Stewarding Wild American Ginseng
After years of in depth study through surveys, population science, and science based projections, it's clear that good stewardship is one of the the best ways to preserve American ginseng for future generations. Together, we can set a new standard for stewardship that will result in a better future for American Ginseng.
Please note: while "good stewardship" is generally second nature to ginseng growers, this guide is geared more towards stewards, landowners and ethical harvesters who wish to learn about how to help "uncultivated" ginseng on their property or in the wild.
Stewardship Ethical Harvest Conscious Consumerism
Good stewardship means positively interacting with an individual American Ginseng population in order to ensure increased reproduction and a healthy future for those plants. Stewardship is a relationship that – like ginseng plants – grows year after year! Good stewardship can be as simple as planting every seed, or as involved as keeping a detailed journal to learn more about the same plants year after year. There are many ways to be a good steward, but here are some of the easier ways to help preserve American Ginseng for future generations!
A ginseng steward can increase population size by delaying harvest by 2 weeks to allow for optimal berry ripening, harvesting no more than 25% of berry-producing 3-leaf and larger plants, and planting all berries at 2cm depth in the woods (Van der Voort and McGraw, 2006).
How to Steward your Ginseng Population
OK, you’ve discovered a natural population of ginseng on your property and you want to conserve it. How can you ‘steward’ this population for the long-term? Perhaps the easiest way to learn how to steward your ginseng population is is to watch a short video about stewarding a ginseng population…
Watch this video to learn to step by step instructions to dramatically increase your own ginseng population.
For a more detailed step by step guide to stewarding American ginseng, read or print this 3 page pdf guide:
How to Steward Your Ginseng Population
Ethical Harvest or good stewardship harvest is the removal of wild American ginseng from the forest in a manner that is fully legal but that further protects against long-term population loss through the judicious, stewardship-focused harvest of roots and the planting of all seeds back into the forest.
The American Herbal Products Association website has a comprehensive section about ginseng stewardship and harvest. By clicking on your state, you will have access to a PDF with your state’s recommendations for responsible harvest of American ginseng. These brochures were developed by the following groups: the American Herbal Products Association, state ginseng coordinators, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, United Plant Savers, and the Roots of Appalachia Growers Association.
Ethical and Sustainable Harvest How-To:
1) Familiarize yourself with Ginseng Harvest Laws in your state (see below), paying special attention to harvesting only
(a) where it is permitted,
(b) when it is permitted (see each state's harvest season), and
(c) in a manner that is better than how it is permitted (see steps 3 and 4 below).
2) Always ask permission, and/or acquire the proper permits, to harvest if it is not on your property.
3) Harvest only 25% of all mature plants in a population (three to four prong plants) that have red fruit. To prevent others from harvesting the plants, you can remove the plant leaves as it will not affect the growth of the plant, as the leaves will naturally senesce in the fall.
4) Plant the seeds near the host plant, make sure the seeds are planted about an inch deep in the soil.
5) If the population is on your land, consider stewarding the ginseng population instead of harvesting it. Watch these videos to get you started!
McGraw, James. 2020 Wild American Ginseng: Lessons for Conservation in the Age of Humans. (Available in 2022)
Conscious consumerism when it comes to wild American ginseng is a deliberate decision to conduct business with harvesters, growers, dealers, and sellers who are mindful about the ecological, social, and economic impacts of their actions, and who are deliberate in their efforts to effect positive change in all three pillars.
For many years now, The Sustainable Herb Program, American Herbal Council and Appalachian Sustainable Development have been dedicated to furthering a market movement called conscious consumerism. It is conscious decision to conduct business with harvesters, growers, dealers, and sellers who are mindful about the ecological, social, and economic impacts of their actions, and who are deliberate in their efforts to effect positive change in all three pillars. Watch this one minute video below for a short explanation of how long it takes woodland medicinal plants to grow in the wild and under cultivation/production.