National Institute of Traditional Medicine

Museum in Thimphu

Image by Sam W Stearman Getty Images

Established in 1978, this institute collects medicinal plants from remote corners of the Bhutanese Himalaya, such as Lingzhi, Laya and Lunana, and then distributes pills, tablets, ointments and medicinal teas to regional health-care units around the country. The small museum details some of the 300 herbs, minerals and animal parts that Bhutanese doctors have to choose from.

Of particular interest is yartsa goenbub (cordyceps) – the high-altitude cure-all 'Himalayan Viagra', which is actually a caterpillar that has been mummified by a fungus. The curious 'worm-root' sells for up to US$25,000 per kilogram in China.

If you're feeling under the weather, the on-site clinic will tell you if your wind, bile and phlegm are in balance and prescribe appropriate medicines or treatments, all free of charge. Lasgang root and gentiana are said to do wonders for a sore throat, while chozen nagsel helps in curing 'all diseases caused by evil spirits'.