A family climbs into the woods to hunt ginseng that can bring up to $500 a pound for the root that is used for a wide variety medicinal purposes from the common cold to cancer.
West Virginia has some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests, and people fear that as more woodlands are cut for mining, ginseng will become increasingly rare.
American ginseng, a long-lived herbaceous perennial, is an important forest resource in West Virginia. It exists in all 55 counties in the state, but is established in cool, moist forests with well-drained loamy soils and protection of a thick tree canopy and shrubs.
Ginseng sales produce $5 million to $6 million each year, an important income supplement in the southern coalfields and rural communities. According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, the Division of Forestry records indicate an average annual root harvest of nearly 20,000 pounds.