Meet The Ginseng King

Wild ginseng is far superior to the cultivated American or Chinese product,” exclaimed Robert Eidus. “That’s why the Chinese will buy whatever amount is shipped to them. It contains more ginsenosides, the therapeutic component that promotes overall health and relieves stress.”

Robert is passionate about the unassuming wild American plant. He grows, harvests and sells it but that’s not all. He’s a tireless promoter of ginseng as a high-value cash crop that can benefit impoverished areas in his adopted state of North Carolina. He gives generously of his time to see that Americans have access to products made from the wild native plant (Panax quinquefolius), which is more potent that the cultivated American or Asian variety (Panax ginseng).

He said, “Currently, most of the American ginseng sold in this country comes back to the U.S. from China and the cultivated products contain minimal amounts of the ginsenosides. Asia does not send back wild roots.”

We asked Robert what he meant by “high-value” ginseng and he said that the potency of roots grown in the wild makes it so. In 2012 one pound of wild American roots sold for around $800, compared to about $50 for a pound of cultivated American ginseng. The older the root, the more potent it is. Ginseng’s fragility adds to its value. Each wild plant needs to produce 100 seeds to replace one harvested plant.

ROBERT’S ROOTS

Just how did a 69-year old with a Brooklyn accent—an urban planner before moving to North Carolina and going into the real estate business—become a ginseng farmer and advocate?

“I discovered the real estate business wasn’t who I was. There was a big void in my life—a black hole.”
He became ill and credits lifestyle changes and ginseng with helping to restore his health. After attending a ginseng conference, he said, “It sounds whoo-whooish but I had a mental conversation with a ginseng plant, it was looking for someone to represent it.”

He picked the brains of people he met at the conference. He talked to Gary Stancisk, a builder who was putting up a house for Robert on land he had bought—28 acres of “hardwood cove paradise” adjacent to the French Broad River in Madison County.