Herbal Sciences Alumni Craft Locally Sourced Honey Wines

Michelle and Jeremy Kyncl holding mead glasses

Michelle Scandalis Kyncl (BS ’10) and Jeremy Kyncl (BS ’11) met in Bastyr University's Bachelor of Science in Herbal Sciences program and discovered a shared interest in supporting local communities through herbalism. They recently founded Hierophant Meadery near Spokane, Washington, producing honey wine sourced by local beekeepers and herb farms.

Michelle spoke with us about studying herbalism at Bastyr and creating a small-batch product that lets people taste the natural abundance of the local landscape.

Tell us about your interest in mead.

Test batch of mead in jugsMead is one of the oldest fermentations, and as herbalists, we see making mead as opportunity to do two things. The first is helping to preserve the honeybee by supporting local apiaries that are producing honey sustainably. This means using essential oils instead of pesticides and leaving enough honey in the hives over winter instead of supplementing the bees with cheap sugar and corn syrup.

The second part is using our herbal knowledge and our experience from Bastyr to create blends of herbal mead. Mead is a wonderful, palatable base to complement with herbs. You can really appreciate the tastes that herbs offer when they're rounded with honey's sweetness. We’re excited to be growing and harvesting local plants to use in the wine. With grape wine, you have so many varietals in just the grapes. With mead, the herbal notes come through from the plants that the bees pollinate as well. We use snowberry honey, goldenrod honey and fireweed honey, and we’re finding new local apiaries to try out every day.

It sounds like you're also creating an elderberry syrup. Why elderberry?

First, it tastes wonderful and it grows in great abundance in the Spokane area, so we don’t have sustainability issues with it.

Also, elderberry is incredibly antiviral. It’s been tested against the influenza virus and proven effective against eight different strains of it. It builds up the immune system and provides great resistance because it coats the lining of the epithelial cells of the respiratory tract. Even though we’re not necessarily focusing on medicinal herbalism, we see it as a grassroots community benefit.

Where does the name “Hierophant” come from?

Hierophant Meadery bee logoIt’s an ancient Greek word that means “to reveal what is holy.” The hierophant is a holy man who brings people into a place of sacredness. We chose a spiritual symbol used in several traditions to represent our brand, so our logo is an image that depicts the honeybee as the hierophant.

In our case, it’s about revering the bee, which is an abused but vitally important part of our ecosystem. We depend on bees to pollinate our food and medicinal plants — without them we would only have grasses and a couple other fibrous plants to eat. So we want to use our name to create more appreciation for them.

You’re building a facility of some sort — tell us about that.

We are currently building on 17 acres in, believe it or not, Mead, Washington. We are building a home and a facility that will be a production and tasting room for the meadery and apothecary. My mom is also creating a nonprofit animal sanctuary on the property — she’s won a national award for her volunteer efforts in animal rescue. We’re almost done framing the building, and it will be finished in a few months. We are very fortunate to have the support of my parents, who have helped us make this all a reality thanks to my mother’s vision and my father’s skill in designing and construction.

We’re in an area called Green Bluff, a loop of some of Spokane’s major farms with orchards, an apiary, a brewery, a winery and now a meadery. It gets thousands of people visiting in the spring, summer and fall.

We’ll also be selling in wine shops and farmers markets. And we also harvest elderberries and use our honey to make elderberry syrup, which we sell to clinics and small herb stores and educational farms around the West Coast.

What was your time at Bastyr like?

MeadowMeeting other like-minded individuals was huge for me, especially coming from the Spokane area. I really appreciated how I could just ask a nutrition student or an acupuncture or naturopathic medicine student anything, and they would be glad to talk. The community was wonderful.

I had studied herbs and ayurvedic medicine before, but Bastyr gave me an awakening that there was so much more to know about plants. I realized that becoming an herbalist without that kind of education was not realistic. Working with the amazing faculty let me develop a scientific thought process that has been absolutely huge in the way I practice. On the faculty, Sheila Kingsbury,ND, RH (AHG), became a friend, colleague, teacher and just complete inspiration to me. She’s an amazing educator and her grace has been hugely valuable to me to witness.

Jeremy and I also met in the program. He became really interested in the lab work, pursing his passion for fermentation and working with Kaleb Lund, PhD, for his practicum. Jeremy’s experience in the lab has been really important for understanding sanitation, quality control and how to think like a scientist in turning an idea into a tangible product.

What would you tell someone considering the herbal sciences program?

The program is very much in line with Bastyr’s mission in terms of being pioneers. People who graduate with this degree are people who want to go out and create something. We have peers in research, in quality control, people starting their own stores and businesses, or just integrating their education into their vision of the future. Having these sorts of skills and resources is completely invaluable. It’s a great degree for those who want to pave their own way.

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Learn more about Bastyr's undergraduate herbal sciences program or the botanical medicine courses in the doctor of naturopathic medicine program.

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