Why Is Growing Ginseng Illegal? (Solved & Explained!)

American ginseng is a plant that is native to the forests of the East Coast. It has been used by various Native American tribes for many centuries. The plant has several medicinal uses. Ginseng has also been found to be very popular in China. A large proportion of ginseng is exported to China and the Far East each year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a recent estimate that put the figure of ginseng harvesting profits at roughly $27 million. This means that ginseng harvesting is a sizable source of profit for a great many growers all across the United States. However, there are a few rules you need to be aware of before you harvest this root.

19 states allow for the free and unrestricted harvesting of wild ginseng to export it. These states include the following:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Three other states will only allow you to export ginseng that has been grown and harvested through artificial means. These states are Maine, Michigan, and Washington.

Growing, harvesting, or exporting ginseng is not currently legal in many other states besides the ones mentioned above. This has to do with a great many rules and legal restrictions on the practice of growing and harvesting this wild root.

Illegal types Of Ginseng

There are no types of ginseng that are “illegal.” The illegality of the practice comes not from the plant itself but from the fact that it is grown in illegal areas. Many people will attempt to grow it and harvest it in ways that the laws in your state do not sanction.

As noted above, if you do not see your state mentioned in the list above, you can assume that it is most likely illegal to grow or harvest ginseng in this area. Your best bet will be to continue to buy ginseng over the web through safely approved sources. Growing ginseng illegally has many drawbacks that you should avoid.

Legal types Of Ginseng

All types of ginseng are legal. If you live in one of the states mentioned on the list above, you can feel free to grow ginseng at your own pace and discretion. The legal issue only comes into play when you attempt to grow or harvest ginseng in an area where this practice has not been officially sanctioned by state laws.

You should also note that there are several different types of “ginseng” that are not really true members of the ginseng family. These include Indian, Brazilian, and Siberian ginseng. Although these plants come close enough to the qualities of true ginseng to be a “near miss”, they simply are not genuine members of the species.

However, since they are not actual members of the ginseng family, you are free to grow them in most areas. The restrictions that apply to genuine ginseng will not apply to these imitators. However, it is illegal for you to try to pass these off as true American ginseng. Hence, people use the “Brazilian” and “Siberian” qualifiers.

How To Legally Harvest Wild Ginseng

The process of harvesting wild ginseng in a legal manner will involve the following steps:

  • You can only harvest from ginseng plants that are 5 or more years old. These are plants that will have at least 4 bud scars on the top of their roots.
  • You can only do the harvesting during an officially designated state harvesting season.
  • You may be required to hold a ginseng harvesting license before you can legally engage in this practice.
  • You need to have permission to harvest ginseng on land that is not owned by you.
  • It’s important to only harvest plants that are already bearing berries. This will allow you to plant the seeds to assure a replenishment of ginseng supply for future harvesting.

Which Varieties Of Ginseng Can You Grow

As noted above, there are many varieties of ginseng or ginseng imitations that you can legally grow. You can always grow Brazilian, Siberian, and Indian ginseng with no worries. This is because these are not true members of the ginseng family. There are therefore no restrictions on the growing or harvesting of these particular plants.

As for true American ginseng, you can legally grow it at any time or place within the states that have been mentioned in the list above. You will need to comply with all of the guidelines and restrictions that have been mentioned. If you do not see your own state mentioned in the list, it is safe to assume that growing ginseng is illegal.

How To Grow Ginseng Legally

First, make sure that the ground is sufficiently prepared. Remove all weeds and debris from the area.

Next, plant the seeds. Scatter them around quickly. The goal should be to have about 6 to 12 seeds scattered in a single square foot.

Next, plant a smaller number of seeds in a somewhat more careful manner. These need to place in 6 to 9 inches of topsoil. Plant them about an inch apart.

Your next step will be to cover up the entire area with a blanket of leaves or mulch. This blanket should be about 1 to 2 inches thick. It will keep the seeds moist.

Make sure you mark the area where you have planted. You can use a GPS device or some other method. You won’t need to be coming back to the site too often since wild ginseng doesn’t require a great deal of supervision.

Make sure the site is kept well out of the reach of children and pets. Ginseng needs to be left alone to grow to its full potential.