Panax quinquefolius, North American ginseng's scientific name, contains almost twice as many ginsenosides as Asian ginseng, and is highly valued in the orient.
For more information about ginseng harvesting, contact the Division of Nature Preserves at 317-232-4052, or visit their website at www.in.gov/dnr/naturepr. For more information locally on where to sell ginseng, please contact Deaks Fur Company, 604 W. Pleasant, Staunton, Ind., at 448-8494 after 4 p.m.
The way ginseng affects the human body recognized by modern researchers and by the many people who use it daily to improve their health, makes it one of the most famous and sought after herbs.
With several types available from around the world, only the Asian and North American ginseng plants are known for their exceptional curative properties, making them both very valuable exports. But the North American ginseng is often considered the most valuable and beneficial, making it a target for a quick buck from non-experienced harvesters.
"There is a growing concern within the industry, both from the trade and regulatory sides, that time honored traditions and practices by diggers, ensuring future harvests, are on the decline," State Ginseng Coordinator Cary Floyd said.
Ginseng harvesters do not need a license to dig or sell ginseng to a licensed dealer, but it is illegal to harvest or possess wild ginseng out of season or trespass on state or privately owned property for harvesting purposes.
"Professional" diggers, or simple poachers who strip an area of the plant to make a quick dollar are doing a great disservice to the species and to the steward diggers who understand the long-term process and practice ethical conservation harvesting," Floyd said.
The ginseng harvest season takes place each year from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, while the official selling season is Sept. 1 through March 31 of the following year.
The free Indiana Department of Natural Resources Hunting and Trapping Guide (pg. 43) has published regulations for the harvest of Indiana ginseng.
"It's hard to find mature plants in the area," said Jim Little, a ginseng buyer and owner of Deaks Fur Company in Staunton. "With the price being driven up by export sales to the orient, a lot of people think they can just go out and find it for the money. It's not that easy to find, and it's getting harder all the time."
Ginseng plants do not normally reproduce until they reach maturity at seven to nine years of age. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has increased the minimum for age for export from 5-years to 10-years of age for "truly" wild American ginseng to be exported from the country.
Indiana laws for ginseng have not changed, but the Data Collection Program for ginseng has changed. Data is now being collected for wilds-simulated and/or woods-grown American ginseng. These types of ginseng, which is most of the Indiana harvest, may continue to be exported at 5-years of age if the following conditions are met:
- The harvester's name, address and/or phone number must be recorded in the dealer log along with the name and address of each following owner. The verification of the plant's source and weight of the root is also registered at the time of purchase. Conservation Officers certify ginseng shipments from dealers. The information from the certificates is used to help determine if ginseng is declining and needs further protection by the state.
- The source must declare the harvested roots to be wild, wild-simulated, woods-grown, or cultivated.
- The harvested roots from various sources must be kept separate and not combined. To help promote a healthy ginseng population in the future, Indiana Administrative Code 312 (IAC 19-1-8) requires that mature fruits and any seeds on the harvested ginseng be planted in the vicinity where the plant was dug and in the manner that encourages germination.