Wild ginseng in Minnesota

Once abundant, now rare

Wild ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), also known as American ginseng, was once very abundant in Minnesota. It is now  a species of special concern in the state, meaning it is uncommon or has unique or specific habitat requirements and deserves monitoring of its status.

Wild ginseng is one of the native plants covered by a 1973 international treaty for the protection of endangered species . The treaty provides that wild ginseng may be harvested for local sale but its roots may not be exported unless the Endangered Species Scientific Authority determines that continued exports will not threaten the survival of the species.

...The future of wild ginseng in Minnesota is in the hands of the harvesters.

wild ginseng with digging implement

Ginseng harvesting in Minnesota

If wild ginseng harvesters (sometimes referred to as "diggers") are careful to follow the harvest practices described on this page, the chances are excellent that instead of facing extinction in Minnesota, ginseng will not only survive but may very likely increase.


Minnesota's ginseng harvest season opens on September 1 and closes December 31 by law (Chapter 6282.0100). It is illegal for harvesters to dig, possess or sell green ginseng before September 1.

Ginseng should never be harvested before berries are bright red and mature.

By law, wild ginseng plants may not be harvested unless they possess three or more true leaves (sometimes called "prongs"). Two-pronged plants, as well as small, three-pronged plants, are immature and should never be gathered or destroyed. Roots from these plants are small, have little value, and likely are to be rejected by dealers.


Harvesting ginseng is allowed by permit on these DNR-administered lands:

  • Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). All State of Minnesota WMAs are closed to ginseng harvesting except the Whitewater WMA near Altura. A harvesting permit may be obtained from the Area Wildlife Manager.
  • State Forest Lands. A Special Product Permit ($25.00 fee, payable by check or money order during office hours) is required which may be obtained at any area Forestry office. Permit allows for a harvest of up to five pounds (dry weight) of ginseng root.
Harvesting ginseng is prohibited on these DNR-administered lands:
  • State Parks and Trails
  • Scientific and Natural Areas

Other lands
If harvesting from land belonging to others, it is important that you first obtain permission from the owner. If you do not, you are guilty of trespassing and the laws and subject to penalties pertaining to trespassing.


Following these guidelines will help to ensure a successful and sustainable ginseng harvest:

  1. Use care when digging wild ginseng.
  2. Begin digging about 6 inches away from each side of the base of the stem. This is important because the underground stem often travels horizontally before it joins the top of the true root.
  3. Remove the soil carefully over a 12-inch diameter circle, until you can see the main root.
  4. Continue to loosen the soil to be sure all the main, tail, and branch roots are exposed before lifting. Highest prices are paid for intact and un-damaged roots.
  5. Collect the root. Sometimes, it is impossible to remove the mature plant without disturbing the roots of smaller, immature ginseng plants growing close by. When this occurs, replace the smaller roots and pack soil firmly around them. These will be available for harvest in future years.
  6. Place disturbed soil back into the hole to minimize the area impacted.
  7. Seeds may not be removed from the site of the plant and must be planted immediately. To plant the seeds, first squeeze the berries to break the pulp. Most berries will contain two or three seeds. Plant the individual seeds about 6 to 12 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep in the soil and cover the area with leaf litter.
  8. After collecting, allow the roots to wilt for several days before washing off the remaining soil. Do not scrub or scrape the roots as this may damage their natural color and characteristic circular rings. A little soil left on the roots helps highlight the natural rings around the root and may even enhance the value.
    • Cleaned roots should be dried slowly by natural air. Do not dry in an oven as high temperatures dry the root too rapidly and scorching will make them valueless
      • Roots should be placed on a screen or rack outdoors in the shade or on shelves in a well-ventilated attic.
      • Temperatures between 75° and 90°F are considered ideal.
      • Turn the roots occasionally to make sure they dry evenly and do not mold.
    • Drying time varies with root size and air conditions;
      • Large roots may require t or more weeks while small roots often need less than a week.
    • Once dry, roots should be stored in a cool, dry place where they can be protected from rodents until sold.
Selling ginseng

The procedure for harvesting ginseng, selling to a ginseng dealer, and dealer certification of ginseng purchased from harvester, contains three steps:

  1. Harvester collects and dries root. Brings root to dealer.
  2. Dealer weighs and assesses root. Pays harvester for root. If selling purchased root out of state...
  3. Dealer brings purchased root to MNDNR conservation officer for certification.
Any wild ginseng harvested in Minnesota and not kept for personal use must be sold to a dealer licensed by -and located in- the state. A dealer's license is required to:


  • Carry, ship or export wild ginseng beyond the borders of Minnesota
  • Purchase wild ginseng from a harvester.
Ginseng dealers

Wild ginseng dealers regulations

Ginseng harvesters and ginseng dealers need to observe the rules regulating wild ginseng harvest as set out in the MN Administrative Rule 6282.0100 through 6282.0500, General Provisions for harvesting Wild Ginseng. Please note there are four web pages associated with these rules.

Locate a DNR Conservation Officer to certify ginseng

Additional information: The US Fish & Wildlife Service has assembled a factsheet for dealers and exporters of American ginseng.

A ginseng dealer license may be obtained by contacting:
MNDNR License Center
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4026
(651) 297-1230 or
(877) 348-0498


Some facts about ginseng

  • North American Indians have long used roots of ginseng medicinally.
  • Records have shown that large quantities of wild ginseng from the eastern United States and Canada were exported to China as early as the 1740s.
  • It takes about 3 pounds of freshly dug green roots to make one pound of dry roots.
  • Names used for ginseng: sang, shang, ginseng root, seng, panax.

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