FWS examines sustainable ginseng harvesting

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: American ginseng, Blood sugar

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) yesterday examined the sustainable harvest, trade and regulation of ginseng, in a public meeting on the latest research on the root.

Ginseng is typically taken to enhance stamina and reduce feelings of fatigue and physical stress. It is also believed to have an anti-cancer function and has been reported to normalize blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of obesity.

The herb has been gaining popularity in Western societies, finding its way into, for example, energy drinks. In the US it is estimated to be the second top-selling herbal supplement.

According to figures provided by Euromonitor International this morning, US sales of ginseng supplements reached $100m in 2008. By 2013, the market researcher estimates sales will reach $104m.

This compares to global ginseng sales of $1.5bn in 2008, estimated to reach almost $2bn by 2013.

Yesterday’s meeting on American Ginseng, held in Bristol, Virginia, provided a summary of the regulatory framework for the export of the product and the regulations that control its international trade.

In addition, a presentation by Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) examined the role of industry in maintaining a sustainable ginseng harvest.

Some 95 percent of American ginseng is grown in Wisconsin.

“It is an established tradition for harvesters of American ginseng to plant the seeds after digging a ginseng plant. However, the data provided yesterday focused on planting of imported seeds, and represented the first time the number and ratio of planted seeds to harvested roots has been examined,”​ said AHPA.

According to data provided by McGuffin, 6-17 million cultivated American ginseng seeds are planted annually. Based on the average number of plants harvested in the past 10 years, the average ratio of planted seeds (each) to harvested roots for the past 10 years is between 33 and 108 percent, he said.

“The role of ginseng diggers in propagating ginseng throughout the country is an important and often overlooked factor in the sustainability of American ginseng,”​ said McGuffin. “Since the 18th century, harvesting ginseng has been both a tradition and an income provider for many individuals in Appalachia, and they have long understood the importance of promoting the sustainability of this plant.”

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