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All Hail the Herb

Homestead Apothecary spreads the good word about our most useful California native plants.

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At least in one major respect, Nic Weinstein's life path can be traced straight back to his cat, Daemon. Several years ago, Daemon suddenly became very ill. When Weinstein took her to the vet, the doctor pronounced Daemon's days as officially numbered, even suggesting that she should be put to sleep. Desperately seeking any alternative, Weinstein decided to solicit the opinion of a western herbalist. The herbalist speedily handed Weinstein an antidote, Weinstein gave it to Daemon, Daemon survived, and the rest is history.

In March, Weinstein opened the newest addition to Oakland's Temescal Alley, Homestead Apothecary (486 49th St.), which — with charming, locally made terrariums and tinctures galore — perfectly fits the bill for the specialty boutique-lined lane and mini-village. Now a certified community herbalist, the 33-year old LA native decided to set up shop after a stint at an apothecary and a farm in Massachusetts, where he launched a community-supported medicine program that was "kind of like a CSA for herbs." Set up to be education-based, the program allowed customers to stop by each week to take a class, make teas and tinctures, or just learn about the variety of native plants with practical medicinal uses right at their fingertips. "I think a lot of people don't realize that they're using herbal remedies all the time anyway," Weinstein said. "It's as simple as drinking peppermint tea after dinner, or putting bitters in your soda to deal with a stomach ache."

Now, with Homestead Apothecary, Weinstein hopes to stretch his educational aspirations even further, while also providing a go-to space for the herbal community. "I wanted to create a community space where people could gather around wellness and self-care," said Weinstein, who has tattoos that read "Never for money" and "Always for love" on each of his forearms. "There are a ton of places like bars and coffee shops where you're already gathering around community, but it's never centered around caring for yourself."

For that reason, Weinstein hopes to roll out a slew of events at his new shop. On Sunday, April 28, at next door's Interface Gallery (486 49th St.), he'll lead a workshop entitled "Beginning Western Herbalism" featuring Joshua Muscat, head of the San Francisco Botanical Medicine Clinic. The class will introduce people to the medicinal herbs commonly found in California, and is the final event in an ongoing partnership between Homestead Apothecary and Interface Gallery centered around the latter's April exhibit, "Manzanita, Yarrow, Nettles, Sweet Gum, and Jade."

With Homestead Apothecary, Weinstein wants to do away with the notion that herbal medicine is a niche pursuit that's inaccessible to non-hobbyists. "I know from experience that it doesn't take much to empower people to make home remedies and take care of themselves, and just feel comfortable around these plants," he said. And it all started with a cat named Daemon, still going strong. 2-5 p.m., free. 510-459-6549 or HomesteadApothecary.com

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