History of Ginseng in Ontario

The earliest written record of the Canadian ginseng industry goes back  to 1717. A Jesuit priest, discovered ginseng growing in the shade of oak & maple trees near his home in the Montreal area.

In 1720 the first company was formed to harvest & ship wild ginseng to china, and in the following years ginseng exports were second only to furs. The harvested root came from both the southern parts of Quebec and the Ottawa river valley in Ontario.

Over time, ginseng sources were depleted to the point that the Chinese were being offered young & immature plants. they soon stopped buying & trade ended. By the 1850’s the wild ginseng root became extremely rare, both in Canada & the U.S. due to over harvesting.

Meet Clarence Hellyer

In 1896 a trapper named Clarence Hellyer became aware of the ginseng root & it’s monetary value. While on a trip in the United States, he also recognized it was the same plant that was growing in the wild near his home in the Simcoe – Waterford area of southern Ontario.

Clarence harvested some of the wild ginseng seed and planted it in the shade of the apple trees in his orchard. This was the first known ginseng garden in Ontario. This was the beginning of the present day Ontario ginseng industry with the Hellyer family having a prominent role in the development of the industry over the years.

Clarence continued to experiment with ginseng & he learned some of the peculiarities of this plant. His nephew Audrey took a great interest in the ginseng plant & his first garden in 1902 at the age of 14.

From Clarence to Audrey

Audrey took over where his uncle had left off, and through much experimenting, developed practices & methods that are the basis of today’s industry.

At some point they moved the gardens out to the open & provided shade for the plants with a 4’x4’ wooden lath panel supported by a post & wire system. Over the years, shaping of ginseng beds, mechanical planting & using straw for mulch were all developed. For years, the root was harvested by hand using pitch forks. The roots were all sun dried until the 1920’s when Audrey developed the first ginseng dryer system.

World War 2 and Ginseng

Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the industry had expanded to 20-30 growers who dried their root & marketed it through the Hellyer operation.  The day the bombs hit, the trade door for ginseng closed and did not reopen for 5 years.

All of the growers left the industry as there was no market for their product, except Audrey who had held on and kept the plant harvest cycle going. He had maintained his seed supplies & this gave him a strong position when the war ended and he could expand his operation.

Passing the Torch

In 1965 Mr. John Race, Audrey’s son in law, became involved in the ginseng industry. He became the first full-time ginseng grower in Canada .

John opened Canadian ginseng retail store in 1994, to introduce our fellow Canadians to what we know as one of the best herbal plants in the world. “Uncle John” as he is known by his friends, has continued his interest in ginseng research & marketing, and has maintained highly ethical business dealings in the orient over many years.

The store is run today by Dawn Scott, who has had a passion for ginseng since 1987. Dawn has worked for a couple different ginseng farmers, over the years, and learned what is involved in growing quality ginseng root.

Today: Canadian Ginseng

We pride ourselves in only selling quality ginseng root, and ginseng products. Our ‘Uncle John’s Ginseng Capsules‘ are named after John Race, We use only 100% Ontario grown ginseng in our capsules (no binders or fillers).

Take Ontario ginseng to help the body help itself.

We don’t pride ourselves in unnecessary packaging or expensive advertising. However, we do take pride in offering our customers high quality ginseng root and ginseng products at very competitive prices.