MTSU Ginseng Initiative
Ginseng is a very popular over the counter supplement that is used to boost the immune
system and was of the first herbs from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to be widely
utilized. The primary users are people suffering from colds or flu and people whose
immune system is suppressed, such as cancer patients. Currently, the annual world
market for ginseng is just over $2 billion with a starting price of $400 per pound
for mature ginseng roots. The growth of ginseng as a cultivated crop represents a
significant economic opportunity for the State of Tennessee.
The top three states for ginseng production in the US are Kentucky, Tennessee and
North Carolina. For the past several years Tennessee farmers have been harvesting
about 10,000 lbs of ginseng root annually in the state. A number of countries that
grow ginseng have adopted the growth of cultivated ginseng as a cash crop. Canada
is the prime example and their farmers currently provide more than 6 times more than
US farmers. The State of Tennessee with its abundant farmland, a great portion of
which is well suited for the growth of ginseng, should take advantage of the opportunity
presented by the huge demand for ginseng roots.
Even with the conventional eight year time requirement for growing ginseng from planted
seeds to yield mature roots that can be harvested, ginseng represents a phenomenal
cash crop opportunity. If one considers all factors, including crop yields per acre
and growth requirements, ginseng is worth a staggering $340,000 per acre while the
cash crop corn is only worth $640 per acre.
The Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research (TCBMR) at Middle Tennessee State
University (MTSU) is working with the State of Tennessee to better educate our farmers
about this incredible opportunity. Our research efforts focus on developing rigid
scientific testing methodologies to better assess the potency of harvested ginseng
roots, developing methods so ginseng can be rapidly grown via tissue culture in the
laboratory and assisting farmers who wish to grow ginseng as a cash crop.