Elephant/Butterfly: Constitutionally Cooler & Dryer

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nosce te ipsum - know thyself

One of the most extraordinary things about life is its ability to be endlessly creative. We can see this all around us, including in how every human being that has ever lived is completely unique! You who are reading this are one of a kind and so, of course, is each of your friends, your family, and everyone you know. The complexity within life, and each one of us, that allows for such individuality is something truly incredible, it is unlimited.

We set about categorising each other, therefore, at the peril of losing sight of this everyday wonder. Just as soon as we divide each other by age, race, nationality etc. we can lose the awareness of what matters most; namely that the endless creativity of life is equally expressed in the indivduality of every single one of our lives, that no one person is better or worse than another, and that we are all the same in being different.

So, why bring constitutions into the picture? It is to better understand, and work with, the inherent nature that underlies that individuality. Throughout history, all cultures have come to a similar recognition that, despite the obvious evidence of our differences, there are still recurring themes that show how we tend to be relatively hotter or cooler and, at the same time, relatively dryer or damper than one another.

The value of this understanding is that it gives such useful insights, including into what kinds of foods, habits and, when needed, medicines can form the surest foundation for our most precious possession of all; our health...

The Elephant-Butterfly (EB) Personality

I begin by focusing on just a few personality traits that have been chosen to demonstrate some key themes that manifest in the EB constitution however, it must be understood that these are only a small part of the whole and that none of this is meant to take anything away from your own, unlimited individuality. So long as we understand each other on that crucial point, do read on...


A definition of paradox is 'a seemingly contradictory statement which, when investigated, may prove to be well founded or true'

As their name itself implies, EBs always embody at least a few paradoxes, including their marked tendency towards both inner strength, and sensitivity.

True strength, as it might be understood from the perspective of Nature, is not about being able to dominate as much as it to endure. It is not showy, it is survival. Strength can be measured by how we deal with adversity, not by how easily we find success.

It is mostly only the people close to them that truly see, and know, the strength side of the equation in the EB constitution. Most EBs themselves are more aware of their sensitivity and do not feel especially tough, far from it, they may be more aware than most of the essential fragility of being human.

Nevertheless, EBs do have a great deal of inner strength and, when needed, are capable of maintaining arduous responsibilities and long hours of effort with great mental and physical stamina. EBs are, on average, the longest lived of the different consitutions, they can endure a great deal and still keep going.

If an EB wants to achieve a goal or become good at something, they will usually maintain the patience and tenacity to achieve their objectives. Consequently, they can be less likely than others to become a 'jack of all trades, master of none!'

A final example of the strength side of the EB paradox is that most are willing to stick to what they believe is right or true, even if it means they go against the stutus quo or it makes them become unpopular. EBs are rarely people who have a large social circle. There are usually only a few in their inner circle, and there must be at least one, with whom they can put aside all that Elephant strength and so safely emerge the true sensitivity of their Butterfly self.


At least some degree of sensitivity is essential to any living organism or it would quickly perish by not staying out of harm's way! Sensitivity is not an inherently bad quality, far from it, but it can be more than a little challenging to have an abundance of it and it is this side of the strength/sensitivity paradox that my EB patients relate to the most when we've talked about it.

Many EBs feel their sensitivity to the world, and the people in it, most acutely. They are often aware that they are more sensitive that others and many learn to hide it because they feel how it makes them vulnerable to the world's physical and emotional pollution, its roughness and carelessness, even the cruelty that exists between people who harbour their hurts instead of finding ways to heal them.

An EB cannot change their sensitivity, if anything it will increase as they get older! What they can do is understand it, embrace it and consciously work with it. For example, far more EBs than any other constitution, have a precious space in their lives for activities such as making music, art or writing, doing some creative craftwork, growing or collecting something etc. The reason for this is vital to grasp because if an EB is able to keep seeing, and reflecting, some kind of order, or beauty, or meaning in their experience of the world, then they can remain in the light with their sensitivity. However, if they get stuck in only seeing and reflecting the ugliness or decay that is also always just as much there to be seen, they can become hopelessly lost in its unrelenting heaviness.

I will often ask my EB patients if they have some kind of a hobby or practice that lets them express themselves, their inner nature, in some way. They know exactly what I am talking about and it is uncanny how many will say that they used to do something that they loved, and that gave them great peace, but how that practice has been long forgot as their troubles, and tensions, have now built up to an unbearable point of needing to get some help!


Whilst capable of becoming exhausted by using their strength for too long and whilst capable of becoming overly burdened by their sensitivity, an EB who is well connected into both sides of their nature, the Elephant and the Butterfly, can experience a great deal of peace, love and happiness in the, likely rather long, journey of their life.

