Elephant/Butterfly: Constitutionally Cooler & Dryer

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nosce te ipsum - know thyself

One of the most extraordinary things about life is its seemingly endless ability to be creative. We can see this, perhaps clearer than anywhere, in how every human being that is, or ever was, is remarkably, entirely unique. You who are reading this are one of a kind, so is each of your friends, your family, everyone you know. The complexity within each one of us that allows for such individuality is something truly incredible, unlimited...

Therefore, we categorise each other at the immediate peril of losing sight of this wonder. As soon as we divide each other up into male, female, race, age, nationality etc. we can lose the understanding of what matters most; our individuality, our creativity, our free will to shape our thinking and our way, regardless of where we came from.

So, why bring constitutions into the picture? Partly it is because throughout history so many cultures have come to such similar understandings about our nature to be hotter or cooler, and at the same time dryer or damper, and that these tendencies are regardless of age, race, sex etc. Largely it is because a constitutional understanding gives such useful insights into what kinds of food, herbs, exercise & rest can form a solid foundation under a person's most valuable possession, their health and the entire intention behind this work is to help a person regain that precious health whenever it has been lost.

For interest, and perhaps insight, a mere two personality traits have been picked out to demonstrate some key themes that tend to play out in each constitution but it must be understood that these can only be a small part of the whole and that none of this is meant to put any kind of limits on the unique, living example of unlimited creativity that is you. So long as we understand each other on this point, do read on...

The EB Personality

With respect to the endless diversity of each and every EB (Elephant/Butterfly), there are two personality traits that repeatedly shine through; namely their potent disposition towards both strength and sensitivity.


EBs are often quite fine-boned and light on their feet so the first thing to make crystal clear is that the 'Elephant' part of this equation is there to represent a symbol with the greatest inner strength, rather than anything to do with any kind of outward appearances!

Other people who know them will often tell them how strong they are, but most EBs do not feel big and tough, far from it, they are more aware than most of the essential fragility of being human. 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.

EBs think about, and feel things, deeply. The strength from the Elephant side of their nature comes from putting down deep roots into their lives, making lasting commitments to their people and their paths. They are, on average, the longest-lived of the different constitutions.

Whether they are aware and accepting of their considerable inner power or not, EBs must learn how to balance that strength with the ability to be flexible, to understand that the weight of their convictions or their disapproval can sometimes feel unbearably heavy to those who are closest to them, to know when it is time to shift their weight, step away, and lighten back to the other side of their nature, which is always literally just a heart-beat away.


The sensitivity side of the EB is perfectly represented by the Butterfly. From the inevitable slings and arrows of living amongst others in the world, EBs can feel as crushed and incapable of flight as such a creature when it has been pinned, yet that sensitivity can yield some tremendous benefits as well. The ability to truly comprehend the beauty that is always there somewhere, around the corner or under the surface. The ability to feel compassion and make deep connections with other living things.

It is a notable characteristic of many EBs that they may store up the experiences and impressions that their sensitivity is constantly exposing them to and eventually reach a point of saturation where they need to take time out because they just can't take any more in. In such a condition, it has been seen that the best medicine, by far, is to sustain a practice of putting some order and beauty back into the world. There is no one right way to do this but many EB constitutions work this out for themselves and their habits of gardening, painting, writing, playing, crafting etc. are the way in which they maintain that practice to regain their peace and regather their strength.

Whilst capable of feeling burdened by their sensitivity, an EB who is well connected into both sides of their nature, the Elephant and the Butterfly, can feel a great deal of joy in their daily life. At least part of the key to it seems to be a willingness to be open to change, and it can be seen that many EBs instinctively, even fiercely, resist change. Imagine the caterpillar, labouring its way across the forest floor, chomping through endless leaves, 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, each EB seems to have this internal journey that asks for no less a profound transformation. If that is indeed their path, and the journey is long, it will surely be wise to have support and good company along the way.


EBs are usually capable of particularly intimate relationships but tend to keep the great majority of the world at arm's length and reserve showing the true nature of their inner warmth, sensitivity and vulnerability to a very select few, sometimes only one, hopefully not none.

As well as long-life, EBs tend to have particularly good and vivid memories so, especially given how they may be inclined to internalise their feelings and store things up, it may be most worthwhile for some EBs to learn how to work with the hardest of all emotions for us to handle in relationships, namely that of anger and frustration, and a certain way to handle this is written up here

It is also essential that EBs learn to regularly practice forgiveness for those who have hurt them in the past. As hard as it may be to do, the alternative is to build up and hold on to resentment, which is such a toxic and damaging emotion to keep inside that many people end up comparing it to cancer.

