We're so excited about Homestead Apothecary in Oakland, CA in the Temescal neighborhood. Nicholas Weinstein was kind enough to sit down with our 5 Questions in the midst of running his shop, facilitating classes, redoing his website and putting together what looks like an amazing herb gathering this weekend! Please do look below for links to find out more!
1. What motivates you to do the work that you do?
In 2009 I finished college, which was a period of being very out of my body and getting tremendous praise for pushing myself intellectually to the maximum. Shortly after I graduated I stopped drinking caffeine and realized I was exhausted. I tried to get help but the doctors I saw seemed to think that my level of fatigue was normal and was a post school experience that would pass. It didn’t pass and I was barely able to keep my eyes open during the day so I went back to coffee to survive and function. In 2010 my partner moved to Massachusetts to get her Masters in Public Health and I after visiting, decided to join her. I arrived in October and froze my butt off and quit coffee once again and that’s when I realized how bad things were. I couldn’t sleep at night and I was like a zombie all day. After a lot of research I realized I had adrenal fatigue. I went to a naturopath and she tested my cortisol and we found out it was backwards. So she gave me intense doses of Licorice and Eleuthero to take every morning and although it gave me more energy to stay up it wasn’t exactly what I needed. So, I decided to treat myself and I did research and started volunteering at the local apothecary in town and listening to folks and that’s how I came up with my Adrenal Support blend. It was life changing really. And meanwhile, the western doctors were still shuffling me around from specialist to specialist. I had such a profound experience that I went to herb school the second year we were in Mass and the rest is history! Oh, and by the way, those western doctors ended up giving me a prognosis just before we moved back to California….with all their fancy training they determined that what I had was jetlag! What a joke!
2. Do you use plants in your work and if so, how?
I use plants every single day! I have a storefront in the Temescal Alley in Oakland California so I work with dry herbs there. I also have a Homestead Apothecary medicine line so I use locally grown organic fresh plant material to make the tinctures for my line. During the Spring and Summer time that can mean processing 10 -40 pounds of plants a week. I also have a medicinal herb nursery so I have my hands in the dirt a lot! I start all of the plants in the nursery from seed. I also wild harvest some herbs but its very rare because I want to support local farmers and like many herbalists, I am really concerned about maintaining native populations and keeping them wild.
3. What are the tools of your trade that you couldn't live without?
My Breville food processor! It is life changing. The last couple of years I have been chopping and cutting by hand. It would take me days to make medicine. Now I put everything into my food processor, hit a few buttons and presto! I have finely chopped herbs. I also use my measuring tools on the daily, I really geek out on finding vintage scientific equipment for medicine making.
4. What do you turn towards for inspiration?
I have a lot of inspiration around me, mostly it’s being outside in the plants. I’m also part of a really strong community of makers. But right now there are two ladies that are blowing my mind. Atava Garcia Swiecicki and Liz Migorelli. If you haven’t heard of them I highly recommend checking them out. I’m very fortunate because so many incredible makers, healers and herbalists have come through my shop. I am also very inspired by other folks in this craft movement that’s happening. I work with a lot of herbalists and connect with them but when I went to West Coast Craft last year I looked around and felt like, these are my people. Young folks that want their lives and the objects in them to be beautiful and meaningful. I think so many of us are tired of junk that is mass produced and made to end up in a landfill. Everyone there prioritized material and process, that is a big part of my approach to the Homestead medicine line, being intentional. It meant so much to me to be part of that community.
5. Please include 1 instructional for a quick project someone reading this could incorporate into their own lives. This can be a creative exercise, visualization, recipe, or a literal how to)
I just taught a class at Gravel and Gold in San Francisco on Basic Medicine Making Techniques so this is a little snippet from that. At the end of the class, I took a jar, tossed some dry nettle in, covered it with organic grain alcohol, closed it up and said, that’s the folk method and it makes great medicine. So don’t let all these ratios and crazy math equations turn you off! Medicine making is supposed to be fun! The energy that goes into making remedies is just as powerful as the constituents you are pulling out of the plants.
TINCTURES: A tincture is an alcohol extraction of the medicinal qualities of a plant. There are a lot of different ways to make a tincture. Below are helpful ratios for a more complicated method of making dry or fresh plant tinctures, the first number is the plant and the second is the alcohol or menstruum.
Fresh plant ratio - 1:2
Dry Plant ratio - 1:5
Western herbal medicine uses 95% alcohol for fresh plant tinctures and varying percentages (with an average of 50%-65%) for dry plant tinctures depending on the constituents in the plant and the kind of medicine you want to make. In other words, if you are preparing a dry plant tincture with a 1:5 ratio, and you have 1 ounce (on your scale) of dried herb, you’ll want five ounces (in your glass measuring cup) of menstruum (alcohol or alcohol/water). If you are preparing a fresh plant tincture at a 1:2 ratio and you have 5 ounces (on your scale) of fresh herb then you will need 10 ounces (in your measuring cup) of menstruum.
Once you have everything in your jar, leave it in a cool dark place for 4 weeks, shake it everyday and after the 4 weeks, open and strain through a muslin cloth to make sure all of the plant material is removed. The tincture needs to be stored in an amber bottle or in the dark in a cool place. The tincture is then good for up to 5 years.
Infants: Through breastfeeding
Up to 3yrs: Very small doses diluted 2 – 5 drops, 3 – 5x daily
3 – 10yrs: 5 – 15 drops – 3x daily
Adults: 30 – 60 drops or 1 – 2 droppers full, 3 – 5x daily
Spirit Doses, Sensitive People & Elders: 5 – 15 drops – 3x daily
Best times to take tincture varies on the plant but as a general rule, once at night and once in the morning and/or between meals.