Elephant/Butterfly: Constitutionally Cooler & Dryer

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nosce te ipsum - know thyself

One of the most incredible things about life is its ability to be endlessly creative. 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 extraordinary, 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 great creativity of life is equally expressed in the individuality of each of our lives, that no one person is inherently better or worse than another, we are the same in being different.

So, why bring constitutions into the picture? It is to better understand, and work with, the 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.

'Nosce te ipsum' know thyself. 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

There are several characteristics that perfectly demonstrate the distinct personality of the EB:


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

As the name 'Elephant-Butterfly' implies, this constitution embodies paradox, particularly including the combination of strength and sensitivity.

Strength, as understood from the long view of Nature, is about survival, endurance, and the ability to evolve. It cannot be gauged by how easy things are, it can be measured by how we deal with adversity.

Some EBs are aware of their formidable inner strength, people close to them generally see it better. Many EBs do not feel especially tough and strong; their sensitivity makes them more aware than most of the vulnerability, and fragility, of being human.

Nevertheless, they are strong, if an EB wants to achieve a goal or become good at something, they can maintain the patience and tenacity to achieve their objective. Likewise, they can hold their ground for what they believe in, even if it means they have to struggle long and hard.

The inner strength of the EB means that, even when they get very tired, they are still capable of maintaining arduous responsibilities and long hours. They have great mental and physical stamina, they can endure a great deal and still keep going and they are, on average, the longest lived of all the different constitutions.


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 EBs tend to relate to the most.

Many EBs feel their sensitivity to the world, and its people, most acutely. They are deeply affected by cruelty, pollution and disharmony and, if they are not careful, can come to feel pinned, trapped, or weighed down by the negativity that is always somewhere around.

An EB cannot change their nature to be sensitive, if anything it tends to increase as they get older. What they can do is understand it and consciously work with it rather than against it. Because somewhere, somehow, there are always positives around us too and the EB can be just as sensitive to, and deeply affected by, kindness, beauty, and harmony.

There is a good reason that more EBs than any other constitution have space in their lives for things like art, crafts, music, writing, gardening etc. They've worked out for themselves that these kinds of activities keep them light, feeling better, maybe even sane! If they are able to keep seeing, and reflecting, some kind of order, or beauty, or meaning in their experience of the world, then they can be ok with their sensitivity. However, if they get stuck in only seeing and reflecting the ugliness or decay that is also always there somewhere, they can become hopelessly lost in unrelenting heaviness.

I often ask my EB patients if they have some kind of a hobby or practice that lets them create some beauty or express themselves 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 peace when they did it, but how that practice has been long forgot as their troubles, and tensions, have now built up to the 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 long journey of their life.

At least one large part of the key to success with this seems to be a willingness to be open to change 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 have a journey that asks for no less a profound internal transformation to find their lightness, peace and happiness. Each person must follow their own light along their own unique way however, what is universally true is that resistance to change only makes things harder. The choice is always there to let go and trust the process, it is learning how to be ok with their fears and anxieties that is usually the biggest challenge, a subject that is discussed in much more depth in the emotional health section for EBs.

Further reading on emotional health

If you are interested in reading further about the emotional health and healing of the EB constitution, there is a link to quite a lot more on this subject at the bottom of this page under the section on health and medicine


' EB Nutrition

Food is incredibly important to the health of all kinds of people and EBs are, of course, no exception 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 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 many 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 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, indigestion symptoms, 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 practical guidance on the 'how-to' is written up in detail in the article on Gentian found here

Warming & nourishing

If an EB 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 are rather 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. 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 and it can be of much benefit to have a meal, at least once a day, 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. The proteins can be taken 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 this most living form of creativity!

Making a conscious effort to increase proteins 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 later say that they soon realised that the more warming, nourishing foods were exactly what their body had been craving.


'EB Fitness

For most people, their health and fitness are a gift for the 1st half of their lives and then, in the 2nd half, they have to start earning them.

As with nutrition, our fitness is vitally important to our health 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 forms of exercise and are often instinctively drawn to things like walking, tramping, long distance running, cycling, yoga, pilates etc. They usually have excellent endurance, and many say that exercise is the way they best destress and feel well in the world. Sometimes it happens, through illness or a major life change, that they are unable to keep up their exercise routines and they later trace a lot of other health troubles back to that point.

If they are not doing any kind of sustained, regular exercise, and have a functional health problem involving their endocrine (hormones) or nervous system, then getting moving again is likely going to be an essential part of their recovery. 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. There are many options, 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 effective, reliable 'medicine' for an EB.

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 less and rest more. Each case is different, every person is unique.

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!'

Sometimes a useful question to ask yourself is "what have I 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 but if there is a conscious choice to remain open and to stay mentally fit, 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.

People are honest about it if you ask them openly and it is a notable pattern that many EBs are very aware of eating well and score well there, likewise they have good exercise habits and score well there too, but their rest and relaxation is often not going so well and their self-score 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 their innate need for activities that allow for expression and creativity 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, 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

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 to something we were born already knowing how to do...


'EB Health & Medicine

Health really is our most valuable possession, but hardly anyone realises the truth of that until they've lost it... however, if you treat the cause and work with 'Nature', i.e. the innate self-healing intelligence, then what's lost can be found.

Recognising the patterns of our differences via the constitutional approach ties in with another way of seeing what can help, or obstruct, this self- healing intelligence. We have within us a 'healing cycle' that we constantly move through in the course of our daily lives however, when one part of that cycle is repeatedly blocked or out of balance, we become unable to self-correct what's gone wrong.

The subjects mentioned above; nutrition, fitness and rest, have touched on matters that involve 3 of the 4 stages of the healing cycle, the 4th is about 'cleansing'. This area also often needs some attention in a person who has become chronically unwell. EBs can be 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.

If you think you might personally need to delve into this further, cleansing is discussed in more detail in an article called 'what is detoxification' found here. The interesting subject of the healing cycle is talked about more here

I don't want to describe the health problems that EBs are most prone to, it would make for a rather gloomy list and none of it may ever be personally relevant so, if there is something you are troubled by now, or want to know more about, see if it's discussed in the A-Z of health conditions found here

I do want to highlight some of the remedies from Nature that can be of particular help though. For example, two of the most highly regarded energy tonics in the world are Panax Ginseng & Withania root and both can be of great help to gradually restore strength to an EB.

Too much physical or mental tension usually responds well to the root of Valerian or the fast-acting Native American herb Cramp Bark. EBs who become too vulnerable to the cold and get deep-seated aches can do particularly well with remedies such as Cayenne or Turmeric. The immune tonics Echinacea and Astragalus are sure supports when needed, as is Hawthorn if their heart needs any kind of help.

Those are just a very few examples, so long as it is 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

Further Reading

If interested, there is another whole section on the emotional health and healing of the EB constitution for further reading, but please note that, for these somewhat tricky and rather dark subjects, there are no easy solutions on offer so proceed with caution! The introduction to this section is found here

~ Tigers: Hotter & Damper

~ Eagles: Hotter & Dryer

~ Bears: Cooler & Damper

~ Back to Constitutional Medicine Introduction

~ Working out your Constitution

~ Origins & Adaptations of Constitutional Medicine

~ Cycle of Healing

~ Free eBook on Constitutional Complexity

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