Although not truly appreciated in western culture, wild American ginseng is often compared to gold, because of its high value, which is mainly attributed to the lucrative Chinese import market.
The active ingredient in ginseng root is called panaxosides and according to Chinese medicine has numerous benefits in maintaining good health, such as circulation, clarity of thought, memory, reducing stress, diabetes and as an aphrodisiac . Ginseng is cultivated- also grown wild and its believed that wild edible ginseng is more potent than cultivated. For this reason good quality wild ginseng is highly sort and is worth about $2.99 per oz, which is almost half as much as gold. About 99% of the ginseng grown in the USA is exported to China and some of the best wild ginseng grows in West Virginia, near the town of Richwood at Monongalia National Forest.
The forest is protected and before you can go hunting wild native ginseng, you will need to obtain a permit and some instruction from the rangers station. Because the very young ginseng root is protected, you can only pick roots that are 5 years or older. The age of the root is determined by the number of prongs. 3 prongs or more means the root if safe to pick. The best way to excavate the root is with your hands, as they can be very fragile and its best to avoid breaking the plant. Count the notches on the neck of the plant, this tells the age. Some roots can be 40 years or older. Generally the older, the more potent and therefore more valuable. The shape is also important with a round bulb shape being better than carrot shape.
If you plan sell your ginseng wholesale, it will not fetch a good price in West Virginia. Wild ginseng prices are higher in New York’s China town and also in San Francisco . Rinse off the roots with water, but don’t scrub them. Pack the roots in wet moss to keep them moist for transporting. Before you can take the roots out of the state they will need to be certified, according to West Virginia law.
If you plan to use the roots for your own consumption you will need to know how to prepare them. You can make a tea by adding the root pieces to boiling water. Leave the tea to stand for 12 hours before serving. You also add the root to your favorite alcoholic spirit, such as vodka, rum or whisky. Leave it too stand for about 6 months, before consuming.