Poaching for Wild Ginseng

By Friday, August 16, 2013 0 , Permalink 0

I just read an article in the Los Angeles Times this past Sunday titled, ‘Wild Ginseng Walking Out Of The Park‘. Surely enough, the title sounded very interesting to me. How can ginseng walk? Well, it can’t actually walk of course, but instead some poachers have been stealing them out of the National Parks.  They were found by the Park Rangers and were arrested.

Firstly, I didn’t know there are wild ginseng can be found in the National Parks in United States and secondly, the poachers are Americans (I would think they are illegal Asians hired to do the job).

Wild ginseng has been a precious commodity in Asia as it is believed to be a folk medicine that give energy, improve health and prolong your life. The prices of wild ginseng can fetch up to over $1000 a pound. Asians prefer this wild ginseng compared to the cultivated alternative.  I’ve heard that the cultivate ginseng are mostly farmed in Wisconsin.

Here are the few states in the Eastern of US that you may find wild ginseng growing in the shaded hilly area: North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky and West Virginia. Many years ago, mountain people around Smoky Mountain was believe to harvest and grow ginseng in their home gardens and use it for tea and tonic. Today, some still can legally harvest the wild ginseng but with a permit. The permit allows the person to harvest up to 3 wet pounds of ginseng during the first two weeks in September.

The wild ginseng plants are depleting from the National Parks due to poaching. According to the article, many years ago, 25 roots would make a pound. But now, you will have to find 100 roots to make a pound. Only smaller and younger ginseng plants are left.

Poachers who were arrested are fined $10 a root restitution fee and jailed (14-120 days). After they were released from the jail, most of the hard core poachers will return to the parks again to look for more wild ginseng. The money is just too good.

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