Robert Eidus protects Appalachia’s medicinal plants

LET IT GROW: Robert Eidus says the mountains of Western North Carolina provide the perfect environment for American ginseng to grow. Photo by Carrie Eidson

Wild American ginseng, prized for centuries for its medicinal qualities as an anti-inflammatory and aphrodisiac, grows naturally on the mountainsides of southern Appalachia.

“The main thing about ginseng is that it is the best plant for the human body to be rejuvenating,” says ginseng farmer Robert Eidus. “It has tremendous benefits to the human body.”

But high international demand for the herb — which sells for about $550 per pound — has led to overharvesting and driven American ginseng perilously close to extinction. While the season for harvesting wild ginseng only lasts from September through December in North Carolina, the plant requires several years of growth to reach a harvestable size.

Eidus started Eagle Feather Organic Farm more than 25 years ago to grow and protect the area’s natural ginseng. Today, Eidus grows and distributes ginseng roots, seeds and plants while practicing and teaching sustainable agriculture to fellow ginseng lovers at the botanical sanctuary in Marshall.

Since the plants grow in their natural habitat, traditional farming methods are replaced with natural approaches. For example, the harsh chemicals that would otherwise be necessary to protect the ginseng’s valuable root systems against fungus aren’t necessary in the forest setting, Eidus says. Forgoing chemical fungicides protects both the environment and the eventual users of the plants.

“What happens, of course, is since this is a root crop, there’s all of that spraying going into the soil and the plant absorbs it,” he notes.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.