There are so many ways to help Wild American Ginseng!
Spreading the word and planting the seeds of Wild American Ginseng conservation through education and stewardship are just the first steps on the journey to helping Wild American Ginseng.
Learning about the life cycle, history, and mystery that is Wild American Ginseng is just one side of the story! Laws regulating the harvest and sale of Wild American Ginseng exist for a reason and it is essential for everyone to understand why these international, federal, and state laws are important to the future of ginseng as a species. 19 states and one Tribal Authority have some sort of ginseng program, and each one is different. Four states allow cultivated ginseng only, with no wild harvesting. If you plan on digging, please learn about the laws in your state and practice good stewardship.
Good stewardship starts with you and is crucial to the future of Wild American Ginseng. While the laws address what is legal and what is not, stewardship is a way of interacting with smaller populations of ginseng in order to have a positive impact and to help ensure the next generation of wild American ginseng by planting every seed. Ginseng laws and seasons exist to put into place a basic level of stewardship, but real stewardship goes beyond the laws.
Good stewardship is something that anyone can do at any time, as it does not include harvesting which is regulated. Things like counting the generations of ginseng in a group, keeping track of how many seeds were planted each season, noting natural elements like deer and weather, learning about ginseng's complex life-cycle, learning about sustainable & ethical harvest methods and conservation are just a few ways to be a good steward!
Ethical Harvest goes hand in hand with good stewardship. Using the principals of good stewardship, ethical harvest can be a way to harvest Wild American Ginseng and other woodland botanicals while minimizing the impact on a specific population, selectively harvesting only the oldest roots (allowing for the rest to mature and continue seeding), and ensuring future generation by carefully hand planting every seed.
Conservation through Cultivation
Conservation through Cultivation is important to the future of ginseng because instead of harvesting wild populations, it is possible to intentionally and sustainably grow ginseng. Field-grown, forest-grown, and wild-simulated are three ways to grow ginseng.
Conservation through Protection
Many places like parks and public lands, nature reserves, private property as well as State Parks and National Forests forbid the harvest of Wild American Ginseng. These protected places not only preserve nature for all to enjoy but also serve as an important place for rare species like Wild American Ginseng.
For those who use ginseng as a tonic herb, medicine, or in products, it is important to learn a bit about the company who makes it and how they source their ginseng (and other at-risk botanicals). Supporting "sustainably sourced", "forest farmed" or "ethically harvested" practices does a world of good for everyone: for the consumer getting a good product, the company or herbalist making the products, the person growing or harvesting, right on down to the plants and every little seed that means so much to the future of that plant. If a plant is important and valuable enough to do all of that, it's important enough to steward for the future.
There are some amazing groups out there dedicated to stewardship and spreading the word about planting seeds and helping newcomers to the ginseng world. From identification (which is tougher than you think), to planting for personal use, to ethical wild harvest, to huge wild-simulated operations, there is a community to help. United Plant Savers and Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition are great places to start if you have questions or would like to learn more.
The following books are considered the best resources, or perhaps the gold-standard for "Green Gold". Conservation, cultivation, history, culture, and stories of this legendary plant are represented here. There are other books as well, and you should feel encouraged to read all of them, though these four are a great start.
With stewardship as it is with ginseng; there is always more to learn!