American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius L., is one of the most heavily traded medicinal plants in North America. The effect of harvest on genetic diversity in ginseng was measured with a single generation culling simulation program. Culling scenarios included random harvest at varying levels, legal limit random harvest and legal limit mature plant harvest. The legal limit was determined by the proportion of legally harvestable plants per population (% mature plants per population). Random harvest at varying levels resulted in significant loss of genetic diversity, especially allelic richness. Relative to initial levels, average within-population genetic diversity (H e) was significantly lower when plants were culled randomly at the legal limit (Mann-Whitney U = 430, p < 0.001) or when only mature plants were culled (Mann-Whitney U = 394, p < 0.01). Within-population genetic diversity was significantly higher with legal limit mature plant harvest (H e = 0.068) than when plants were culled randomly at the legal limit (H e = 0.064; U = 202, p < 0.01). Based on these simulations of harvest over one generation, we recommend that harvesting fewer than the proportion of mature plants could reduce the negative genetic effects of harvest on ginseng populations. ?? Springer 2005.