Friday, April 23, 2010

THE DOUBLING ROTI: MIRACLE OR MYTH?


This one is straight out of the pages of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Only that in this case it is not the sleight of hand of some invisible Godman but plain old growth of fungus which ends up looking like a roti. This Doubling Roti or Sai roti has been doing the rounds of the houses of the devout.

The faithful are told that the roti will double itself only if the person has true faith. This is a double whammy. One, if the roti does not double itself, then it proves you are not true in your faith and then neighbours come to know and start look askance.

This is what happens. The devout are told to keep roti (chapati) in a tiffin box which is then covered with red cloth. Before the red cloth is draped, the devotee is told to add tea leaves, some sugar, a small cup of water, cover it and then perform puja. A week of this, the roti is expected to double. Then these two rotis' are kept in two different boxes and handed to other Sai devotees. The process goes on and on. But what exactly happens here? This is the question that SOM put to Dr. Mandara Maharishi, Scientific Astrologer and Vastu Consultant. Excerpts:

What is this Sai Roti?
I’ve heard about this from my clients; people even collect some nominal value for this, like Rs.3 and keep it in their cash box. They believe, it doubles their money as the Roti doubles.

According to you, is it a miracle or a scientific process?
Definitely it is a scientific process like Manchurian Mushroom called "KOMBUCHA". It's a fungus-like mixture of bacteria and yeast that grows in sugar and tea solution. It takes 8 -10 days to grow and becomes a pancake like organism that resembles a mushroom. What is truly miraculous is the tea it grows in.

What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that is imbibed for medicinal purposes. It is a probiotic, microbiological food. It helps regenerate the bowel flora and is excellent for wellbeing. It is a popular health promoting beverage and natural folk remedy. It is a symbiotic culture of yeast and other microorganisms, depending on each other. Kombucha is available commercially, we can buy the kombucha at any online health food store but can be made at home by fermenting tea using a visible solid mass of microorganisms called kombucha culture or mushroom.

Is there any scientific evidence in support of these claims?
There is limited scientific information supporting any of purported benefits, though few studies are being conducted in this regard.

What does Kombucha look like?
It looks like some sort of fungus or mushroom but it isn’t. For convenience it is generally called a fungus as this has been customary over the years. It looks like a white rubbery “pancake”. It is a hard, smooth slippery, glassy mass which forms lamellae. These lamellae are composed of translucent, very tough tissue with a series of brown spots at the bottom. These turn out to be a concentration of yeast cells. The primary yeast is Schizosaccharomyces Pombe, while the main bacteria involved in the fermentation are the Gluconacetobacter Xylinum, Gluconobacter Bluconicum and Acetobacter Xylinioides.

What is Kombucha Tea?
Major ingredients found in Kombucha tea are various enzymes, Acetic acid, Carbonic acid, Folic Acid, Gluconic acid, Glucuronic acid, L(+) Lactic, Usnic acid, Amino acids (various), Hydroxy acids (various), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin, niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin, cyanocobalamin), Vitamin C (from Lactic acid), antibiotic substances, 0.5% to 1% alcohol is produced as well as other products.

Origin of Kombucha?
Some attribute its origin to Manchuria (a historical name given to a vast geographic region in northeast Asia) and others to Tibet, Japan or Eastern Siberia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria either falls entirely within People’s Republic of China, or is divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast China.

For how long has it been in use?
Kombucha apparently evolved from plant organisms over 2.5 billion years ago. People have been preparing and consuming fermented tea drink for over 2000 years. The first record of "KOMBUCHA" 'The Miracle Mushroom' was during the Chinese Empire of the Tsin Dynasty in 221 BC. It was referred to as “the remedy for immortality” or “the Divine Tsche” by the Koreans in 414 B.C but later it showed up in China. From there it was introduced into Japan, Russia, and India and later to other European countries where it is now consumed daily by huge numbers of people.