My personal observation is that at least one large part of the key to that seems to be a willingness to be open to change and for the journey to take some twists and turns however, it can be seen that many EBs instinctively, even fiercely, resist change, often more than anyone!

Imagine the caterpillar, labouring its way across the forest floor, soft and vulnerable to any number of predators, and yet it may survive and go through one of the most remarkable transformations in all of Nature, to become a beautiful, light-winged butterfly.

Likewise, many EBs seem to have an internal journey that asks for no less a profound transformation for them to release their troubles and find their peace and happiness. Each person has their own unique path and must learn to follow their own light along the way however, as the journey is surely a long one, it will be much better to have the support of some good company along the way.


Good and close relationships are nearly always extremely important to EBs. A large part of the definition of their lives will be in terms of how they experience being a partner, a friend, a mother, father, sister, brother or child. EBs usually have a very tight inner circle. Those outside that circle have little to no idea of how genuinely warm and sensitive the EB can be, those inside the circle are in no doubt.

There are an endless range of possibilites that could be discussed in respect to relationships, so I only want to focus on what can be the hardest emotion for most EBs to deal with in and in this regard it has been seen that more EBs are intimate with the experience of loneliness than other constitutions.

Why is this? It may have a lot to do with the EB's innate sensitivity and thus their ability to be sorely wounded by the slings and arrows of human relationships. It can also be because many EBs struggle to find people to relate to at a heartfelt level, they aren't content to live life on the surface and can become somewhat alienated by materialism or frank self-interest.

In practice, entirely depending on why the person has come and what it is they need help with, I may ask my EB patient if there is at least one person in their life that they are being truly open and honest with or if they feel they always have to keep a kind of defensive shield around them.

I might ask such a question because, in many cases, if they are in a condition of solitude, or loneliness, that it may be hard going to see a significant shift in whatever physical health problems they have become stuck with. However, if there is at least one person that they can trust themselves to be vulnerable to, then important steps can be taken to keep things moving forwards.

EBs tend to have particularly long and strong memories, which can be a very good thing, but not when it comes to holding on to the hurts of the past. In this regard, it can be seen that everything is always better out than in! But you cannot do such things alone. At almost 30 years of full time practice at the time of writing this edit (2018) I can assure you that, like others, I see that the mind and heart have an extraordinary influence over the state of the body. Loneliness is not at all incurable but, rather than blame the world for its hardness, or for appearing not to care, it is the EB who must take the first step to expose their inner softness to another, or the shield just stays up.

From time to time I meet a person from this constitution who is aging exceptionally well, and I am again reminded of how deep their inner strength can go. Such a person, knowing how important it is to care for themselves, has probably come in for some minor issue, something we can easily deal with or prevent from developing into anything untoward. If I ask them some questions about their lives it is a near certainty that things have long been good in their inner circle and that their key relationships are going well. This is always clearly a core part of the reason they are doing so well.

It is not easy to fix problems in this area, for example, there is no herb or drug that mends a broken heart. However, if an EB who has become isolated and unwell is willing to open their heart to another then there is every chance that healing will happen, at any age. So how do you open your heart? To answer that question, we would need to start talking about faith, or love, both of which are equally indescribable. Let me just say that, if there's truly a will, then there's always a way.


' EB Nutrition

Food is incredibly important to the health of all kinds of people and EBs are, of course, no exception to this rule. 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 usually prefer lighter or 'airier' foods against heavier or denser fare. For example, many EBs are naturally drawn to a vegetarian diet or at least one that strongly emphasises fruits, juices, salads etc. and they may also instinctively go for long periods without eating much.

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 are not well and get a problem that is not resolving itself that we need to question the vital matter of diet and here it can be seen that the number-one issue EBs are prone to, by far, is depletion and deficiency...

Depletion & Deficiency

EBs are prone to becoming depleted in key nutrients, especially the minerals. For example, from routine blood tests for iron levels done at the time of the initial appointment, it can be seen that more EBs have some degree of anaemia than all the other constitutions put together!

There is a place for taking supplements, at least for a while, to rapidly correct such deficiencies however, a lasting improvement needs to be made through either improving digestion and/or adjusting the diet.

If there are any indicators that digestion needs to be improved (e.g. poor appetite, or any kind of indigestion symptoms, or poor bowel health) then one of the best ways to help is through the use of one or more herbs from a class of remedies called 'bitter tonics'.

