American Ginseng Harvesting: Is It Legal To Harvest Ginseng Roots

American Ginseng Harvesting: Is It Legal To Harvest Ginseng Roots



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There are a lot of reasons you may consider harvesting wild Americanginseng. Ginseng root can be sold for a good price, and it’snotoriously difficult to grow so harvesting it in the wild is common. ButAmerican ginseng harvesting is controversial and regulated by law. Know therules before you go ginseng hunting.

About American Ginseng

American ginseng is a native North American plant that growsin eastern forests. Originally used by Native Americans, ginseng root has anumber of medicinal uses. It is especially important in traditional Chinesemedicine, and the majority of harvested roots in the U.S. are exported to Chinaand Hong Kong. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that wild ginsengis a $27 million per year industry.

Very similar to Asian ginseng, American ginseng has beenharvested and used medicinally for thousands of years. The roots have beenstudied by modern researchers, and there is evidence that they do have thesebenefits: reducing inflammation, improving brain function, treating erectiledysfunction, boosting the immune system, and reducing fatigue.

Is it Legal to Harvest Ginseng?

So, can you harvest ginseng on your property or publiclands? It depends on where you live. There are 19 states that allow harvestingof wild ginseng for export: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa,Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina,Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Other states allow you to harvest and export only ginsengthat has been artificially propagated. These include Idaho, Maine, Michigan,and Washington. So, if you propagate ginseng in the woodlands on your propertyin these states, you can harvest and sell it.

Wild ginseng harvesting laws vary by state, but whereallowed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rules dictating how to do it:

  • Harvest only from plants that are at least five years old. These will have four or more bud scars on the top of the root.
  • Harvesting can only be done during the state’s designated ginseng season.
  • Have a license if required in the state.
  • Practice good stewardship, which means getting permission from a property owner if it isn’t your land, and only harvest plants with red berries so you can plant the seeds. Plant them near the harvested area, one inch deep (2.5 cm.) and about a foot (30 cm.) apart.

American ginseng has been harvested and exported forhundreds of years, and without regulations it could disappear. If you areplanning to grow or harvest wild American ginseng, know the rules in yourlocation, and follow them so that this plant will continue to thrive in NorthAmerican forests.


Mature wild ginseng grows up to 1 1/2 feet tall and spreads up to 1 foot. Ginseng flowers in June and July with mildly fragrant clusters of flowers that are greenish-white or yellowish-green. The flowers develop into red drupes in August and September.

Mature plants typically have three to four prongs, each with five leaflets. The toothed leaflets reach up to 5 inches long. Plants can develop over four prongs, but it's rare. Young seedlings have only a single prong with three leaflets, advises PennState Extension.

If you find a mature plant based on the number of leaves, you can determine the exact age of the plant by examining the root neck, advises the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Each year, a new stem scar appears on the root stem, so a mature 5-year-old plant will have four stem scars. You don't need to dig up the plant to view the scars instead, simply remove the soil around the base of the plant and replace the soil when you finish examining the root neck.


Wild Ginseng Harvesting Laws – Can You Harvest Ginseng In The U.S. - garden

• No license is required to dig wild ginseng on private land in Indiana, but the property owner’s permission must be obtained.

• A Ginseng Dealer’s License is required to buy ginseng from harvesters or other dealers for resale or export from the state of Indiana.

• The harvest season for wild ginseng in Indiana is September 1 to December 31 and the selling season is September 1 to March 31 of the next year.

• Indiana state law requires all harvested plants to have at least 3 prongs and a flowering or fruiting stalk present. All harvested plants must also have at least 4 bud scars (“internodes”) on the neck (“rhizome”).

• Indiana requires that mature fruits and seeds be planted in the vicinity where the plant was dug and in a manner that encourages germination.

• Ginseng may not be harvested on state land in Indiana, including all properties managed by the state’s Dept. of Natural Resources.

