In North Oakland’s Temescal Alley, all the hipness of the Bay Area—its vintage swagger, boutique horticulture, and local food and coffee—seem to converge along a narrow bohemian corridor lined cozily with charming shops.
It’s here that you’ll find Oakland’s central herbal resource, and while Homestead Apothecary is certainly hip, with zines, gemstones, and dangling terrariums, it stays true to its title by offering local residents access to herbs and flowers from area farms, education on holistic healing, and a line of herbal teas and tinctures that owner and herbalist Nicholas Weinstein gears towards a variety of ailments.
Herbs were a hobby for Nicholas for about a decade. He never considered making them into a career. But when he got sick in 2009 and Western medicine failed to turn up any answers, he turned to herbs, eventually finding healing in natural remedies.
“It feels like everyone’s just been waiting for this spot,” he says of Homestead. “It is an herb shop but it’s really become more of a cultural hub for people interested in herbs.” Customers range from herbal students to homebrewers, bartenders seeking ingredients for syrups and bitters, the stressed and sick, and what Nicholas refers to as the “little old ladies who think this is a potpourri store.”
“I don’t have the heart to tell them it’s not a potpourri shop,” he chuckles.
Homestead’s clean, bright interior—white walls are lined neatly with glass jars of herbal blends—is also populated with brilliantly colored gems and minerals, gorgeously illustrated botanical posters, a library of books, incense and burnables, culinary goods like herb-infused ghees and dried mushrooms, and a line of natural body-care products. Ailment-addressing teas include Stress Less for anxiety, Sweet Dreams for sleeplessness, and Flashdance for menopausal symptoms.
Nicholas’ warm smile and friendly nature keep the space calm and open, allowing room for education and exploration into a type of medicine that may feel daunting or hokey to some.
“What’s complicated about the herbs is you have to find the right one,” He says. “But finding the right one can lead to a transformative experience.” The trick is patience, something he says a society used to instant remedies is warming up to.
“It’s fun to get people to come in and say, ‘I slacked off in getting my tea this week and I feel really terrible, I need to stock up again.’” Nicholas says he purposefully keeps prices low so that revelation can come, and he’s glad to be a guide towards a helpful remedy. Tattoos on each arm, one reading, “Never for money,” the other “Always for love,” reinforce his philosophy of herbal stewardship.
—Regan Crisp is Fresh Cup’s associate editor. Photos by Jessica Copi.