American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is an herbaceous perennial plant in the ivy family, commonly used as an herb in traditional medicine, including traditional Chinese Medicine. It is native to eastern North America. American Ginseng can be found in much of the eastern and central United States and in part of southeastern Canada. It is found primarily in deciduous forests of the Appalachian and Ozark regions of the United States. American ginseng is found in full shade environments in these deciduous forests underneath hardwoods. Due to this very specialized growing environment and its demand in the commercial market it has started to reach an endangered status in some areas. It can be found throughout eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
Ginseng trade is monitored by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure the wild American ginseng doesn't go extinct through over-collection. In North Carolina the agency overseeing the ginseng trade is the Plant Conservation Program in the Plant Industry Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). In 2019, the NCDA and NCWRC entered into a memorandum of understanding to allow the NCWRC Law Enforcement division to investigate and prosecute ginseng violations.
Ginseng is a legally protected plant in North Carolina and is subject to certain regulations.
A ginseng dealer's permit is required for anyone who buys North Carolina ginseng roots, wild or cultivated, for resale, or who intends to sell roots out of state. The Plant Conservation Program issues the permits annually. The dealer must follow state regulations on buying, record keeping and export certification. Any ginseng leaving the state must have an export certificate, issued by the local NCDA&CS Plant Protection Specialist. There is no fee for export certification.
A ginseng grower or digger needs a North Carolina ginseng dealer's permit if the grower/digger intends to sell roots directly to an out-of-state buyer rather than to a North Carolina-registered dealer. The permit is needed only when the ginseng is to be sold.
Application for North Carolina Ginseng Dealer Permit
A nursery dealer's certificate is required for anyone who collects or deals in live ginseng plants intended for replanting. Growers should keep records to show that their ginseng is not wild, since there is always the possibility that future regulations may restrict the sale of wild ginseng.
Application for Nursery Dealer's Certificate
Wild American Ginseng: Information for Dealers and Exporters (PDF)
Application for North Carolina Ginseng Dealer Permit (PDF)
Nursery Dealer Certificate (PDF)