Bitter herbs rapidly reactivate the digestive 'fire' and so improve appetite and digestion, including improving the absorption of minerals and other key elements from foods. For example, as little as 10 or 12 drops of Gentian root, often combined with Ginger, taken before meals two or three times a day for a week or more can be immediately effective for some EBs, who routinely report finding themselves enjoying, or even craving, the strong taste and effect of the bitters after just a few doses. This important subject, along with the practical guidance on the 'how-to' is written up in detail on Gentian, aka the 'King of Bitters', found here

Warming & nourishing

If an EB person becomes depleted and unwell, it may be of great help, at least for a time, to shift the diet towards one that is more warming and nourishing. In practical terms, this means to increase protein-rich foods, grains and vegetables that are not taken raw but rather are cooked in a way that leaves plenty of moisture, i.e. water and fats or oils in the food.

Examples of this are this are such things as cooked cereals, omelettes, soups, casseroles, or foods prepared in a slow cooker. At least once a day to have a meal that has some kind of meat, fish, chicken, eggs, legumes, nuts or seeds that are prepared in a way that cooks the food well without drying it out.

Protein-rich foods are especially high in the essential minerals that are often found to be depleted in EBs, and they are much more easily digested and assimilated when they are well cooked. They should be taken hot along with whatever vegetables are best liked, and the warming benefits can be increased by adding one or more herbs such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, black pepper etc.

There are countless ways in which to make such foods delicious and it should be mentioned here, re the discussion above, that an EB who is in touch with their creative side in the kitchen can be well and truly serving their innate need for artistic expression in a most living, vibrant manner.

Making a conscious effort to increase protein and well-cooked food can initially be a challenge to a person who is habituated to a more raw, vegetarian diet, but once they get started and their nourishment improves, they always feel so much better for it that the resistance rapidly dissipates.

Many EBs have later described that they realised that the more warming, hearty, nourishing foods were exactly what their body had been craving and that learning this knowledge helps them to better hear those instincts when they come to call on them again.


'EB Fitness

As with nutrition, our fitness is vitally important to our health and well-being and, just as with food, different constitutions clearly suit different kinds of exercise and movement more than others.

EBs tend to do especially well with long, sustained but less than maximum intensity forms of exercise. Many EBs are instinctively drawn to things like long walks, long jogs or tramping, distance cycling, yoga, pilates etc. They tend to have excellent endurance and will often volunteer that it is their doing some kind of long-distance exercise in one form or another that they best destress and feel well in the world. In fact, I've met many EBs whose health history shows that they began to come apart when, usually from some kind of injury or major life change, they were no longer able to sustain the exercise routine that had been keeping them mentally and physically together.

If an EB is not doing any kind of sustained, regular exercise, and they have a functional health problem involving their endocrine (hormones) or nervous system, then I would think that an essential part of the cure is always going to be to get out and get moving. Walking, for example, is an ideal option that almost anyone can do. A good walk can put the world to rights, so can getting into the garden for a while. It doesn't matter what it is so long as it's not all over too soon. When it's needed, long, sustained activity or exercise is real medicine for an EB and it can be relied on to work.

There does sometimes needs to be a caution at the other end of the scale though. An EB with signs of an impaired immune system (e.g. recurrent infections, wounds or injuries that are too slow to heal) may need to exercise much less and rest much more. Every person is unique, each case is different.

For most people, their health and fitness are a gift for the first half of their lives, and then they have to start earning it! In this regard, mental fitness is no different, or less important, than physical fitness, and finding the best ways to keep our minds active and engaged clearly makes an enormous difference to our quality of life as we age.

EBs naturally think a lot and process things deeply, sometimes too much, they may need to consciously channel their inclination to be too much in their heads for, as it was said millennia ago, 'the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master!'

For any constitution, depending on their case and individual challenges, I sometimes ask the question "what have you been studying or learning about lately?" If a person's mind becomes 'set' in its thinking and manner of experiencing the world, the result is no different than if they were to stop moving or stretching their body; there is a stiffness, a rigidity, a hardness that can develop.

People can keep vibrantly good mental health into great old age, but only if they maintain their mental fitness. There is no one right way to do this anymore than there is one right way to exercise the body. The only real danger, once again, is to be in denial of this being an issue if it really is a problem because, if there is a conscious choice to remain open to a journey that has no final destination, then the means to remaining young and alive in spirit are as many and varied as the unlimited creativity of life itself!


