Not an Ending, Just an Intermission

Hi all, this is a little post to let everyone know that since I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this month, I will have to move off of this blog site very soon. It’s scary and weird, and I don’t totally understand what it means to have a degree or be considered an “alum” yet, but I guess we’ll get there!

Photo by Carolyn Taluja Photography

Luckily, I’ll be continuing my education (that’s right, there will still be lots of dorky science stuff behind all the blog posts!) at Texas A&M University in the fall! So I’ll be back, up and running, at a new blog site starting in August. I’ll keep with a similar theme, so since I don’t have a link for everyone yet, for now I’m going to say googling the words “tamu”, “natural health and beauty” or “flower child” are going to be the best bets for finding the new blog!

Maybe my name would work too? Serina Taluja? I’ll also probably post the new link on my LinkedIn profile, so if you need to definitely hit up my LinkedIn page to catch that new link!

Photo by me 🙂
Check out these cute Alaskan flowers! Maybe I’ll go back to Alaska to figure all this stuff out?? We’ll see!

Thank you so much, everyone, for listening to my ramblings, and for enjoying the health and wellness benefits of a more natural lifestyle with me. It’s so wonderful to be able to build a community through writing about something important to you, because that community ends up being full of people with priorities in line with yours. The topics become more in depth, the conversations more meaningful. I’m so lucky that I had the opportunity to write this blog, and that I’m going to keep having that opportunity in the fall!

So while I figure out what it means to have my bachelors degree (and maybe what it means to be a graduate student! AH!), get ready for a newer and even better version of this blog, coming from one of the warmer regions of the US!

See you all soon, after my little school-intermission!

Time to Try Turmeric

One of the things I seriously admire about my boyfriend is that he’s a vegetarian. It’s a lifestyle that contributes so much to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and encourages fair treatment for animals around the world. I wish I could commit to it, but as a border-line anemic it’s hard to keep my iron levels up without consuming a little bit of meat here and there, so instead I just try to make the best and most nutrient-packed vegetarian foods for my boyfriend that I possibly can!

Searching for ways to keep nutrient and protein levels up in the diet of a vegetarian can be really tricky, but far from impossible as long as you do your research! Just last week, I convinced my boyfriend (his name is Aaron) to try Indian food for the first time since he was really little. He loved it, and one of the things I ordered for him was aloo gobi, which is a dish made with cauliflower and potatoes, and the key to it’s interesting color and amazing taste is…turmeric!

Turmeric has so many fantastic health benefits that I just had to write about it. It’s also used so widely in international cuisines and especially vegetarian dishes, it’s a great little spice to know about. So, here are some popular ways people enjoy turmeric and the health benefits that come along with them!

Turmeric in Curry

In curries, turmeric produces the yellow color you see, and this yellow color within the turmeric comes from a compound called curcumin. Curcumin is great for a whole long list of reasons, just like turmeric. For one thing, it is a very strong antioxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. And while turmeric is only around 3% curcumin by weight, you can increase your bodies absorption of the compound by adding black pepper to your curry (which contains peperine, which encourages absorption of curcumin but the body) or eating some high-fat foods with your curry (since curcumin is fat-soluble).

And, if anyone was wondering about making that Indian dish that Aaron liked at home, check out this fantastic aloo gobi recipe and get your daily dose of turmeric in with dinner!

Turmeric Milk

This is a great alternative to get your turmeric fix if you’re not a curry fan. And, if you’re sensitive to spicy food, this is also perfect because the milk takes all the usual kick right out of the turmeric. This tonic is great because it can be consumed pretty much anytime you feel that you need a little immunity boost. It’s especially good for children in school or for anyone who uses public spaces often and interacts with a lot of people, and around flu season it’s been known to keep germs at bay. Most people drink it right when they wake up or right before they go to bed!

Turmeric milk is also a pretty good detoxifying agent of basically every part of your body! It can help regulate your digestive track, clean out your liver and even clear up breakouts, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric Tea

Tea form of turmeric is great for pain relief, since warm liquids make you feel emotionally better (or at least, they make ME feel better!) and turmeric can make your body feel better! This tea is often used by arthritis patients to help manage their symptoms, and by women with very painful period cramps to manage their discomfort.

