American ginseng grows in deciduous forests of the eastern United States, while Asian ginseng grows in Northern Manchuria. Ginseng prefers shady north and eastern facing, well-drained slopes with rich soil. It is artificially cultivated in the United States, with more than 90 percent of the crop located in Wisconsin. Ten percent of the world's supply of ginseng root comes from Marathon County, Wis.
Because of over-harvesting in the 1970's, wild ginseng is listed as an endangered species. The root of the ginseng is believed to have various curative properties. The Chinese value it as a universal remedy, commonly drinking the powdered root as a tea. Most ginseng cultivated in the United States are dried and shipped overseas.
A mature ginseng plant is 12 to 24 inches tall. It consists of compound leaves with three to five leaflets. Small, white blooms appear on a stalk in May. Red berries are produced in late summer to early fall. The root of the plant is the part used for medicinal remedies. At a length of 3 to 8 inches and a thickness of up to 1 inch, the root is ready for harvest when the plant reaches maturity after 3 years of growth.