Elephant/Butterfly: Constitutionally Cooler & Dryer

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nosce te ipsum - know thyself

' Food Matters

Food is incredibly important to the health of all kinds of people and EBs (Elephant/Butterflies) are no exceptions to this. The kind of food that people prefer is another fascinating reflection of their constitution and it is noticeable that the naturally cooler and dryer EB will often prefer more light, airy, 'nibblier' foods against heavier and denser fare. For example, many EBs are naturally drawn to a vegetarian diet or at least one that strongly emphasises fruits, juices, salads etc. They may also instinctively go for quite long periods without much food because when they do eat a substantial meal they can feel rather weighed down by it! There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this and, so long as the EB is in good health they should certainly follow their instincts and eat what they most enjoy. It is only if and when they get a health problem that is not resolving by itself that we need to question the vital matter of diet and here it can be seen that, by far, the number one issue EBs are prone to is depletion and deficiency...



An EB is very prone to becoming depleted in key nutrients, especially the minerals. For example, I nearly always test my patient's blood iron on their first visit and I have seen more EBs with anaemia than all the other constitutions put together! Likewise, when looking at their blood under the microscope, it is quite common to find structural weakness in the walls of the blood cells because of being deficient in key nutrients. I will freely use some mineral or nutritional supplements for a short while in such instances but this is only with the finite goal of 'plugging the gap' and correcting the depletion because the lasting cure for this important issue should be in a diet that gives them all of what they need...

Warming & nourishing

The key point to convey to an EB who has gone into nutritional deficiency is that the main thing they need to do to remedy their imbalance is to eat plenty of foods that are both warming and nourishing. To put what I am saying here in very practical terms right away I am talking here about proteins, fats, vegetables and herbs that are not taken raw but are cooked in a way that does not dry them out but rather leaves plenty of water, or oil, or both in the food. This can be a significant challenge to the thinking of a sensitive person who is naturally drawn to light, airy, raw foods but once they start down this track I find they soon almost always feel so much better for it that the challenge of the change is soon overcome.

Some practical examples of this are this are such things as a cooked cereal or an omelette for breakfast and then at least one other meal at lunch or dinner that has some kind of meat, fish, chicken, eggs or nuts that are well cooked and preferably slowly cooked in water and/or oil. It may also be highly beneficial to add some warming herbs such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, pepper etc. This is the key theme to grasp, in terms of what to actually eat there are truly thousands of ways you can make such foods delicious and nutritious! Further to all this, for anyone who wants a more detailed overview on the subject of healthy eating, there is an article called Excellent Nutrition found here.

Fluid levels

The nature of the EB to be dry means that many will naturally drink a lot of water during the day but, because of their simultaneous tendency towards coolness, this may mean just mean many trips to the toilet rather than the real rehydration that is needed. A reasonable rule of thumb to get the levels right is that if you are going to the toilet to pass urine less than every two hours then you probably aren't having enough but on the other hand if you are going more than once an hour then you are probably overdoing it! If you find that you feel somewhat dehydrated no matter how much you drink then, as described above, you need to fix that internal 'dryness' with foods that are rich in water and with water that is at least somewhat rich in food.


'Moving Well

Many EBs build up a kind of internal tension that is vital for them to express and release through their physical body with some kind of work or exercise. Failing that there can be hell to pay in the nervous system! I have found that most EBs do not need too much encouragement to get out and exercise but rather their most common hindrance is the lack of a pleasant environment to do it in and, if they don't have a garden or are overly immersed in an urban environment, then they may have to travel to meet their needs and not get stuck too long in just one place.

'LSD exercise

The typical EB is especially well suited to LSD (long, slow, distance) exercise and I think this constitution might produce more marathon runners or endurance athletes than the other three put together! The idea of the 'Elephant & the Butterfly' is well expressed in the way that EBs often have comparatively lighter frames and may not be the best at sudden and strong exertion but put them in a position where endurance will win the day and they can truly excel. For example, many EBs find themselves naturally drawn to exercise that requires strength and stamina such as hiking, long walks, jogging, yoga, pilates, rowing, mountaineering etc.

'When to wait

One of the more remarkable aspects of the EB constitution is that, even when they can feel tired to the point of exhaustion, they may still possess phenomenal reserves of energy! That said, if the person is getting fatigued from exercise or If I am working with an EB who has become significantly unwell then they may simply have to take a rest from strong physical exertion for a period of time. In such cases it is a sure sign that they are well on the road to recovery when they can again work out and rebuild their fitness without paying the penalty of fatigue.


