Ginseng poaching threatens plant’s survival

Poaching of plants, including corals, for medicine and for collectors has become a common problem throughout the world.

While the poaching of plants, particularly endangered species, has not caught the same amount of attention worldwide as the plight of endangered animal species, plants are vital to the planet, and the survival of the planet and the people who inhabit it.

One such plant that faces an uncertain future is ginseng. Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese remedies for thousands of years and is also applauded by North American Indians.

Ginseng is much revered for its health benefits – including promoting health, general body vigour, prolonging life, lowering blood sugar levels, reducing stress, relieving menstrual cramps, shortening the common cold, and even improving the mood.

The two main species of ginseng used for medicinal purposes are Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).

There is now insufficient Asian ginseng to meet demand, and wild North American ginseng is exported to supply Asian markets. With growing demand for traditional Chinese medicine and alternative therapies, as well as illegal poaching, the species is under threat.

WWF state: “Ginseng is relatively slow growing, taking about six years to reach maturity. Current levels of demand have led to the unsustainable harvesting of ginseng, including poaching in some areas and illegal harvesting outside the designated harvest period.

“Although ginseng is cultivated in the US, wild ginseng is believed to be more effective and therefore commands higher prices. Despite strict controls in the US and CITES protection, illegal harvesting of ginseng plants continues and the wild populations in both Asia and North America face severe pressure.”

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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