American ginseng is a slow-growing perennial herb that grows in the understory of deciduous forests. It typically grows to a height of eight to 15 inches. Ginseng prefers mature woodlands, frequently on slopes, where it favors rich soil and dense shade. American ginseng occurs from Quebec, Canada, west to Minnesota and south to Georgia and Oklahoma. It is a plant that can be found throughout Ohio, but its populations are often small and scattered. Ginseng has long been valued for its medicinal qualities. Ohio, like many other states, has established a ginseng management program to allow for collection and to ensure the continued presence of ginseng for generations to come.
The Ohio Administrative Code, the set of laws that govern the state, lists all of the laws regarding the harvesting, selling, and buying of ginseng.
Overview of Ohio Ginseng Regulations
A permit is not required to dig wild ginseng in Ohio, but a ginseng digger must have written permission from the landowner or designee to hunt and harvest on private and public lands. Digging ginseng is prohibited on state-owned lands and on national park property. The Wayne National Forest offers a permit to collect ginseng on their lands. Contact the Forest's website or offices for information.
- Nelsonville: (740) 753-0101
- Marietta: (740) 373-9055
- Pedro: (740) 534-6500
- Ginseng harvest season is from September 1 to December 31 annually. Harvest on private property may only be done during the established harvest season.
- Plants must have at least three leaves (prongs) before they may be harvested.
- Collectors/diggers must keep accurate harvest records by county and collection date.
- Collectors/diggers must immediately plant the seeds from collected plants at the place where the plants were collected.
- A Ginseng Dealer Permit from the Division of Wildlife is required to buy ginseng for resale or export.
- All ginseng must be certified by the Division of Wildlife before it is exported from Ohio. Certification documents must be kept with each lot of ginseng leaving the state.
For anyone interested in buying ginseng for resale or export, a Ginseng Dealer Permit from the Division of Wildlife is required. The permit itself is free, but there are record-keeping requirements. All ginseng dug in Ohio must be certified before it leaves the state of Ohio. Contact your nearest Division of Wildlife District Office to find out when and where to have ginseng certified. Note there is a certification fee of $3 per pound.
Ginseng dealers may not buy dry, uncertified ginseng between April 1 and September 15. You also may not buy or sell wild green ginseng that was collected between April 1 and August 31.
When buying ginseng root, you must obtain the following information from the seller/digger:
- The seller’s name and address.
- The dealer’s state registration permit number (if applicable) and ginseng certification number.
- The weight of ginseng root collected by county.
- The date of the transaction.
Ginseng dealers are also responsible for:
- Displaying educational materials provided by the Division of Wildlife.
- Showing proof of certification to any out-of-state purchaser.
- The weight of ginseng root collected by county.
- Keeping accurate records of all ginseng sold and purchased. These records are open to inspection by authorized Division of Wildlife employees.
- Submitting for weighing all uncertified ginseng on hand as of March 31 to the Division of Wildlife and they will receive a receipt for it.
A person may only possess ginseng from a state with a ginseng management program that has been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Anyone interested in learning more about Ohio ginseng may call 1-800-WILDLIFE (945-3543) for more information.
Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: An Introduction (OSU Extension F-56-13)
Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: Site Preparation and Planting Using Wild-Simulated Approach (OSU Extension F-57-13)
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is charged with regulating ginseng through the Division of Scientific Authority and Division of Management Authority. For export permit applications and past Scientific Authority findings, visit the USFWS American Ginseng web page.
USFWS regulations that implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): 50 CFR Parts 10, 13, 17, and 23
USDA-APHIS handles inspections at authorized ports. Review their requirements for export before exporting ginseng
American ginseng is listed in Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement between countries to ensure that international trade in certain plants and animals does not threaten their survival in the wild. American ginseng was listed in CITES Appendix II in 1975 due to concerns of the species being over-harvested as a consequence of international trade. Appendix II allows trade that is biologically sustainable and legal and includes species that, although currently not threatened with extinction, may become so without trade controls. In order to ensure that American ginseng roots are legally and sustainably harvested, CITES permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are required to export American ginseng. For more information about CITES and American ginseng, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.
CITES Appendices. Ginseng is an Appendix II species.
Wild Ginseng Conservation. Dr. James McGraw's Lab, West Virginia University.