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I drink kombucha, a fermented and very slightly alcoholic tea, in order to ease recurring gastrointestinal distress. Although I use this drink as a tool, is it considered a breach of the fifth precept?

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The purpose of that precept is to prevent loss of heedfulness through intoxication.

If your reason to drink tea of some kind with very little alcohol in it, is for medicinal purposes, and if it does not cause the loss of heedfulness through intoxication, then there is no violation of the precept in my opinion.

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Buddhist morality, as a rule of thumb, has to do with how such actions affect your ability to practice (i.e. can you still meditate), and does it cause suffering in yourself or others, as opposed to morality being based in compliance with the demands of a supernatural being.

So, on those grounds, this amount of alcohol is not problematic. It won't make you behave in a way that makes you break the rest of the precepts.

As for how institutional Buddhism handled alcohol, it varied, I'll link because they say it better than I can summarize.

As for how much Kombucha you'd need to drink to get smashed and risk breaking the rest of the precepts...you'll start puking and farting before you get drunk on Kombuch, this guy tried it. ...almost a gallon of noxious fermented tea just to break a blood alcohol level of 0.01

  • The reference you cited says that may be a "minority view", i.e., The breach of vow occurs if any type of alcohol, ranging from light beer-like drinks [...] even if the quantity is not substantial. In general, the necessary quantity [...] to be considered a transgression is described as anything beyond the amount of fluid that is present on the tip of a blade of grass Still, there exists also a minority view that considers transgression conditional upon whether consumption induces heedlessness, a perception that would allow for the intake of measured quantities of alcohol. – ChrisW Feb 18 '18 at 21:53
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Would really depend upon which school of thought you follow, and at that, which lineage. Some are as strict as to say that definitely yes, not permitted. Then there are most others that are more mainstream or even liberal in the interpretation of Buddha’s teachings. The question I would ask myself is - is there any other source that I can use without alcohol, and go from there. This, only if you are especially conservative in your approach to the precepts.

If you do continue to consume Kombucha, perhaps consider switching to one with a lower alcohol content. They do vary among brands, sometimes widely. The bottle that I am looking at now states .5% by Vol, but I’ve seen both higher and lower amounts in other products. Please also consider the caffeine content if you are sensitive.

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If it used strictly as medicine, and you are sure your intentions are pure, ie. you don't "use it for medicine", but actually drink it for alcohol. I'm sure your heart knows answer to that.

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