How to Find, Dig Up & Sell American Ginseng

American Ginseng is a naturally growing root in the Eastern part of North America.
Wild and cultivated ginseng produce a crop that is valued in excess of 25 million U. S. dollars. Wild root is more valuable than cultivated by about three times. Many collectors think they can dig anywhere on public land and harvest the herb, but it is illegal to remove anything on government, and therefore public, properties. Ginseng may be harvested on privately owned land whether wild or planted. Before locating and harvesting ginseng you need to contact the local government for restrictions and locations for ginseng digging.

Step 1

Locate an appropriate website to check on the restrictions and guidelines for wild harvest. Also find out when ginseng season starts in your area. The local government should have maps and guidelines to get you started in the right direction. You should educate yourself on what the plant looks like. The leaves are palm shaped and slightly serrated, with a bright green color. The grow eight to twelve inches tall with the characteristic five lobes and red berries.

Step 2

Use a map or GPS to find the location you've chosen. Wear your most comfortable hiking boots or shoes. The roots grow on hillsides in woods. Price for roots is best between November and April, so weather will be soggy and maybe slippery. Dress appropriately.

Step 3

Find plants using the information from the government website. You are looking for indicator plants that grow near ginseng. Deciduous trees, rattlesnake fern, spleenworts, jack-in-the-pulpit, May apple and wild ginger will indicate that you are in the right area. Only dig up mature plants with three to four prongs. Dig very carefully down away from stem using a flathead screwdriver or other small prying tool.

Step 4

Put the roots in the burlap bag and continue hunting. You will only harvest larger roots bigger than a AAA battery that have at least five bud scars on them. Anything smaller should be carefully replanted.

Step 5

Set up a drying screen somewhere covered and warm. Lay the ginseng out on it. Turn them daily so the air can evenly reach all sides. When dry store in a cool, dark and rodent-free location.

Step 6

Contact buyers online or sell to health food stores and herbalists. Search for a list of dealers and also get the state laws on selling ginseng. They vary state to state. Weigh your roots before you take them to be sold so you don't get taken advantage of.

Things You Will Need

  • Comfortable hiking boots
  • Warm clothes
  • Flathead screwdriver or other small, long-handled prying tool
  • Map or GPS system on cell phone
  • Burlap bag
  • Drying Screens

About the Author

Bonnie Grant began writing professionally in 1990. She has been published on various websites, specializing in garden-related instructional articles. Grant recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in business management with a hospitality focus from South Seattle Community College.