• The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Nature Preserves, serves as the state’s ginseng coordinator, and can be reached at (317) 232-4052 or:

402 W. Washington St., Rm W-267

Indianapolis, IN 46204-2739

• Collection of ginseng is not allowed in the Hoosier National Forest. Contact Hoosier National Forest by calling (812) 547-7051 or via mail:

Provided by the American Herbal Products Association, in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and United Plant Savers

The purpose of Indiana’s ginseng program (Public Law 107 (IC 14-4-8) and Ginseng Rule (312 IAC 19) is to insure a healthy population for the future. The HARVEST SEASON was instituted to encourage replanting of the seeds when they are ripe and insure that only mature plants are taken. Registration of dealers and certification of ginseng is required in order to monitor the health of the population. The SELLING SEASON was established for this purpose. Ginseng that is bought for resale must be certified by a Conservation Officer. By monitoring reports from dealers it is easier to determine if ginseng is declining and needs further protection.

HARVEST SEASON (SEPTEMBER 1 TO DECEMBER 31 OF EACH YEAR): Harvesters can legally dig wild ginseng. Harvesters do not need a license to dig ginseng nor sell ginseng to a licensed dealer.

SELLING SEASON (SEPTEMBER 1 OF CURRENT YEAR THROUGH MARCH 31 OF THE NEXT YEAR): Dealers can legally purchase ginseng from harvesters. When reselling ginseng purchased directly from harvesters, the dealer must fill out a form certifying the ginseng’s origin and weight. A copy of the certification must accompany the ginseng when it is shipped.

1: It is ILLEGAL to harvest wild ginseng out of season. A Class A misdemeanor.

2: To harvest LEGALLY, a ginseng plant must have: at least 3 prongs and a flowering or fruiting stalk, or at least 4 internodes on the rhizome. To harvest plants not meeting these criteria is a Class B infraction.

3: It is REQUIRED that mature fruits and any seeds on the harvested ginseng be planted in the vicinity where the plant was dug and in a manner that encourages germination.

4: It is REQUIRED that the entire stalk and leaves be retained with the plant until it is taken to the harvester’s residence or place of business, unless the root has at least 4 internodes on the rhizome.

5: It is ILLEGAL to sell or remove mature fruits and seeds from the vicinity where the ginseng was taken.

6: It is ILLEGAL to buy, sell, or possess any ginseng out of season without written authorization from the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Law Enforcement. A Class B misdemeanor.

7: It is ILLEGAL to buy uncertified ginseng for resale without an Indiana Ginseng Dealer’s License. A Class B misdemeanor.

8: ONLY certified ginseng can be sold to a buyer in another state. To export uncertified ginseng is a Class A misdemeanor.

9: HARVEST ginseng only where it is permitted—digging on State property is not allowed digging on private property without permission is theft digging on other properties may require a permit.

10: Anyone violating these rules will be prosecuted.


Wild Ginseng Harvesting Laws – Can You Harvest Ginseng In The U.S. - garden

If you are a ginseng harvester or thinking about going digging wild ginseng, be sure to follow your state's basic rules and regulations of ginseng, especially if you are harvesting on private land.

Use the Ginseng State Laws on this web site as a guideline only. No way we can keep up with all the laws of each state change.

** For Regulations to export American wild ginsengs click here

NEVER : Take anything from public land or parks. All animals, plants, seeds, trees, herbs, and everything else belongs to the public and it is illegal to remove anything. If you get caught you will probably get the maximum fine.

NEVER : Dig ginseng outside of the harvest season. Find out the harvest season for your state and only take it in this time frame.

Since ginseng is protected as an endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES, which also regulates trade in rare animals), harvesters need to understand some simple rules.

While federal policies guide state ginseng management programs, each state tends to have different guidelines that are reflective of their different contexts such as dates of open harvest season, minimum age of plants at harvest, replanting of seeds, etc..

State Ginseng Laws and Regulations

Harvest permitted on State lands


Watch the video: Hsus Ginseng - Harvesting Wild Roots