US officials crack down on illegal ginseng harvesters

October 28, 2015
Wild ginseng (Korea Times file)

Wild ginseng (Korea Times file)

Wild ginseng, coveted for centuries as an ailment miracle curer in Asia, has become Appalachian gold and a source of headache for local law enforcement officials.

Known as “sansam” in Korea, the root grows naturally from Canada to southern Appalachia.

A recent rush for ginseng — which ABC News says can retail for up to $1,000 for an ounce in Asia — has led to illegal harvesting in national parks.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, strict rules on harvesting wild ginseng exist in the 19 states that allow it — in Illinois, harvested roots must have at least four leaves to ensure it is at least 10 years old; in the 18 others, there must be at least three leaves.

Wild ginseng

Wild ginseng

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Lt. Marshall Richards told ABC more than 400 pounds of ginseng, valued at about $5 million, have been confiscated by region officials.

“If things keep going at the rate they’re going, within 10, 15 years we won’t have any ginseng left,” Richards said.

 

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