Contributions of medicinal plants to the Gross National Happiness and biodiscovery in Bhutan

Wangchuk, Phurpa, and Tobgay, Tashi (2015) Contributions of medicinal plants to the Gross National Happiness and biodiscovery in Bhutan. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 11. 48. pp. 1-12.

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The medicinal plants and the associated Bhutanese traditional medicine (BTM) are protected by the country's constitution and receive both government support and acceptance by the wider public. More than 1000 medicinal plants are described in the BTM but currently collects only 300 species for daily formulations of BTM. These medicinal plants have been one of the drivers of the 'Gross National Happiness (GNH)' and biodiscovery projects in Bhutan. However, no review covering the systematic evaluations of the contributions of medicinal plants and the BTM to the GNH and biodiscovery exist till date.


This paper, therefore addresses this information gap. It is based on the review of the existing traditional and scientific literature, government websites and policy documents. The descriptions and discussions of the paper is straightened, authenticated and enhanced by the data collected through the informal discussions with the BTM practitioners and also through the authors' many years of practical observations of the impact of the medicinal plants programs and the BTM practices in Bhutan.


This paper found the following: a) the medicinal plants generates income to the farmers elevating their living standard and the economic status, b) it serves as the bulk ingredients of the BTM facilitating the provision of free traditional health care services to the patients, c) helps the conservation of medicinal plants and their pristine environment through recognition of their spiritual, social and economic values, d) preserves the rich BTM cultural heritage, and e) guides the biodiscovery projects based on their ethnobotanical information. The paper also identified the challenges and research gaps, and recommends appropriate strategies that can help secure the sustainable future of the medicinal plants, the BTM and the biodiscovery projects.


The medicinal plants play significant role in the country's biodiscovery projects and the internationally renowned development policy of 'Gross National Happiness'.

Item ID: 40045
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1746-4269
Keywords: medicinal plants, Bhutanese traditional medicine, health care services, gross national happiness, biodiscovery, environmental conservation, socio-economic development
Additional Information:

© 2015 Wangchuk and Tobgay.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Funders: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Endeavour Awards, CSIRO, Government of Bhutan
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2015 02:38
FoR Codes: 03 CHEMICAL SCIENCES > 0304 Medicinal and Biomolecular Chemistry > 030401 Biologically Active Molecules @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1104 Complementary and Alternative Medicine > 110499 Complementary and Alternative Medicine not elsewhere classified @ 30%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070106 Farm Management, Rural Management and Agribusiness @ 20%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified @ 40%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960509 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Mountain and High Country Environments @ 20%
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