'Rest & Relaxation

Along with diet and exercise, good sleep and relaxation is one of the greatest determinants of health and happiness but what best suits each constitution has distinct differences.

'Emptying out

Many EBs have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep and it is clear that one of the main determinants of how bad a problem this becomes or whether it even begins is how well they are able to express or release their store of daily energy. In a very practical sense I am talking about a kind of 'emptying out'. As much as many EBs will say they feel subjectively tired these are in fact people who have great reserves of internal energy - it is how it is channelled that makes all the world of difference. Of course people will vary greatly in how they express their natural energy but I see a common theme in many EBs that the ones who have the most inner calm and sleep the best are the ones who regularly do some kind of pleasant, voluntary work with their hands, e.g. writing, drawing, music, craftwork etc.

If you who are reading this identify with having actual insomnia, then I recommend you read a detailed article on this subject that contains some advice and techniques that I have seen work very successfully for a great many people - it's here.

'What you like

This is further to the observations above about 'emptying out' and it is to say that, further to sleep health, I also see a consistent pattern when it comes to the vital subject of relaxation how EBs are people who best let go their tension by doing something that they enjoy. Exercise is a huge part of this for many EBs though that might happen just as well in a garden as a gym but for some EBs it is clear that an activity is essential for them to properly unwind and get into a place of relaxed inner well-being. Many of my EB patients, who don't tend to come in until things are very bad indeed, have lost count of the years that it has last been since they did some kind of relaxing pastime that they used to get a lot of peace and happiness doing. In such cases, of course, the first order of importance is to pick that same practice up again, they can easily change to something else later if they feel they have outgrown it, but it is better to start on familiar territory. I can tell you that the difference in the speed of their recovery when such simple but essential matters are attended to is like that of night and day.



The personality of the typical EB (Elephant/Butterfly) is much too complex to quickly summarise but there are several qualities that come through over and again and two of the most obvious are their strength and at the same time their sensitivity.


EBs are often quite fine-boned and light on their feet so the first thing to make clear is that the Elephant part of the equation represents their inner strength rather than their outer size! There are many paradoxes in a typical EB - especially in relation to this quality of strength.

If you were to ask them, many EBs might not think or feel that they were particularly big and strong, nor would they necessarily be giving out that kind of impression, but if you look closer you will see that there is in fact a great deal of inner strength that reflects in such ways as how much they can do in an average day, how much stress they can handle without caving in and, not so obvious unless you are looking, how long they tend to live for (the longest of the four constitutions on average!)


EBs pretty much always have a high degree of sensitivity but, because of the vulnerability that this brings, many learn to put on a kind of cool exterior to hide this from the outside world. Sensitivity takes many forms - perhaps particularly in the way other people can affect, but also in the way foods, smells, noise and the environment in general can make a person feel.

Most EBs experience their sensitivity to be sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. It can be a curse because there are many things in the world can't be remedied and they are affect and EB far more than it seems they affect others. It can be a blessing when there is beauty around and the EB can really see, and feel it...



Just as the Elephant is famous for its long memory so it can often be seen that people from the EB constitution can have remarkably good memories compared to others. This can be a great asset, especially in how we can then learn from history so as not to repeat its mistakes but an EB must be especially careful not to get overly burdened by their past. Their long memory must be tempered with the ability to let go and forgive or there can be hell to pay with their relationships!


In no small part due to their innate sensitivity, many EBs hold a great deal of their inner lives to themselves. They can have so much going on internally that they feel it would be impossible for someone outside to understand. They might say "why would they want to anyway, and where would they even start!" The quality of reticence is usually interpreted in a negative light in a world that favours fame, extroversion putting life on display however it is not at all a bad thing to be very careful with whom you share your inner world and it is also true that simply talking about things doesn't change them.

That said, I have observed in practice, that many EBs will go on to suffer a heavy burden in their life if they do no find a way to open up and express themselves that works for them. Talking may be enough for some but I also see that many EBs do not find the release they need from this alone and need a more tangible, physical method to express themselves into the word. The clear evidence that many EBs already do this by instinct is that there appear to be more painters, writers, craftspeople, musicians etc. from the EB constitution than all the others put together!


In working with a great many EBs over the years I have seen that nearly all of them are drawn to particularly intimate relationships but that they tend to keep their affections for a very small group that includes some immediate members in their family and one or two friends.

As mentioned above, EBs are people who feel things intently from those around them but they also often have a tendency to hold those feelings to themselves which can eventually accumulate into all kinds of trouble! EBs must express themselves rather than going into silence and withdrawal, especially when they are hurt. In particular, the emotion of anger or frustration is one of the hardest for all of us to express in a way that leads to healing rather than destruction and this is an area that many people need to work on so I have some practical advice on how to go about that here.

