Photos from the Field: Ginseng

A pile of ginseng roots gathered by our Plant Conservation Program, in an undated photo.

A pile of ginseng roots gathered by our Plant Conservation Program, in an undated photo.

While you may have heard of ginseng used in teas, medicines and supplements, you may not realize the plant is found in the wild across the state of North Carolina. We checked in with one of our botanists, Laura Gadd, to learn more about the plant and the local industry.

Wild American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) grows in the mountains and upper piedmont of N.C.  Ginseng has a long history of use in herbal medicine.  Ginseng can be cultivated, but wild ginseng is especially important to Asian medicinal markets.  Approximately 90 percent of wild ginseng dug every year from North Carolina is exported out of the country, more so than any other state.

The ginseng market hit an all time high in 2007 when wild ginseng was sold at approximately $1,000/lb.  However, it generally takes more than 300 roots to make a pound, and ginseng is not easy to come by. Because there is such a high demand for this valuable plant, there are harvest rules to protect it from being over collected. The N.C. Plant Conservation Program issues ginseng dealer permits every year, allowing for legal purchase and export of ginseng roots.

NC typically has about 50 registered ginseng dealers and an estimated 3-4,000 ginseng diggers.  We estimate that the industry brings more than $3,000,000 per year to our state.

To learn more about the N.C. Plant Conservation Program, visit its Web site.

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