'EB Rest & Relaxation

Along with nutrition and fitness, the third great pillar under our health is the quality of our rest and relaxation. I've often used a kind of case-taking shorthand by asking people to give themselves a score out of 10 for their food, fitness and rest/relaxation. People are honest about it if you ask them openly and it is a notable pattern that many EBs are well aware of eating well, likewise they have good exercise habits, but their self-score for rest and relaxation plummets to a sub-5 number.

Part of it can be that many EBs are particularly light sleepers at the best of times and, if anything is disturbing them, they can be awake in the night for much too long, much too often. Part of it can be related to the kinds of things I was talking about earlier under the personality traits of EBs. Things like taking things in too hard and not understanding the sensitivity and need for expression, and connection, to get right in the world.

Whatever the cause, if there is a problem with getting enough good quality rest and relaxation then there will definitely be trouble. No-one is in any doubt that a lack of rest and relaxation is the leading cause behind a great number of the chronic problems that affect so many people today and many health problems only get better when we get out of the way and get the rest we need.

I always suggest turning to Nature for the first step. There are some excellent herbs to help with improving sleep written up in the article on insomnia here and, if the issue goes into coming from excess anxiety, then the best of what I know to legitimately help is described in detail here

Again, where there is a will there is a way. Over and again I have found in practice that the number one enemy is not the problem itself that is being dealt with, it is the denial that can come along with it. If the person can simply acknowledge that they are suffering from stress, and that they surely need rest and relaxation to get better, then the way forwards will become clear. Good food will always help, so will herbs, so will exercise if you are well enough for it, and then it is largely a matter of simply letting go and getting out of the way. We all came into the world as expert sleepers and relaxers, even if it seems like it's long lost and forgot, it is definitely possible to get back something we were born knowing how to do.


'EB Health & Medicine

Health really is our most valuable possession. However, hardly anyone gets the truth of that until they've lost it, at least for a while. Hopefully, what is lost can always be found and, unless a person is born with a problem, then there is every chance they can find a solution for it. Which can happen so long as they see and treat the cause.

This can be the great value of recognising the patterns of our differences via the constitutional approach, which in turn equally ties in with another way of seeing what can help, or obstruct, the self- healing process by understanding that each and every one of us has within us a 'healing cycle' that we move through in the course of our daily lives and that it is always when one part of that cycle is repeatedly blocked or out of balance that we become unable to self-correct what's gone wrong.

The above discussions on nutrition, fitness and rest/relaxation have already gone into material that affects 3 of the 4 stages of the healing cycle, the 4th is about 'cleansing', and it is this area that most often needs some initial attention in a person who has become chronically unwell. EBs are no exception to this and, even though they may have maintained a clean diet and environment, many show the classic signs of 'encumbrance' when first met. However, with the aid of some sure remedies from Nature, they almost always begin to make rapid progress when this essential part of the healing cycle is given the attention it needs.

If you personally need to delve into this subject further, then the subject of internal cleansing is discussed in more detail here. Likewise, the fascinating and vital subject of the healing cycle is introduced and described further here

I don't want to describe the potential health problems that EBs are particularly prone to, it would make for a most gloomy list and none of it may ever be personally relevant to you! However, if there is something you are troubled by now, or want to know more about, you can see the health problems I've had positive experience with treating in the A-Z of health conditions found here

On the other hand, I do want to highlight some of the tried and true remedies from Nature that can be of particular help to EBs if used wisely and when needed.

One of the most highly regarded energy tonics from the ancient tradition of Chinese medicine, a herb called Panax Ginseng, can be of great support to an EB that has become too tired or depleted. Likewise, one of the most revered tonics from the equally ancient Ayurvedic system medicine is the root of the herb Withania which may likewise be of certain help to gradually restore strength to an EB.

If there is too much physical tension, then the fast-acting Native American herb Cramp Bark can be used to excellent effect. Equally, if there is too much tension in the nervous system then the potent relaxant Valerian root can be of much help.

EBs who become too vulnerable to the cold and get deep-seated aches can do well with wonderfully warming remedies such as Cayenne or Turmeric. Their aging heart always responds well to Hawthorn and the great immune tonics Echinacea and Astragalus are sure supports when needed.

Those are just a very few examples, so long as it is clearly understood that, at different times and with different problems, any herb may potentially be of help to any constitution, to see what else is particularly well-suited to EBs, there are further patterns shown in the chart on constitutional medicines found here

~ Tigers: Hotter & Damper

~ Eagles: Hotter & Dryer

~ Elephant/Butterfly: Cooler & Dryer

~ Bears: Cooler & Damper

~ Back to Constitutional Medicine Introduction

~ Working out your Constitution

~ Origins & Adaptations of Constitutional Medicine

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