Purdue Explores Farming Wild Herbal Remedy

Sep 12, 2016

Ginseng grows wild in Indiana woodlands. Purdue Extension foresters will attempt to grow ginseng in a simulated forest environment.
Credit Wendell Smith / https://www.flickr.com/photos/wendellsmith/8954136170

A years-long Purdue University experiment is testing whether ginseng can be cultivated by Indiana farmers.

Ginseng, commonly used as an herbal remedy, grows wild in most of Indiana. The Purdue Department of Forestry is trying to grow the plant in what’s called a “simulated wild grow.”

Purdue Extension Forester Lenny Farlee says ginseng has been over-harvested in the past, so the department aims to add to the ginseng supply and help cultivate native growing.

“Our interest in ginseng kind of arises from the whole area of forest farming and agroforestry,” Farlee says. “It’s the idea of combining forest management with some sort of crop that might be planted either underneath the forest or with the trees.”

Farlee says the department is looking now at the seed germination of the ginseng plants. Later, he says there will be more evaluations about how ginseng responds to soil conditions of tree plantations.

Ginseng is widely popular in the Far East for its use in teas, candy and other herbal remedies. Indiana has a ginseng harvesting season, which started Sept. 1. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has several regulations about how and when to harvest ginseng, making it a low-level crime to pick the plant out of season or before the ginseng is mature.

Those regulations exist in part because the plant is so valuable. Farlee says one dry pound of ginseng root can cost anywhere from $300 to $600.

However, a ginseng plant can take 7-to-12 years to mature enough for harvest.