UNION COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world but local law enforcement say it's leading to a serious poaching problem.
Officers say it's happening across southern Illinois, among other places.
Kerry Johnson, a Union County land owner said someone is reaping the benefits of what he's been planting.
"It is pretty common to have ginseng hunters come in without permission," Johnson said. "I have a lot of people that ask but I always reply courteously, 'I'd rather not.'"
That or his game cameras catch them right in the act, and he's not happy about it.
This plant is worth so much money because it is used for medicinal uses.
"Ginseng right now is going for about $600 a pound dry weight. I have heard that there are reports of it going for $1,000 a pound," Officer Kris Taylor with IDNR said.
Taylor says they're seeing an increase in the number of arrests this fall for illegally digging and harvesting the root.
Getting caught without a harvesting license or trespassing, could mean jail time.
"Since they are getting a high dollar amount for the ginseng itself it can be considered theft from the private property owner," Officer Taylor said.
Property owners like Johnson say don't take what isn't yours.
"From my perspective it is just like walking in my home and taking something out of the refrigerator."
Poaching has also led to an extinction of ginseng in parts of the country.
In 2012, the U.S. exported 45,000 pounds of wild ginseng, compared with 342,000 pounds of cultivated ginseng.
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