Ginseng Root

For information on Identifying Ginseng, please Click Here

American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius) is a fleshy root perennial. Stems and leaves die in winter but regrow in the spring. It is a shade requiring plant, native to north-facing slopes in hardwood forests and best adapted to cool, temperate climates. It grows naturally in the western mountains and foothills of North Carolina. This plant has a short, legal harvest season between September 1 and the first frost.

Organic Wild vs. Chemically Cultivated

The vast majority of ginseng in the world has been sprayed with chemicals, especially fungicides. Some ginseng plants are also sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. There is a sacred relationship between the earth, air, and water allowing ginseng to grow. To grow “wild” the plants are traditionally found in hardwood forests under a canopy of tall dense deciduous trees. Usually the slope is facing North, rich in humus soil, and surrounded by companion plants.

Since ginseng is a root, it absorbs the natural minerals from the soil. Research has indicated that it may not be possible to regrow a root in the same exact spot for many years, since it depletes the soil. New research into natural herbal fungicides is being conducted at Eagle Feather Farm.

American Ginseng

The ginseng that is cultivated can be farmed in raised beds, like in Wisconsin, or in “woodsgrown” beds, like in the mountain and foothill forests of the East Coast of America. What occurs when large numbers of ginseng plants are grown in close proximity is that a fungus appears, every time.

As the fungus moves in the beds it creates a circle and in a short period of time destroys the entire bed. A typical bed can have thousands of plants and be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

As far as we know the only way to eliminate the fungus is to spray the plants. The fungicide, pesticide or herbicide is then absorbed into the root. It is not known if the chemicals are toxic.

The two types of ginseng are different in the following ways: the wild organic root is knarled, ringed with wrinkles, small, light weight and has a bitter woodsy taste. The cultivated root is larger, heavier, smoother, tastes sweeter and smells different. The 1994 price on the world market for dried roots were ninety (90) percent more for the wild organic roots.

Studies in 1986 show that 94% of the organic wild American Ginseng is purchased by the Chinese in the Pacific Rim. The Orient, mostly from Hong Kong, sells the most chemicalized ginseng back to us for American consumption. This not to say that fungicided ginseng does not have ginsenicides, it does. However it would also include chemicals with possible toxin build up in the body which most people would not want to ingest. Unfortunately, the ginseng industry does not tell you the negative effects of its products.

Growing Ginseng

  • Please see our page on growing ginseng and goldenseal.
  • Soil mixture requirements

Harvesting Ginseng

  • “Dig” only AFTER the plant’s red berries (seeds) have dropped or were harvested, in the legal season.
  • Harvest in the Native American tradition with prayers and rituals including “smudging” and tobacco offerings.
  • Never strip a digging area or harvest the first plants.
  • Leave smaller plants for the “seventh generation” by harvesting only roots that are over seven years old, with most plants being between ten and twenty-five years old.
  • After harvesting, the “green” roots are carefully washed and air dried under controlled shade conditions. The process of drying takes over one month. Do not quickly dry the roots using a dehydrator, heat, or sun drying as this could affect the potency and will make the roots brittle. After the roots are dried, the individual roots are packaged or they are processed for tinctures, capsules or powder.

Download a Good Stewardship Harvest Brochure for Wild American Ginseng (click on your state). The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has produced a series of brochures to encourage good stewardship practices by those who harvest wild American ginseng roots.

For Ginseng Export Requirements, Click Here

The Ginseng Harvest In Madison County >> (newspaper article)