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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 18:05 GMT
Alternative farmer turns to ginseng
Ginseng has been used for thousands of years
A farmer who says he is the only UK ginseng grower says he planted the crop after reading it was worth more than its weight in gold.

Simon Tunnard recreated a woodland environment at his farm in Bedfordshire to grow the plants, which are used in oriental and native American medicine.

With the rising popularity of alternative medicine, he believes his unique crop is the best way for his farm to remain in business.

But he says that although he sells the root for 50 per kilogram, it is not as lucrative as gold mining.

It has been used in medicine in excess of 3,000 years so it has got some staying power

Simon Tunnard

Mr Tunnard first began growing the plants seven years ago after contacting experts at Kew Gardens for advice.

But he had to wait nearly five years to harvest his crop and is only now getting the highest quality plants strong in the active ingredient of ginsenosides.

He told BBC News Online: "We have got a small farm and it is not enough to make a living.

"I had to think about something different to on the farm.

Age prevention

"Ginseng is a very valuable crop, it is not a faddish thing. It has been used in medicine in excess of 3,000 years so it has got some staying power."

Benefits of ginseng are said to range from age prevention to improving sexual performance and boosting the body's immune system.

Researchers have also said that ginseng can improve memory.

Mr Tunnard, 35, sells his crop through mail order and to smaller wholesalers and herbal remedy stores.

Although he only sells around three-quarters of his crop he says it is better than growing carrots.

"The health food market is very bouyant. You can't open a magazine or newspaper without finding out about alternative therapies.

"It is certainly growing year on year."

And the married father-of-two also practices what he grows.

"I take it every day and am very healthy and say it is because of the ginseng."

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See also:

10 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
The alternative to pill popping
26 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
South Korea celebrates ginseng
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