Marathon County, the largest county in Wisconsin, is home to nearly 150 ginseng growers raising about 700,000 pounds of ginseng every year in an area that comprises a microcosm of the county’s available land. Almost 80% of that annual crop will jump ship to China. But then where does the other 20% go?
First it should be known, for those who are new to ginseng in general, that although ginseng has been cultivated in North America since about 1904, it has been quietly growing around the North 45th parallel marker for thousands of years. Discovered in China, it became a pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a top tier herb and is still widely used today, here and abroad. Used mainly for its energizing and restorative properties, ginseng’s mystique is something that is catching on in Western culture.
As a finished product, most of that 20% ends up in China towns across the country, with Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City being the largest recipients. Hsu’s US branches service all three of the cities mentioned, as well as Houston, TX and New York, NY. Demand for clean, potent American ginseng dictates the pricing for the higher valued Wisconsin variety because Wisconsin soil is low in metal count and nearly devoid of harmful microbial bacteria, which is why Hsu’s also maintains a presence in Ontario and Vancouver, Canada, even though Canada has an output of nearly 2 million pounds per year.
Canada began sourcing American ginseng seeds by the ton when the Canadian government heavily subsidized ginseng operations after watching their US counterparts take advantage of the niche trade. Although the influx of subsidized Canadian growers flooded the markets and caused a crash around the turn of the millennium, American Ginseng from Wisconsin held its value over a ten year rebound.
Ginseng as an ingredient
Bulk ginseng products constitute a fair portion of that 20% of the ginseng that stays within the US. Our bulk powders are found in supplements, foods, soda, and beer. As functional foods are still on the rise many companies are seeing the value in adding American ginseng to their products. Specifications on ginseng are more articulate than many of the common foods you can find in the produce section of the grocery store, and therein lies the challenge of meeting those requirements.
Manufacturers of food and supplements are intrigued by ginseng’s potential as a beneficial substance, more so now than ever due to the large Chinese demographic on the West Coast and in scattered areas across mainland United States. With more ginseng proponents emigrating here to the U.S. and a growing 2nd and 3rd generation demographic on the rise, the likelihood of more American ginseng staying in America grows.
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DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.