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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a tea and a tincture?
Tea Infusions can refer to any type of water-based preparation, whether it’s herbal or caffeinated. 
A strong infusion, sometimes called a nourishing herbal infusion, is made when using a large amount of plant material (often an ounce) steeped for several hours to overnight. The extended steeping time helps extract vitamins and minerals which aren’t readily extracted with shorter steeping time.
Decoctions (basically a simmer) are used to extract more tenacious plant materials, generally used for brewing roots, barks, nuts and non- aromatic seeds. Roots high in volatile oils such as Valerian and Goldenseal should be infused not decocted.
Tinctures, or alcohol extracts, are made by using alcohol to extract the medicinal properties from the herbs. The herbs are “soaked” in the alcohol (often a 50/50 mix like 100 proof vodka) for up to 2 months then strained. This extraction contains both alcohol and water soluble molecules and is often more potent than an infusion.
What is the difference between a balm and salve?
Salves and balms are herbal oils with beeswax melted into them. 
The herbal oil is made first by infusing herbs into a base such as olive, almond, avocado, jojoba or castor oil. Herbal oils are not the same as essential oils. Herbal oils extract physical constituents of the plant into the oil, whereas essential oils result from a process of distillation and contain the volatile organic compounds in the plant parts.
Balms essentially have the same ingredients as salves, except they have a higher beeswax content. Thus salves are generally a softer texture that allows them to be absorbed into the skin easier and balms have a harder, thicker consistency that is able to keep its shape.
How do you decide what herbs to use?
We get a lot of folks who ask us, “how do I know which herbs I should use?” With so many herbs, remedies, modalites and supplements on the market, all with various and different benefits, it can often be overwhelming to know where to start. 

We suggest first understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all herbal solution. It is important to look at your life and reflect on what support your body, brain, and lifestyle is asking for. Reflect for a minute. Then think about what you will take, what you will use. Do you love tea, or do you prefer capsules or tinctures? How you will incorporate herbs into your life is also very important. As you incorporate the herbs, listen to your body to see if the herbs agree with you. It helps to do some research, and we have a really great source of herbal informational books! It also helps to work with a professional herbalist, such as Dr. Nicole Pierce, NMD!
Can Vervain Shop Stewards give me medical advice?
Nope! It is not appropriate for people who are not your doctor to give you medical advice, and there are a lot of laws around diagnosing, preventing, treating, and curing medical conditions. The Shop Steward - Customer relationship is not doctor-patient, so we have limits. You can meet with your doctor and have them give you recommendations which we can prepare for you (we have order forms on our FOR PRACTITIONERS page). And you can come in to the shop and we can discuss the plethora of options we have that can SUPPORT your body’s functions which will help you stay healthy. The distinction between helping you learn and giving advice can seem like a fine line, and it can be a nuanced conversion. We are here to help you and support you, within the legal and ethical limits that govern our practices.
Does tea count as "water" for getting your daily water intake? 
Dr. Nicole likes to call tea “water with benefits”! Herbal tea is a great way to increase your daily water intake, and you will also be receiving benefits from the herbs, vitamins, and minerals. Some herbs are naturally diuretic (such as dandelion), so they will be nourishing the kidneys and urinary tract system as well.
What is the best container to store my herbs?
Any clean, dry glass or BPA-free plastic container with a tight sealing lid works great. Canning jars are a great option, ideally a dark glass is best as it cuts down on light rays. Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
What herbs do you carry?
We carry over 250 bulk herbs! You can place an order in person or via the forms on this site:
What is a nutritive?
Nutritive herbs contain high levels of a particular vitamin or mineral or contain modest levels of several nutrients. Examples are: nettle, horsetail, oatstraw, oat tops, raspberry leaf, red clover, alfalfa are a few. (these are often used in nourishing infusions as listed above).
What is an adaptogen?
Adaptogenic herbs help how your body responds to stress. Adaptogens may support how the body responds to stress, feeling less stressed while increasing energy, while some adaptogens are more balancing and calming. 
Adaptogens that increase energy include eleuthero, rhodiola, and cordyceps. Balancing and calming adaptogens include reishi, gotu kola, holy basil, ashwagandha. There are many more, of course!
What do you have for a coffee alternative?
Tea Infusions can refer to any type of water-based preparation, whether it’s herbal or caffeinated. 
We carry various options for coffee alternatives including Vervain’s special blends Root Brew and Root Chai. We also carry Rasa and Happiness Herbal Coffee.
What is an Oxymel?
The ancient Greek word oxymeli translates to “acid and honey”. The simplest definition is an herbal extraction of vinegar and raw honey. This is a great way to bring together the acid of apple cider vinegar and abundant healthful properties of honey while also extracting and ingesting supportive herbs. Oxymels are particularly useful for herbs that are not so pleasant tasting in teas.
Does my Health Savings Account cover products at Vervain?
Our customers often ask us if our apothecary products can be purchased with their Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA). This is a hard question to answer definitively because the accounts are not all the same, so it will depend on the terms of that particular account and which products are being purchased. Some customers can swipe their payment card no problem, some customers have their cards denied, and some are able to successfully submit reimbursement requests. So the short answer is - MAYBE!

Generally, HSAs/FSAs cover some over-the-counter health care products, including some herbal medicine. A product manufacturer can work with an HSA/FSA company to get their products pre-approved. In that case, the product manufacturer would notify the vendors and their customers as part of their marketing strategy. For instance, we just got an email from Rasa that their products work for TrueMed! None of our other vendors have (to our knowledge) received any pre-approvals. But that doesn't mean they do not qualify. Basically, you have to check with your account to see what’s on their list.
You can check with your HSA/FSA to see if the products you want are covered, attempt to use your card and see if it works, or purchase what you need and submit reimbursement requests!
We believe that Vervain's well-curated apothecary can support your health care goals, and we'd like to see more use of HSA/FSA funds. If your HSA/FSA company wants to learn more about Vervain to pre-approve us or any of our products, please put us in touch!
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