# 33 19-Oct-86 0152 MST Sb APal 10/18 SIS-Ginseng Root Fm Executive News Svc. [72135,424]

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#: 33 19-Oct-86 01:52 MST Sb: APal 10/18 SIS--Ginseng Root Fm: Executive News Svc. [72135,424] To: 72135,424 By JOHN SANDLIN Daily Mountain Eagle JASPER, Ala. (AP) -- Scientists say the legendary benefits of the ginseng root that grows wild in parts of north Alabama are just that, legend. According to ancient Chinese belief, the roots of the ginseng shrub are endowed with magical powers that lead to long life and good health. The shrub is a knee-high green bush with red berries that is found in parts of Asia and the United States and cultivated as a crop in Wisconsin. It gets its name from the Chinese words meaning likeness of a man. In rare circumstances, the shape of the root resembles a man. It is the search for that perfect root, worth more than $1,000 to the lucky finder, that adds special excitement for ginseng diggers. They contend the medicinal value of ginseng is tremendous, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. "It`s the best medicine you can get," said Minnie Armstrong of Lynns Park, a 45-year-old digger who has searched for the root since she was a young girl. Mrs. Armstrong is one of nine sisters who helped their father dig the roots nearly 50 years ago. Three of them still like to search for the plant. She dries the roots in sunlight for three days, then grinds them in an electric blender until the ginseng is a fine powder. She then takes one-fourth of a teaspoon of the powder three times a day for three consecutive days to relieve pains in her back. Loretta Brand of Jasper, her 52-year-old sister, uses the ginseng powder for crippling arthritis which had caused her arm to draw up. Another sister, Edna Ware of Cordova, 58, says the ginseng worked a miracle on Mrs. Brand. "The doctors told her she would be a cripple, but she took the ginseng and six months later they couldn`t find no sign of it," Mrs. Ware said. "It`s good for arthritis, purifying your blood and it`s good for your heart. It`s good for anything wrong with your body." Some users claim it is an aphrodisiac. The ancient Chinese believed the plant was a remedy for a host of illnesses, could prolong life and in some cases even restore it. They believed animals protected the plants and the man-shaped roots were capable of traveling under the earth from place to place. Demand for the ginseng root outstripped the supply in the Orient in the 19th century and for a while, ginseng was the most important export to China. By 1930, the United States was shipping about $2 million worth of ginseng each year to China. About $50 million worth of ginseng was exported in 1985, according to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. Since the Communist revolution in China, most of the U.S. crop has gone to Japan and Hong Kong. Mrs. Armstrong and Mrs. Ware sell the dried roots they do not use to a dealer in Fayette County for $125 a pound. The drought that scorched Alabama this year hurt the ginseng crop. Normally, the plant can be harvested until frost kills the leaves in the fall. But the lack of rainfall caused the leaves to dry up and the sisters stopped digging two weeks ago. "We`re not going to dig any more because the berries have dropped," Mrs. Ware said. The sisters harvest the roots and then plant the berries they find to make sure the plants do not become extinct. Some oldtimers claim there aren't many plants left in this area, but that`s not true, the sisters say. "There`s more than there`s ever been," Mrs. Ware said. "We go everywhere and find it. I can drive right by a hollow and tell you if there`s ginseng in it just by looking, we`ve been doing it so long." Reports that it grows only in deep valleys are false, Mrs. Ware said. "They`ll tell you the deeper the hollow, the better," she said. "That`s wrong. A real shallow hollow is best." She found her largest ginseng plant in a shallow hollow three years ago. "I found one that was this high," she said, raising her hand waist high. "The top would fill three washtubs. That root must have weighed a quarter of a pound after it was dried. It was the biggest one I ever found." Is it really worth it, spending all that time in the woods, risking snakebite, just for a few roots? The sisters say it is. "If you go out there and find the right places you can make $100 a day," Mrs. Ware said. And there`s always the chance that they might find that magical, mystical, perfect root that is shaped like a man. "I`ve found it with everything except one arm or leg," Mrs. Ware said. "They say one in a million is going to find that perfect root."

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