What is Ginseng?
Ginseng is a medicinal plant, originally found growing wild only in certain parts of China, Wisconsin, and the northeastern United States. Today, ginseng is cultivated through a careful process where the seed is planted in virgin soil and harvested four years later. Ginseng root is harvested in the fall of the year, when it is washed, dried, and placed into net fiber barrels. Ginseng is most often sold as roots to buyers, who can process it into various forms such as powders, capsules, teas, and candy. Ginseng extract is produced by soaking dry root in an alcohol bath for at least 48 hours, and the product is pressed to extract the liquid from the root. The alcohol is evaporated off, leaving only the extract.
Ginseng is reported to have general positive health effects, from helping alleviate the effects of stress to reducing fatigue and promoting brain function. Ginseng is often referred to as an adaptogen, a natural medicine that increases all-around resistance to physical, chemical, and biological stressors.
Various research studies are currently being conducted on the health effects of ginseng. In a study at the University of Toronto, participants with adult-onset diabetes who took ginseng before eating experienced a 15 to 20 percent smaller rise in blood sugar than participants who did not.
Ginseng and Wisconsin's Economy
Wisconsin leads the nation in ginseng production. The U.S. Department of Commerce reported in 1995 that Wisconsin farms accounted for 97 percent of all ginseng produced and 95 percent of all acres harvested. Marathon County alone accounted for 85 percent of United States ginseng production and 82 percent of ginseng acreage.
The Ginseng Board of Wisconsin and the U.S. Department of Commerce contributed most of the information for this report. Export information was compiled from the Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Research (MISER) trade data.
Wisconsin Growing Season Guide