The Roots of Homestead Apothecary

Photo: Russell Yip, The Chronicle

A native of Los Angeles and a former resident of San Francisco, 33-year-old Nicolas Weinstein’s roots in medicinal herbs and plants run deep. From constantly wild harvesting plants to running his own small farm, to teaching interactive healing classes, Nicolas’s background in Herbal Medicine is a varied as the places he’s lived.

He discovered the power of natural remedies hands on. With his cat deathly ill, Nicolas exhausted the traditional methods of Western medicine looking for solutions. At wit’s end, Nicolas turned to a well-known Homeopathic vet, who provided the breakthrough cure.

Four months later, Nicolas himself fell ill. Convinced of the healing properties of herbs, Nicolas healed himself—he’s been a healer ever since.

Launched on the heels of a widely successful $5000 crowdsource campaign, and aided by a diverse coalition of serendipitous neighborhood support, 2013 Nicolas opened the doors to Homestead Apothecary in early March on the Bright Side of the Bay in our very own Temescal. And he’s here to stay.

Witches brew, this ain’t. Stocked to the rafters with old-fashioned medicinal goodness, Homestead Apothecary, located in the 49th St Alley, is Temescal’s freshest and most promising new business.

How did you start?

On an organic farm called Atlas Farms in Massachusetts, where I started a community medicine program for them. We had about an acre of land where we grew the medicinals, and as they came up we had a class. One of the really awesome herb teachers would teach a class on a different subject, like tinctures, or teas or drying. The plants you got that week were the plants relevant to the class or method we had talked about.

Like a CSA box for medicinal plants?
Yeah, it was a CSA box that included classes that taught what to do with the herbs---you didn’t need to know beforehand.

Of all the gin joints in the world, why Oakland, why Temescal?
I used to live in San Francisco, I lived there for 8 years. I can’t take the hustle and bustle of the city—it’s too much for me now.

I had worked a bunch of places, not just in SF, and had been really successful at all of them. I had made a lot of people money, so I just decided to do it myself, with integrity and my own ethics. Also, Oakland really needed this.

Rockridge Patch found out about my indie go-go campaign and put out a big ad, Suzanne at Interface Gallery sent stuff out to to all her email lists and it really spread word of mouth.

So for those people who are skeptics, what’s a something you’ve seen a surprising amount and had success treating?

Stress. People are stressed out. I’m noticing a lot of people have what I had—adrenal fatigue. They’re absolutely exhausted. They wake up in the morning, and because they’re so tired, they drink coffee to get through their day. And if they do not have coffee, they cannot stay awake.

But if they stop the coffee, which is what I did to find out that I had adrenal fatigue, they will realize that they are dysfunctional. They can’t make it through the day. That’s not a normal level of energy.

If they came in, what would you prescribe?
Holy Basil, or another name is Tulsi. I’m certified as a Community Herbalist, so part of my mission is to educate folks about the plants. But some people are just so exhausted, so in need of a quick answer (which is why Western Medicine is there) that I do the best I can.

People struggle with this type of medicine because it doesn’t happen overnight. It didn’t take you an instantaneous moment to create the illness in your body, and it’s going to take equal time to the amount you put into it. There’s no pill you can pop.

So even though herbal medicine has this reputation of being mystical and magical, it’s rooted in the idea that there is no magic pill.

You have to give the herbs time, invest in your life and your health. We have to work so hard and give so much time at our jobs to pay this exorbitant rent to live in a metropolitan area that no one has the time to take care of themselves.

What are your excited about for the future?

One of the commitments of the people who have their stuff on consignment in the shop, the local medicine makers, is that they have to reach out to the community through the shop.

I’m not interested in having a bunch of stuff on the shelf. I want people to be able to know where that medicine came from, who made it, and even how to make it themselves. You can see on our classes at

Originally published in Temescal News & Views, Front Porch with Nicolas Weinstein: Homestead Apothecary