After a decade of engaging with the plants on his own and completing an herbal medicine training program in rural Western Massachusetts, Nicholas Weinstein opened Homestead Apothecary in Oakland CA. After 7 years of running two successful Oakland locations Nic and his family decided to move the business to beautiful Mariposa CA, the gateway to Yosemite National Park. He and his partner Ashley are currently building their dream home and a small retreat center on over 17 acres in and old Oak grove spotted with rolling granite and home to owls, hawks, woodpeckers, quails and grey squirrels to name a few. You can find them on Instagram @homesteadapothecary or check out their wonderful Stress Finesse Tincture here, which is a big favorite at The Alchemist’s Kitchen! Read more about the Homestead Apothecary journey below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Homestead Apothecary!
In 2012 I started a small herbal medicine making line which I sold at at farm shares around the Western Mass area. In 2013 I moved back to the Bay area and fate had its way with me. I ended up opening a shop in Oakland’s Temescal Alley that was quickly met with wild success. I opened a second location, expanded our wholesale program in shops spanning from Oakland to Australia, and grew the business from just me to a team of 10. We had an awesome educational program and through a women’s wellness series we were hosting, I met Ashley Neese, my partner. In 2018 Ashley and I had a child and it rearranged all of our priorities. I closed one shop in August of 2019 and another just a couple of months ago. The business is now back to its humble beginnings of basically a one person show. I run our wholesale program, the online store, manage our social presence and make all the medicine!
Running the shops was an incredible experience and closing the doors was difficult to do because I knew what a huge resource the shops were to their respective communities. It’s always scary to downsize when your business is having its best year yet financially! But, as any business owner knows, success comes as a result of a hard work and dedication, which meant 65 – 80 hour work week. That schedule just didn’t fit with wanting to be present for my son. So, now we get to partner with amazing shops like The Alchemist Kitchen and Good Eggs and so many others to be the face of this beautiful plant medicine. I am happy to be making medicine again and interacting with community in a new way.
Another reason I closed the shops is that Ashley and I recently bought 17 acres in Mariposa, CA, which is the gateway for Yosemite National Park. We are in the process of building a retreat center there with a huge herbal medicine garden. So, that’s really the future of the business, still making the same great medicine but being even more engaged with the process through growing the plants myself. My biggest take away from running the shops was that my community is deeply committed to experiential learning and taking excellent care of themselves. This new space will be a place for people to get out of the city and really connect with the foundation of the medicine, the living plants in the ground. It’s the next layer of plant stewardship for me personally.
How did your journey lead you to herbalism?
Like so many people in the wellness field I found this healing modality by getting sick and exploring options to find a way back to my own picture of health. I think what’s unusual about me is that when I found the answers for myself, I felt moved to make them accessible to other people and make that part of my life my career. I talked about this more in depth in the To Be Magnetic Podcast interview (which was such a pleasure to be a part of). When I look at the trajectory of my life, I see that I have always fully immersed myself into anything I’m passionate about. I was an activist before I started herb school. Access to healing with plants feels deeply intertwined with economic, racial and environmental justice, which was a logical next step in my work after being part of non-profits like TGI Justice Project and The GLBT Historical Society.
What was the first medicine making task you undertook? What is your current favorite herbal ally to work with?
I haven’t thought about this in a long time! I went to herb school in Western Mass and I think one of the first things we made was fire cider, which is pretty wild given the lawsuit that Rosemary Gladstar and the other herbalists involved just won. I highly encourage anyone interested in plants to look up the Free Fire Cider movement and to learn to make Fire Cider at home because it is such potent medicine and so easy to make. It’s now a radical act of being in a long lineage of DIY herbalists and of saying no to that type of corporatization of the wellness industry.
My favorite herb changes a lot but Tulsi or Holy Basil is always moving into and out of the number one spot. I love taking it. I love the smell, I love growing it and I think it’s something that everyone who lives in a cortisol rich environment like a city should be taking regularly. That’s the heavy lifter in our Stress Finesse tincture which is a fave of the A.K. community!
What do you hope people experience when using Homestead Apothecary’s formulations?
Great question. We have a lot of different formulas both energetic and physical and often a merging of both so in a way I could answer this question specifically with each formula. But, as a more overarching answer about the Homestead Apothecary line, I want people to experience being empowered with their own health. Whatever is going on with someone, there is a plant to support you, its really about finding the right fit. I think often people take an herbal supplement and they don’t have a profound experience with it and they give up on plant medicine generally when it could be the wrong herb, a low quality version from a sub par company, or even the right herb at the wrong dose. So, I want people to keep trying things because finding the right fit can truly be life changing. The plants are our allies in the purest form of that word. And even though we are culturally failing in our responsibilities to this allyship they keep trying to support us. It is such a beautiful example of selflessness.
I’ll give you an example that I think really speaks to what I’m getting at here. In Western Mass we had this “invasive plant” called Japanese Knotweed. It wasn’t really an issue in that area until more recently. Now people are trying to eradicate the population What’s interesting is that the rise in that plant population happens to correlate with a huge increase in Lyme disease in that area. Not coincidentally, that is the best herb for treating symptoms of Lyme. I truly believe that humans and plants have a deeply reciprocal relationship and that they are here to support not only our health but our deep spiritual growth.
What do you hope for the future of herbalism in the next few years?
I hope that it grows. I would like to see more reputable herbal supplements end up on shelves in Walmart and Target. I know that might sound strange but people in this country are really sick and really struggling because of corporate greed which has profound consequences to all communities but particularly low income communities of color. I am talking about mass incarceration, food deserts, toxic water, natural disasters… this list could go on and on. Access to affordable herbal medicine and herbal education are important responses to these growing epidemics. The plants are the people’s medicine.
And on that note, I would also like to see the FDA create a comprehensible and attainable pathway to GMP and DSHEA compliance that is easy for a small scale business to follow so that more home herbalists can bring their offerings to market and to their immediate communities. I want to see a local herbalist at every farmers market across the country. I know this might read as utopian but I want people to see this as an exciting thing, not as competition because I think there is a need for everyone’s offering and gift, now more than ever.
I wanted to close this interview by thanking everyone at The Alchemist’s Kitchen for all the hard work they are doing to create a critical space for people to gather around their intention for health and wellness. I am honored to have worked with you all for so many years and excited to expand the Homestead Apothecary offerings over the next couple of months.