Oct 062013

Cocke County, producing moonshine for the local market and ginseng for the Chinese market:

NEWPORT, Tenn. — State Rep. Jeremy Faison, with a team of researchers and administrators from MTSU in tow, set out in the woods of Cocke County Friday morning to dig for Appalachian gold.

He was with scientists from the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research, based at MTSU, who sought his help to collect samples of the East Tennessee-grown ginseng to compare with varieties of the herb found in China.

MTSU’s partnership with the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants in China is exploring the uses of ancient herbal remedies in modern medicine, an effort that has yielded almost 40 results showing promise in the treatment of cancer, viral infections and other aliments….

Ginseng has been a valuable medicinal herb, particularly in the Asian markets, for centuries. The American variety of the herb was discovered in the 1700s and has long been a part of Appalachian culture. Historians say legendary frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone were ginseng traders.

Demand for ginseng remains strong to this day, where aggressive harvesting of the wild herb in Asia has increased demand for American ginseng. State officials say ginseng is a multimillion-dollar industry for Tennessee….

It thrives in East Tennessee’s mountain region, where the forest soil is rocky, moist, light, and porous with a high content of rotten leaves. But, as a cultivated crop, it grows well throughout Tennessee in forest clearings, such as after selective tree harvesting….

“It’s all because of the Chinese market,” he said. “There’s something special about Appalachian ginseng — and they will pay premium dollars.”

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