2 – Constitutional Types

This article on constitutional types or body types is offered to help you comprehend the form and energy of the basic human components (herein referred to as Monarch, Warrior, and Seer) you used to design your distinctive nature. It deals directly with how your uniquely individual blend of these components functions, and what you can do to help keep it functioning healthily and happily.

Constitutional models are not (yet) common topics of Western conversation. But the increasing popularity and practice of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine in this country has at least introduced the term into our vernacular, and the accompanying words acupuncture, meridians, yin, yang, dosha, and prakruti are no longer quite so foreign sounding to many of us. These terms are integral to these Asian health care practices that function around a constitutional model that is the very core of their medical systems.

Viewing yourself through the scope of a constitutional model that focuses attention on and appreciates human tendencies, habits, preferences, and quirks, and is expressed in Western terms you easily comprehend, can heighten your self-appreciation and deepen your understanding of others. We find that appreciating oneself is the pivotal key to experiencing health, humor, and a profound sense of well-being; and appreciation of everyone else is the second cardinal key.

Do we have constitutional models in mainstream Western medicine? Yes and no. Many models have been proposed, and to some extent employed, by certain factions throughout the history of Western therapeutic medicine, but they have all come and gone. Mainstream medicine and health care, as it is currently practiced and marketed, has no model that focuses on the varying physical requirements and unique energy of each individual consumer. It mainly targets disease symptoms with the actions of drugs and certain food supplements, mostly disregarding human individuality, herbal therapeutic preparations and tonics, and even food itself, which is our true physical medicine, both preventive and therapeutic.

Food and herbs (which are very specific foods) are best used when the energy (the energetics) of these nutrients (for example, hot, cold, building, cleansing, moistening, drying, sweet, sour, and bitter) are in harmony with the energy of one’s personal constitutional nature. A constitutional model that identifies the energetics of your body and temperament (for example, your nature runs hot or cold, you lose weight easily or not, you crave the outdoors, you like groups or you prefer privacy and cozy rooms, you’re a watery person, you’re a fiery person) and notes the energetics of the foods, herbs, and environments you might interact with can assist you greatly in putting it all together for your greatest good. Your particular constitutional makeup reflects the one-of-a-kind individual you are and indicates what foods, environments, and experiences best suit you.

Following is a portion of a constitutional health model, employing Western terms and archetypes you can use to help determine the unique nature of your constitutional makeup. This knowledge and insight can help you more astutely select appropriate herbs to efficiently nourish your particular physique, energy, and temperament. The herbs discussed in the subsequent articles will refer to these constitutional components in the sections titled “Affects on specific body types.”

However, as you review and contemplate the ideas presented in this model, please keep in mind that no actual human being will exactly fit into a model or be fully defined by one. The organic, emotional, mental, and nonphysical spiritual synergy that composes each individual is always unique, wild, precious, free, and ultimately unpredictable. A constitutional model can suggest primary components as its core elements and, from these assumptive tools, ascertain with some accuracy certain expected dynamics of a select person.

So, use this model to help you select appropriate herbs, foods, environments, and activities that particularly suit you as an individual and know that a person’s feelings about the choices he or she makes in life are the ultimate authority. This model can help you more fully understand and appreciate yourself and others, but it won’t tell you wholly who a person is. Neither will the ancient Eastern paradigms, for as sophisticated and highly developed as they are, they too are merely models.

Identifying the energy of the primary constitutional components that make up one’s distinct temperament and physiology can help us revere the unique nature of one another and ourselves and is a key factor that can help an individual choose fitting nutrition, appropriate herbal actions, and an optimal lifestyle that genuinely nurtures his true nature. The materials contained in this article are assembled to assist your exploration and to help you create a self-friendly, health-nurturing environment. Be well and enjoy your life to the fullest.


The Monarch dominant constitutional type tends to manifest a predominance of digestive tract and associated visceral organs. The body is built to efficiently accommodate assimilation and storage, manifesting a form set up to absorb and hold on to the environment. The frame is large and there is a roundness and softness of body, which may have a concentration of mass in the abdominal region. Body contours are smooth, and the head is spherical. The skin is soft and smooth like an apple’s skin.

The Monarch likes physical comfort and tends to be quite social. Predictable and deliberate in action, the Monarch-predominant temperament has the fewest emotional fluctuations of all three types. This temperament is quite empathetic, compassionate, nurturing, supportive, and relishes children, good food, and gatherings of friends and family. The Monarch, when in touch with his or her true nature, emits a calm, peaceful, and content stability. This individual is patient, devoted, loyal, and forgiving, with strong faith in the positive nature of life. The Monarch handles stress by seeking the company of other people.

The Monarch is quite strong by nature with a nervous system that is mildly hypoactive. There is a tendency to parasympathetic dominance in the autonomic nervous system that influences most of the organs to function a little too sluggishly and overall inclination is towards stagnation. Blood tends to sit in the viscera, and the venous system can become engorged. Tissues become full and congested. This is readily observed in the mucous membranes, which can become slack, over relaxed, and secrete viscous mucus. Circulation is often slightly deficient, with a tendency towards cold hands and feet. The Monarch-predominant person is inclined to hoard away sugars and fats as adipose tissue. If this tendency is not kept in check, some serious health problems may be generated due to ensuing obesity.

