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 refers to a method of growing ginseng in a forest environment under natural conditions with no cultivation of the plants.  Seeds of cultivated plants are most often 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. 

The FWS does not advocate planting non-local/regional cultivated ginseng seed in State and Federal public lands (e.g., National Forests, National Park Service lands) and private protected lands because it could adversely affect wild populations and the long-term survival of the species.

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 using fertilizers and pesticides.

Export of American Ginseng

american ginseng with fruit

American ginseng fruit
Credit: Eric Burkhart

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 and wild-simulated American ginseng roots can only be legally exported if they were harvested from plants that are 5 years of age or older and were legally harvested during the designated State harvest season. Of the 19 States approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), 18 States require wild ginseng plants to have 3 leaves (each leaf is comprised of 3-5 leaflets), which ensure that plants are at least 5 years old, and one State (Illinois) requires wild ginseng plants to have 4 leaves and to be 10 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.

Export of American Ginseng Permit Application Form pdf

*** This permit application can be submitted online. To do so, click here.

State Annual Harvest Report Form
List of States and Tribes with Approved Export Programs for Furbearers, Alligators, and Ginsengpdf
Information for Harvesters, Dealers, and Exporters pdf

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 biological 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 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 pdf.

For more information on American ginseng and regulations on its trade, please see the FWS regulations (50 CFR 23), or visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

For information on past meetings centered on exporting ginseng and permit issues, please visit our Archive page.

For general information on CITES permit requirements, click here pdf.

If, after reading this information, you are unclear about the permitting process, please feel free to contact us.

Click here to read in Spanish.