For what health aspects Kombucha can be used?
As an elixir of life, it is believed that consuming Kombucha regularly keeps one in eternal youth, preventing old age and greying of hairs. It is also believed that Kombucha increases longevity, cures cancer, Bronchitis and asthma, rheumatism, Improves vision, Cures kidney and cardiac problems, cataracts, diabetes, diarrhea, herpes ,Increases appetite and helps digestion, Cures insomnia, lowers hypertension, reverses the symptoms of AIDS and increases sexual desire.

How Kombucha Tea is prepared?
To prepare kombucha tea we require; Kombucha mushroom of about 3 inches in diameter, Two liters of fresh mineral water, 15 grams biological green tea, 200 grams refined white sugar, A stainless steel saucepan (do not use aluminum), A clean glass container with a wide mouth which will hold a 3" diameter mushroom and 2 liters of water, A piece of cheesecloth and a rubber band to close the jar to allow fresh oxygen into the container.

To start Kombucha Culture, first we should boil the water and is allowed to cool down for 5 minutes, add the tea bags and remove it after 15 minutes, Add the sugar and stir thoroughly. Let the tea cool down to about 90° F. When preparing the first culture, add two tablespoons of natural vinegar (which you omit when you already have Mombucha also known as Mother Kombucha) and Yeast. Pour the tea into the glass container and add the Mother Kombucha also called SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). Close the container with the cheese cloth and rubber band. Place the jar in a spot at a temperature of about 80° F. After 10 to 14 days a new Baby kombucha mushroom will have grown on the whole surface of the tea. What appears to be fungus or Mold maybe "tannins" from the tea. These are still, good mushrooms. Cigarette smoke, paint fumes, off-gasses, strong sunlight will kill kombucha.

How can Kombucha Tea be consumed?
This kombucha tea should be strained, bottled, sealed with a clean lid and kept in the refrigerator for subsequent process. You make the new batch of tea with the new mushroom which has grown on top of the old mushroom.The old mushroom can be used as a fertilizer for plants, applied to wounds or used as cosmetic. When the new tea has cooled and been poured into the jar it should be mixed with about 8 oz. per quart of the previous batch of kombucha tea. This favors the fermentation as a result of which the new kombucha tea will be ready in 8 to 10 days. Of course you have to put the kombucha mushroom in the cool tea and proceed.

When brewing at home, it is common for SCOBYs of uneven thickness or varying shades to form, due to cold or varying temperatures, and sometimes due to inconsistent environments and brewing cycles. So if this happens, don’t worry! It’s perfectly normal! Though Kombucha mushrooms start out cream colored, they darken over time, which could happen due to staining by the tea. And eventually as SCOBYs age they stop creating babies, and lose their ability to ferment the tea. While some say that SCOBYs last for 8 batches, others say that they last for 3-4 months.

What is the recommended dosage for consumption?
4 oz. every morning, on an empty stomach. We can add some fresh honey if we feel it is sour.

Where is it popularly used today?
Today the tea is widely used Japan and Russia even today. Scientists noticed that in those regions where the Kombucha-tea was a common drink, the environmental pollution had less influence on the health of the population. Being heavy smokers, drinking vast amounts of alcohol and working in the unhealthy mercury-, lead-, and asbestos industry they survived this onslaught by consuming Kombucha-tea on a daily basis. This was the only difference compared with their counterparts in similar circumstances. As the Kombucha has so much of nutritional ingredients and medicinal values, Kombucha culture has got much importance.

By what other names it is called?
Kombucha is also popularly known by various other names like Fungus Japonicus, Fungo-Japon Kombucha, Kargasok Tea, Kvas, Manchurian Mushroom, Tea Fungus, Tea Sponge and Tea Wine.

Why is Kombucha called as Saai Roti then?
We call it as Sai Roti (means Spun Roti in Thai language) not Shiridi Sai. On the streets of Thailand we can have a snack called Roti Sai Mai or Roti Spun Silk which is a thin pancake wrapped around sugar spun like cotton candy. Sai Mai is also a name of one of the fifty districts of Bangkok, Thailand.

So what conclusion can be given for this Sai Roti or Kombucha?
Finally, we can say that Sai Roti (Kombucha Culture) is a Symbiotic Miracle rather than a Sai Miracle.

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