Turmeric tea also delivers all the other benefits of turmeric to the body quickly, like it’s anti-heart-disease properties and it’s cancer-fighting abilities! And it can be made with a wide variety of combined ingredients depending on the benefits you’re seeking or the taste you’re craving!

Medicinal Mushroom Magic

During this coming summer (which is finally starting! Hooray!) I’ll be working at the University of Illinois Herbarium, which is super exciting for a multitude of reasons. And normally, it wouldn’t make sense for a microbiologist to end up working at a herbarium, which is basically a “library” of plant specimens. But, lucky for me, I have a *little* bit of previous experience in herbariums, AND I got to interview the director for a story I wrote for the Daily Illini.

The director, Dr. Andy Miller, is a mycologist. Mycology is the study of mushrooms, and an incredibly cool and small field. It’s actually pretty crazy: for every type of plant in the world, there are probably about 30 botanists. That’s a lot of botanists! For every single mycologist in the world, there’s probably around 300 species of mushrooms. That’s such a wild distribution!

I think this discrepancy lies in a lack of knowledge about just how neat and important mushrooms are- specifically Cordyceps, which make up one of the the largest subdivisions of true fungi. These have been used by humans for a variety of medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and here I’ve detailed a few neat things that mushrooms can do for you!

Cordyceps- In Introduction

For starters, what the heck even is a Cordycep? It’s going to sound weird, but a Cordycep tends to be a type of fungus that infects insect larvae and eventually kills them. It sounds gross, but this little parasite can do so many cool things that I almost forgot that it starts its life by infecting a bug!

For one thing, Cordyceps have been found to increase peoples’ endurance physically. These types of mushrooms can be consumed to increase your ability to go hard at the gym by skyrocketing the amount of ATP (energy) getting delivered to your muscles.

They have also been found to do lots of other healthy things, like stop tumor progression, manage diabetes, and help with heart health.

Some Cordyceps have also been found to help with anti-aging efforts. In the field of anti-aging, lots of the focus has recently been shifted to helping with the “symptoms” of getting older, things like joint pain and fatigue, rather than actually halting the aging process or not showing surface-level signs of age. In this new arena, these mushrooms are stars! They help with things like boosting joint strength, keeping fatigue at bay and even amping up peoples’ sex drives. They also contain tons of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which help neutralize free radicals and keep diseases from slowing us down as we get older.

Now here are a few of the miracle-mushrooms within the Cordyceps domain!

Cordyceps sinensis

The discovery of this fungus being medicinally relevant started with farmers noticing that sheep and goats that fed in fields where this mushroom grew became very strong and stout in stature. This observation paved the way for studying the benefits of this fungus for people, which are quite numerous.

Cordyceps sinensis has been reported to help people with diabetes management, respiratory difficulties like bronchitis and asthma, and even some types of cancer treatment. This mushroom is also reported to be an aphrodisiac, and helps with things like erectile dysfunction. In an interesting recent study, mice were given this mushroom for 3 weeks and then compared to a group given a placebo type treatment, and the mushroom-fed mice were able to swim significantly longer than the mice given the placebo by the end of the three week period! So if you’re looking for an extra way to boost your strength and endurance, look no further than this mushroom (and check out Gaia Herbs‘ Mushroom + Herbs supplement for this exact same thing!).

Cordyceps militaris

This fungus is super pretty looking, with adorable white and orange fruiting bodies that you can see growing on leaves and branches. It has many components that are active players in key metabolic pathways in the human body, which has lead to lots of claims that this mushroom is anywhere from anti-cancer to anti-HIV to anti-aging!

Interestingly enough, that first claim has been studied pretty extensively in this mushroom and found to be quite accurate. Not only does Cordyceps militaris have the ability to stop cells from proliferating extensively (which is what causes tumors to grow so fast!), it also can stop cells from moving to parts of the body they shouldn’t be, which is known as cancer metastasis! Proliferation and metastasis are two of the scarier parts of cancer progression, so stopping both of these is a pretty big deal for this little mushroom and for advancing holistic medicines’ impact on cancer.