Overall, herbal and nutritional stimulation and tightening of sluggish tissue is the most common requirement for strengthening and balancing the Monarch type, and the body often needs some gentle stimulation of the nervous system. Regular exercise is of utmost importance, but in other aspects of the Monarch lifestyle, an edge of irregularity is a healthy technique to thwart a proneness to sedentary and stagnant life rhythms. Hot, spiced foods that are not too heavy or highly caloric are the most beneficial with an emphasis on cooked vegetables. Roughage is helpful, because it stimulates the overly relaxed intestines, but most food should be lightly cooked, as raw foods require digestive heat the Monarch-dominant system lacks. Cold or iced water and soft drinks are best avoided for the same reason. Almost all Monarch conditions will be aided by the addition of a general warming stimulant such as Ginger or Black Pepper. It is important to limit meals to three times a day and to try to eliminate snacking. However, vegetables make a good snack food and can be eaten at will. Herbal bitters are useful for reducing the need for sugars and fats.  
The Monarch-dominant person’s lifestyle is best geared toward creating randomness and avoiding stagnant routines, ruts, and predictable activities. Suggestions include small portions at mealtime, trying out new things, and contemplating new ideas. Spending time in a sauna, undergoing deep massage, and hiking on naturally irregular terrain are good, and aerobic exercise is a must.


The Warrior dominant constitutional type tends to manifest a predominance of muscle, bone, connective tissue, and circulatory system. There is a squareness and hardness of body, prominent bones and muscles, large trunk, large chest with narrow waist, prominent cheek bones, heavy square jaw, thick, coarse, porous skin like that of an orange. Anabolic hormones (androgens and growth hormone) tend to be in excess resulting in an individual whose body seems to do too much “building,” and retains things that it doesn’t need such as uric acid, excess sodium, and excess cholesterol. When irritated, tissues tend to inflame easily. This powerful nature often gives too strong a reaction, and inflamed, red, irritated tissues are a hallmark of the Warrior-predominant individual. The heart and arteries are innately strong, but if not cared for properly, in time, one or the other may give out.
The Warrior type approaches life with action and force, and the most well developed tissues are those used for interacting with the external environment (muscle, bone, strong circulatory system). This individual lives for the present and craves action. With a strong penetrating and perceptive mind, he or she remains highly focused on completing the task at hand. The healthy Warrior’s seemingly indefatigable energy pushes through to the summit of his or her endeavor. Natural guide and leader, the warrior-predominant individual is discriminating, organized, independent, and aggressive. A person who can be fun and laugh a lot.

 When choosing food and herbs for a warrior-predominant person, think “cooling” and “cleansing,” but not to be over done. A health promoting lifestyle for the Warrior-predominant might include aerobic exercise to tone the cardiovascular system and “use up” the anabolic excess, meditation to soothe and cool the excess action and help soften an overly zealous heart.
Overall, the warrior-predominant body needs cleansing to help balance its inherent anabolic (building) constitution and the ensuing accumulation of metabolic wastes. The Warrior nature wants to hold on, but is served much better by letting go. To facilitate this, toning the organs of elimination and circulation along with a gentle herbal cleansing program is efficient and helpful to balance the kidneys, clean and nourish the liver, and protect the cardiovascular system from damage by regular use of cardiovascular tonics.


The Seer-dominant individual tends to manifest a predominance of skin surface, keen senses, and highly developed nervous system, is linear, wiry, often thin (antenna-like), with slight muscles, having thin chest, long limbs, fragile hands and feet, prominent veins and bones, with a triangular face. The Seer’s skin tends to be thin, dry, cold, and rough like onionskin. Sensory exposure is the hallmark of this constitutional type, manifesting a body having well-developed tissues involved in gathering information (skin, sight, hearing, nervous system, etc.).

A seer-predominant individual is normally aware of the delicate, sensitive nature of his or her nervous system and takes care of self by choosing an appropriate lifestyle and occupation, wherein his or her true nature which is energetic, adaptable, alert with quick comprehension and good in communication comes forth. The nervous system can be hyperactive and fluctuating. This can lead to an unbalanced and disorganized internal environment (blood sugar swings, muscle spasms, inefficient digestion, heart palpitations, etc.). These symptoms are most obvious during times of emotional stress. The Seer handles stress by seeking isolation to sort things out and make sense of how it all relates to self. Seer-predominant individual tends to feel pain more intensely than other types do and is highly sensitive to noise. The sympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system appears to predominate, which can place the person in a perpetual “fight or flight” mode. Therein, blood and energy are directed away from nurturing, building activities because the body is required to “spend” instead of “store.” The results of this can lead to deficient physical reserves, depletion, and an inability to buffer the self from the stresses of life. A healthy seer is an enthusiastic positive spirit with strong healing capability and excellent capacity for flexibility, movement, and positive change. If imbalanced, a Seer can be self-restrained, anxious (bird-like); over concerned about the future, and not well grounded in the here and now.

Overall the Seer-dominant person will do exceptionally well taking nutritive nervine and adaptogenic herbs and will benefit greatly by eating heavy, building foods; proteins being the key nutrient, along with fresh high quality oils (flaxseed, olive, sesame) and lightly cooked veggies. Herbs are well used that assist the digestion of these essential foods by strengthening the digestive functions. A healthy Seer lifestyle, will include eating regularly at set times in a mellow relaxed setting, dwelling in a comfortable home, getting the right amount of rest and good sleep. Regular (enjoyable) anaerobic and weight resistant exercise builds strength and reduces stress. Meditation deeply nourishes the Seer’s active mind and nervous system.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition