Mature American ginseng plant with berries
Credit: Gary Kauffman/U.S. Forest Service

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is native to deciduous forests (forests that lose their leaves every year) of the United States from the Midwest to Maine, primarily in the Appalachian and Ozark regions, and also in eastern Canada.  It is also grown on ginseng farms. It has long been used for medicine, originally harvested by many different Native American tribes and used in Asian medicinal products.

Ginseng root is exported in larger volumes than any other native CITES plant species.  The majority of American ginseng harvested is exported to China. In the United States, the harvest of wild American ginseng for international trade began in the mid-1700s.  Today, the harvest continues to have strong economic and cultural importance to many communities in the United States and to American Indian tribes.

Laws & Regulations

American ginseng can be harvested in 19 States. To learn what states allow for the harvesting of American ginseng, click here pdf.

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.

In other States where it is known to occur, American ginseng has varying levels of protection and laws vary from State to State. To learn about State regulations that apply to harvesters and buyers of wild American ginseng, and for contact information for the State regulatory offices, click here.  It is illegal to harvest American ginseng roots on most State lands and all National Park Service land. Some U.S. Forest Service National Forests issue harvest permits for wild ginseng while other National Forests prohibit the harvest of ginseng.  Check with the National Forest in your area to know whether ginseng harvest is allowed.

American ginseng is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Read our factsheet on CITES pdf and Appendix II pdf for more information. 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 information on past meetings centered on exporting ginseng and permit issues, please visit our Archive page.

For information on exporting American ginseng, visit our Branch of Permits page.