Forgiveness doesn't come about through wishful thinking, it must be processed in some way and, whilst many EBs do not naturally want to talk things out, they can do particularly well with some art-therapy to get to a much deeper level than the words could have gone.

In a nutshell, art-therapy is where you take some blank sheets of paper, any kind of pens, pencils or paints, and then simply draw-out or write-out whatever it is that comes to your hand as you open up to what hurts or troubles are lingering within. It might help to write a name or a theme to get the process started or, equally, whatever it is that needs to be released can be represented with some kind of symbol. The only rule to art-therapy is 'no judgement' it is completely and utterly irrelevant how pretty the drawing, or how clever the writing is.

What does matter is understanding and, if at all possible, the healing process of this particular kind of 'medicine' is best completed by showing the work to at least one other person who has the intention to understand exactly what it is that is being expressed. That person must also realise that all judgement is to be set aside, that it is only their understanding that is needed. They will be wise to look or read carefully, and ask questions of anything that is not completely clear. If these simple steps are followed, this process has repeatedly been seen to work, to release burdens that were doing significant harm.


' Food Matters

Food is incredibly important to the health of all kinds of people and EBs 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 lighter, 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 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...

Depletion & Deficiency

EBs are highly prone to becoming depleted in key nutrients, especially the minerals. For example, from routine blood tests for iron levels, 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 little while to correct the deficiency however, a lasting improvement needs to be made through adjusting the diet and improving the digestion. The use of a class of herbs call 'bitter tonics' has been seen to be quite transformative for many EBs, these herbs activate the digestive 'fire' and so improve the absorption of minerals and other key elements from foods. This subject is written up in more detail in the article on Gentian, aka the 'King of bitters', found here

Warming & nourishing

EBs must feel supported from their food to fare well on their long journeys, along with activating the digestion, it can be of great help to the EB to eat a diet that meets their nutritional needs at a deep level.

The key point to convey to an EB who has gone into nutritional deficiency is that they need to eat plenty of foods that are both warming and nourishing. In practical terms, this means 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 way of eating 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 path, they 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. there are literally thousands of ways such foods can be made to be as delicious as they are nutritious.



Many EBs are naturally drawn to exercise and, perhaps unsurprisingly given their innate strength, they can be remarkably good at sustaining a high level of commitment to activities that require a significant amount of endurance. They will often volunteer that their doing some long-distance exercise in one form or another is how they best destress and feel well in the world. Of course, this is nearly always all to the good but there is one sign that may indicate it is time to take a pause for thought and wait.

'When to wait

Fatigue, even to the point of exhaustion, is an experience that many, perhaps most EBs will get to experience at least once in their lives. Deep-seated tiredness is not automatically a reason to stop an exercise program, in fact continuing to stay active may be one of the best things to do to get well however, if the immune system starts to get run down then this must be taken as a signal to put the exercise routine aside and to rest until well enough to restart.

Any kind of infection is the first most obvious sign of immune distress, injuries or wounds that take much too long to heal is the second other major sign. If either of these are happening, it is time to take a rest from the exercise habits, energy and fitness will come back again, now it is essential to regain immunity and some of the best ways to do that are written up here


'Rest & Relaxation

Many EBs experience problems related to excess stress and tension. There are many herbs that can be of great help in this area, and they should be taken generously however, there may also be a pressing need to unwind the coiled-up spring with activities that bring about a state of peace and calm.

In nearly every case, EBs relax by doing something that relaxes them. Gardening, exercising, playing music, writing, reading, arts and crafts, there's no one thing that is better or more 'right' than another. What is most noticeable is that the more stressed a person is, the less likely they are to spend any time at all doing things that relax them. The mind convincingly says, 'I can't relax, I'm in stress' and anything enjoyable and de-stressing is put off to another time.

Some strong self-discipline may be required to make relaxing activities an essential and non-negotiable part of the daily routine. Things soon improve once they start doing the things that they always used to do to relax.

On top of that, if some further support from Nature is needed for sleep, then read here and, if anxiety and tension have become too strong to remedy by bringing back relaxation habits alone, then certainly read here


'EB Medicine

For one reason or another, there will eventually be times in the life of EBs when they will be perplexed by some troublesome health problems. If and when that happens, they should know that there are some tried and true remedies from Nature that can be of tremendous help if used wisely.

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 tired or depleted. Likewise, one of the most revered tonics from the equally ancient Ayurvedic system medicine is the root of the herb Withania and this equally gives certain help to many EBs.

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

EBs who become too vulnerable to the cold and get deep-seated aches can do especially well with Cayenne in capsules. Their hearts always respond well to Hawthorn as they age and the top immune tonics Echinacea and Astragalus are always certain supports.

Those are just a 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. There may also be some valuable insights to be found from reading the section on the 'cycle of healing' 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