American ginseng is grouped into four distinct categories: wild, wild-simulated, woods-grown, and field-grown. Natural wild American ginseng grows in its native habitat. Wild-simulated ginseng is grown from cultivated seeds that are planted in hardwood forests without any other human intervention (e.g. removal of vegetation, application of fertilizers, pesticides). As such, wild-simulated ginseng roots have wild-like characteristics and therefore, are virtually indistinguishable from roots of wild American ginseng plants. Woods-grown ginseng is grown from seeds that are planted in hardwood forests and are grown under cultivated conditions. For example, plants are grown in prepared rows or beds, ground vegetation is removed and often fertilizer and pesticides are applied. Field-grown ginseng is intensely cultivated under artificial shade structures and fertilizers and pesticides are used.
Export of American Ginseng
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The listing covers the export of whole live or dead plants, whole and sliced roots, and parts of roots (including root fibers), but excludes powder or manufactured finished products (e.g. teas, capsules, extracts, confectionary).
For the purposes of CITES, wild and wild-simulated ginseng are exported as wild, and woods-grown and field-grown ginseng are exported as artificially propagated. The main destination for U.S. exports of American ginseng roots is Hong Kong, where roots are sorted, graded, and shipped to China and other Asian countries to be used in traditional Chinese and herbal medicines.
Wild American ginseng roots can only be legally exported if they were harvested from plants that are 5 years of age or older. The 19 States approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) that allow harvest require plants to have 3 leaves, which ensures that plants are at least 5 years old. Roots of artificially propagated American ginseng can be exported at any age. To learn more about how to determine the age of American ginseng, click here.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Management and Scientific Authorities Findings
Export permits for Appendix-II listed species can be issued only when the Management Authority makes a legal acquisition finding, and the Scientific Authority makes a non-detriment finding. The legal acquisition finding determines that the American ginseng roots to be exported were not obtained in contravention of State laws, and that they are correctly identified as wild or artificially propagated. The non-detriment finding is a determination that the export of legally harvested American ginseng roots will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. This finding is based on information provided by the 19 States, research findings, and other biological and trade information.
The most recent U.S. export data for American ginseng are available below:
Good Stewardship Harvest Brochures for Wild American Ginseng
The Good Stewardship Harvesting of Wild American ginseng brochures were developed in conjunction with the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the FWS, State ginseng coordinators, the board of United Plant Savers (UpS), and the board of the Roots of Appalachia Growers Association (RAGA) for the Ohio brochure.
There are 19 State-specific brochures, one for each State approved by the FWS for the export of wild American ginseng. By following the guidelines presented in the brochures, collectors will help ensure a sustainable future of wild American ginseng. The brochures also provide information on current State and Federal regulations that apply to harvesters and buyers of wild American ginseng, and contact information for each State regulatory office. All 19 brochures are available for download at AHPA Website.
A separate brochure, which describes the requirements to export wild American ginseng, is available for download .
Workshops: Connecting Science and Industry
February, 2009: FWS-State Coordination and Public Meeting Meets in Bristol, VA
The Service's International Wildlife Trade Program convened an American ginseng meeting to gather information from the
public in preparation of our 2009 findings on the export of American ginseng roots, for the issuance of permits under CITES. To view PowerPoint presentations presented at the coordination meeting, please visit our Archive page.
For general information on CITES permit requirements, click here .
If, after reading this information, you are unclear about the permitting process, please feel free to contact us.