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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.