ginseng; five fingers; tartar root; red berry; man's health
Northern China, Korea, and eastern Siberia; typically in cooler climates
CITES appendix II
The miracle plant needing a miracle
Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese remedies for thousands of years and is similarly revered by North American Indians. Traditional harvesting of the plant provides an important source of income for many people. These people ensure they harvest only mature specimens and take care to plant any seeds remaining on the plant prior to harvest.
What are the main threats to Ginseng?
There is now insufficient Asian ginseng to meet demand, and wild North American ginseng is exported to supply Asian markets. Ginseng is relatively slow growing, taking about 6 years to reach maturity. Current levels of demand have led to the unsustainable harvesting of ginseng, including poaching in some areas and illegal harvesting outside the designated harvest period.
Although ginseng is cultivated in the US, wild ginseng is believed to be more effective and therefore commands higher prices. Despite strict controls in the US and CITES protection, illegal harvesting of ginseng plants continues and the wild populations in both Asia and North America face severe pressure.
An additional threat to the survival of ginseng is loss of habitat, as the forests in which the plant lives are cleared for logging or development.
What is WWF doing?
WWF also works to conserve the vital forests and habitats in which ginseng lives through the setting up of protected areas. It works with local authorities to reduce and prevent illegal harvesting of ginseng.
Specific projects to promote sustainability include:
How you can help
- Use your power as a consumer! When purchasing herbal remedies containing ginseng, ask for evidence that the herbs were collected sustainably or from cultivated specimens.
- Spread the word! Click on the button to share this information with others via email or your favourite social networking service.