Growing or collecting native forest herbs in Ontario

From Sean Westerveld, Ginseng and Medicinal Herb Specialist, OMAFRA:

There are numerous native herbs that grow wild in forests in southern Ontario and are important medicinal plants, such as ginseng, goldenseal, and black cohosh. However, there are a number of things to consider before growing these herbs or collecting them from the wild.

Ginseng and goldenseal are protected under the Endangered Species Act in Ontario and cannot be grown in or collected from the wild without a permit. These herbs are also covered by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). Export of wild collected ginseng or goldenseal is not currently permitted, and export of field produced ginseng or goldenseal requires a permit.

Many herbs can be easily confused with other wild plants that can be poisonous. Proper plant identification is essential to avoid medical complications. The Canadian Herb, Spice and Natural Health Production Coalition has created a Plant Identification manual to assist herb producers and wildcrafters in procedures that ensure proper plant identification. The same group has also created a Good Agriculture and Collection Practices Manual that covers issues such as food safety and traceability. Information on these manuals is available at

For those herbs that can be legally collected from the wild, sustainable collection practices are essential. Field production of these herbs is possible under artificial shade, but requires specialized planting and management techniques.

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