About Ontario Ginseng

Illustration of ginseng root
The ginseng industry in Canada is not only the largest field grown horticultural export crop but it is deeply “rooted” in Canadian heritage and history.

Panax Quinquefolious Ginseng (aka North American Ginseng or NAG) is native to Canada and is one of our oldest trades. Ginseng was found growing in the early 1700s near Montreal by a Jesuit Priest and has been used as a valued trade for 300 years.  

European settlers shipped so much wild North American ginseng to Asia that by the end of the 19th century it was almost extinct in Ontario. Ginseng is considered an Endangered Species and is therefore regulated under the Species At Risk Act. From 1880 to 1960 the ginseng trade experienced many ups and downs for reasons as diverse as blight and world wars but since the 1960s the trade in NAG has been growing steadily. Ginseng at one time was field grown in British Columbia and attempts were made in Prince Edward Island. However, today the bulk of the world’s North American ginseng comes from Ontario’s fertile soil, grown by independent farmers in former tobacco fields, under thick black shades that mimic a forest’s canopy. 

 

Chinese two characters, man - root

For centuries, ginseng has been used to support health and vitality. Ginseng has been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 5,000 years. It is highly sought after for its medicinal properties widely accepted by both the First Nations and the Chinese culture where ginseng has long been revered as the miracle “man-root”, which looks like a man and is believed to be good for every part of one.  In China, it is always written with the same two characters, man – root (Johannsen, 2006). Interestingly, the Iroquois called American ginseng Garent-oguen (translates to resembles man).

Ontario’s First Ginseng