Ginseng is becoming harder to find. But for those who know how it looks, what it can do for the body and the value of it, will somehow locate the root.
“We are encouraging harvesters to take it easy. Right now, the plant is considered vulnerable,” said Stevin Westcott, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service.
From September 1-30, people can dig up ginseng in Nantahala and Pisgah national forests.
A permit is required to do so, and costs $40 per wet pound. An individual may purchase up to 3 wet pounds annually.
Westcott says the limits are in place to control the population of available ginseng.
The U.S. Forest Service has also encountered issues with poachers.
Ginseng found in the wild can sell for more than $500 a pound, and usually is exported to Asia.
The root is believed to cure or ease various health problems.
“It is an herb that you take on a regular basis to heal the body,” said Corey Pine Shane, director of Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine.
However, Shane prefers to use ginseng that was intentionally planted.
“I think it is okay to harvest ginseng in moderation,” says Shane. “The question is the harvest sustainable?"
According to the U.S. Forest Service, there will be a number of law enforcement officers in the woods over the next several weeks.
“We want to make sure the public leaves some plants behind,” adds Westcott.
Last year, the forest service issued 458 permits. In 2010, there were 384 sold.
While there is an obvious incentive to go after ginseng, officials are motivated to keep the plant alive and growing for years to come.
If you are caught poaching ginseng, you could be fined up to $5,000 or sentenced to federal prison, or both.