I see that for an EB the path to peace always includes good communication and knowing that you must never nurse resentments or it will be your health that will surely suffer. EBs do not often have the easiest road in this life, their sensitivity sees to that, but if you are lucky enough to be with an EB then, so long as they are openly expressing themselves, you will never lack love in your life.


'Problems & Solutions

EBs have great inner strength and can typically handle a lot more stress than they give themselves credit for but there will be times in the lives of many where they will be sorely tested and troubled by one or more particularly hard to shift health problems.

'EB health

One of the things that I see coming up the most is simple exhaustion. If an EB is not getting the nourishment they need, or if they are giving out too much, too long, then they inevitably get to a level of fatigue that is so deep that it practically makes them ache! This kind of tiredness is not something with a quick cure but it will most definitely get better with the right treatment over time. A detailed article on a holistic approach to healing fatigue is found here.

EBs have more problems with their thyroid health than any other constitution (more info on this common but under-diagnosed problem here). Likewise, I have met many more EBs with fertility problems than others (more here). Some EBs can suffer badly from poor circulation including getting Raynaud's syndrome (info here), heart arrhythmias (more here) and migraines (more info here). The combination of coolness and dryness and the observable fact that they tend to have long lives means that EBs have to be especially careful to keep their joints warm and supple or they can deteriorate into arthritis or rheumatism as they age (more info here) and likewise this is a constitution that has to be especially careful not to develop osteoporosis (more here).

As mentioned earlier, EBs often have a lot going on internally with the consequence that they can have highly active minds that give them troubles with relaxing in general and sleeping in particular. If they have a level of excess tension that is causing chronic anxiety then there are old, safe and effective ways to help this that are surely a thousand times better than taking drugs to dull the mind (detailed info here).

The thyroid; small gland - big effects

'EB medicine

Most modern drugs are centred on reducing people's symptoms, which can be a vital strategy when a problem has become overwhelming, but can be a dangerously inadequate approach if a condition has become chronic and nothing is being done to address the cause! The old ways of medicine focus on helping the person get the strength and support to resolve their own problems and this is where a constitutional approach can be so helpful - because it lets you see exactly what kind of support that person most needs right now. None of what follows can take the place of a one to one consultation but I want to give you some examples of constitutional medicine in action by describing some typical medicines that particularly suit the cool and dry constitution.

As I have just mentioned, deep tiredness is a common problem and the most highly regarded energy tonic in the ancient tradition of Chinese medicine is Panax Ginseng (more info here) whilst the most revered tonic in the equally ancient Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine is the root of the herb Withania (more here). I use a very great deal of these two herbs combined together and over the years I have developed a deep trust in their ability to restore vitality to even the most depleted of my patients.

If an EB has significant physical tension causing them health problems then the potent American Indian herb Cramp Bark can be used to excellent and rapid effect (more info about it here) and likewise if there is tension in the nervous system that is interfering with sleep and rest then I have seen great benefits from the great relaxer Valerian (more info here) For a woman with the cool and dry constitution who are experiencing menstrual problems or imbalances then one of the powerful women's herbs such as Black Cohosh (more info here) or Dong Quai (more here) have been seen to be remarkably healing when used with care.

EBs who get a weakened immunity with a feeling of vulnerability to cold can be greatly helped by the Chinese tonic herb Astragalus (more info here) or the American Indian herb Echinacea (more here) If I can hear through my stethoscope or from how they are responding to exercise that the heart of an EB is tiring out then I will likely introduce my patient to that great friend of the heart Hawthorn (more info here)

'Cycle of healing

When a problem is not getting better by itself then it always means that some part of the cycle of healing has become stuck. There are four key phases in the cycle of healing and note that the one that can need the primary attention can be any of the four in any of the constitutions but, that said, it is a noticeable pattern in EBs that the 'nourishment' phase of the cycle is the one that most often needs the most care. For those who want to delve more deeply into this subject and learn more about what herbs may best help them with their health there is a chart that gives an overview of the healing cycle here and a supportive article that talks about the subject in more depth here.

~ Tigers: Hotter & Damper

~ Eagles: Hotter & Dryer

~ Elephant/Butterfly: Cooler & Dryer

~ Bears: Cooler & Damper

~ Back to Constitutional Medicine Introduction

~ Working our your Constitution

~ Origins & Adaptations of Constitutional Medicine

Panax ginseng

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd