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OUTDOOR TRUTHS: Hunting For Ginseng Plants In Eastern U.S.

By Gary Miller

Jimmy’s idea of being in the woods has nothing to do with squirrel, deer, or even those delicious mushrooms. His joy comes from not only the hunt but the profitability of it. He hunts ginseng. Ginseng is a root that is used in many medicines and as its own natural, herbal, supplement. It is used to treat everything from fatigue to hypertension. There are records of its use from as early as the first century and it’s said that even Daniel Boone made most of his income by digging this root.

Some of the most sought-after ginseng comes from the eastern U.S., primarily from North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia, where ginseng hunters can find older and more valuable roots. Here the dried root can sell for several hundred dollars per pound. And while it takes a lot of roots to make a pound; experienced diggers like Jimmy can garner bigger harvests because they know where to look and how to recognize the plant quickly.

As a young adult I was introduced to the ginseng plant along with several other species of plants and trees. During a short two-year span I learned so much about nature. I was schooled under the watchful eye of a seasoned logger. He had made his living in the mountains and had learned about everything she had to offer. He was now passing it on to me. Sometimes in my eagerness I was pranked but even then the lessons were learned. I have witnessed dens of snakes and patches of edible mushrooms, and while all of these memories stayed with me, my ginseng lessons were somehow forgotten. Over the years the distinguishable characteristics that I needed to remember in order to recognize that plant, dissolved into a vague side note about the experience itself. My most profitable lesson was the one I forgot about first. Now that’s a lesson!

As an older man now, it seems to me the easiest lessons learned are the ones that cost me the most. Loss is always a permanent tattoo burned in by a bad experience. I wasn’t paying attention, wrecked, and lost by car. I made a bad investment and lost my money. I spent too much time away from home and lost my wife. The classroom for each of these is large but because loss is our tutor, we pass with flying colors. Is there a way to learn these lessons before the loss? Sometimes there is and other times we have to experience the pain before we really get it. Perhaps the best way to learn the most valuable lessons are to allow someone to do for you what Jimmy did for me. He reintroduced me to the ginseng plant. That is, he showed me again the characteristics of something that was valuable. He showed me how to overlook what once appealed to me for something that could bring profitability into my life.

Perhaps today, I have brought to your attention something of value that you have either neglected or forgotten about. It may be something that, over time, faded into a vague memory. I want to tell you what it looks like. It looks like a relationship because these are the most valuable things in life. Whether it is a relationship with God or someone else, start today recognizing its worth. Uncover it, dig it up, and let it bring value to your life.

Gary Miller can be reached via e-mail at

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