WINCHESTER, Ky.– In an effort to reestablish wild ginseng populations on national forest lands, ginseng harvest is prohibited in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The agency issued a ban on ginseng harvest in 2016.
“After years of noticeable ginseng decline across the forest, we stopped issuing permits to collect ginseng as a way to proactively stop the decline,” said Forest Supervisor Dan Olsen.
“Some recovery time is needed for ginseng to become reestablished in the forest as a healthy, self-sustaining population.”
The root of ginseng plants is marketed internationally as an herbal medicine for various ailments, but Western research has provided no conclusive evidence of beneficial health claims.
Much of wild ginseng’s decline is attributed to illegal harvest methods. Overharvesting, out-of-season collection, the taking of mature plants without planting seed for future crops, and the taking of all or most plants from a population are some of the contributing factors.
“Forest Service biologists have observed decreasing ginseng numbers for years now,” said Forest Service botanist David Taylor. “It finally reached a point that harvest needed to be managed more closely.”
In wild ginseng’s population range, Kentucky ranks at the top in ginseng harvests. Other states with high collection rates include West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
To provide for future crops, wild ginseng collectors in Kentucky are required by law to plant seeds from harvested plants within 50 feet of the harvest location. The plants collected must be at least five years old and have three or more leaves.
On national forest lands, anyone removing wild ginseng plant or its parts is considered theft. Penalties for poaching may include a fine up to $5,000 or a 6-month sentence in federal prison, or both.
The Kentucky state regulations for ginseng harvest are different from rules that apply in the Daniel Boone National Forest. For state information regarding ginseng harvest, visit the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s website at http://www.kyagr.com/marketing/ginseng.html.