the heat limits your probiotic options as we have to remember that different probiotic strains are used for different things. After all ones that live in your urinary tract and prevent infection, aren’t going to do too much to help bloating, and there are not heat resistant variations of every beneficial strain. [16]

That said if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like to swallow pills this could be an option, although you’d still likely be better with some form of probiotic yoghurt or milk product.

How Does Probiotic Tea Work?

Probiotic tea works by delivering live beneficial bacteria to the gut. When consumed, the probiotics in the tea survive the brewing process and make their way to the digestive system. Once in the gut, these probiotics interact with the existing gut microbiota, promoting a healthy balance of bacteria and supporting digestive function.

The Benefits of Probiotic Tea:

Probiotic tea offers several potential benefits for gut health and overall well-being. The benefits are for the most part going to be the same as any probiotic product, although with certain probiotic teas, you could get some additional benefits from anti oxidants as we mentioned above:

Restore Gut Microbiome Balance

A healthy gut microbiome is characterized by a diverse community of beneficial bacteria. Probiotic tea can help restore this balance by increasing the population of beneficial bacteria in the gut, thereby promoting optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.

Improve Digestive Function

Probiotics have been shown to improve digestive function by aiding in the breakdown of food, enhancing nutrient absorption, and reducing symptoms such as bloating and constipation. By incorporating probiotic tea into your daily routine, you can support a healthy digestive system.

Boost Immune Function

The gut plays a crucial role in immune function, and probiotics have been found to enhance immune response. Probiotic tea can help strengthen your immune system, potentially reducing the risk of infections and supporting overall wellness.

Support Mental Health

Emerging research suggests a connection between gut health and mental health. Probiotics, including those found in probiotic tea, may have a positive impact on mood and mental well-being. While more studies are needed, early evidence indicates a potential link between probiotics and improved mental health.

Contribute to Vaginal Health

Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the vaginal microbiome is crucial for vaginal health. Some probiotic strains found in probiotic tea have been associated with supporting vaginal health and reducing the risk of certain infections.

It's important to note that individual responses to probiotics can vary, and more research is needed to fully understand the extent of their benefits. However, incorporating probiotic tea into a balanced diet can be a valuable addition to promote gut health.

Choosing the Best Probiotic Tea For You

When selecting probiotic tea, consider the following factors:

Probiotic Strains - Different probiotic strains have varying effects on the body. It's essential to choose a probiotic tea that contains strains known for their specific benefits. For example, Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 is a strain commonly used in probiotic teas and has been shown to support digestion, nutrient utilization, and immune function. Although the main reason it is used in probiotic tea bags is that it is particularly heat resistant. [17]

Taste and Flavor - Probiotic teas come in various flavors and profiles, allowing you to find one that suits your preferences. Whether you prefer the tangy taste of kombucha or the earthy tones of pu-erh tea, there is a probiotic tea for every palate.

Brewing Method - Consider the brewing method required for the probiotic tea you choose. Some teas come in convenient tea bags, while others may require special brewing techniques. Select a brewing method that suits your lifestyle and preferences.

Quality and Safety - Ensure that the probiotic tea you choose is produced by a reputable brand and undergoes rigorous quality control measures. Look for products that are tested for potency and purity to ensure you are getting a high-quality probiotic tea.

Is Probiotic Tea Any Good?

Probiotic tea, particularly those supplemented with green tea, does have some extra benefits to probiotics or green tea alone. Green tea's antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, combined with the beneficial effects of probiotic strains, create an added benefit for improving gut health and overall well-being. However, inconsistency is an issue and there are definitely some potential health risks when home brewing.

And as for the boil in the bag probiotic teas, these are just a bit of a fad, that are more restrictive than particularly beneficial.


1 - https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Probiotics-HealthProfessional/

2 - https://irp.nih.gov/catalyst/21/6/the-human-microbiome-project

3 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7278673/

4 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9265386/

5 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5533841/

6 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9265386/

7 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8844156/

8 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9975612/

9 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34698580/

10 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7283370/

11 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035541/

12 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8271705/

13 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7278673/

14 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9346462/

15 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035541/

16 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566317/

17 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6208742/

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