Human Constitutions

It has been 1 month since I started my mentorship with Dr. Sebastian Liew. It has flown by like a breeze.

Every day there is so much to do and so much more to learn. Time passes so quickly.

In this post I want to summarize what I’ve learnt about the different ‘Energetics’ of people and how this helps Naturopaths and Medical Herbalists treat them.

The 4 “Energies”

In our clinic, we use the traditional Greek medicine’s version of human energetics/constitutions based on the Humoral Theory. These are simple descriptions used to describe the qualities of a person:

  1. HOT
  2. COLD
  3. WET
  4. DRY

For example, physicians like Hippocrates in the past might categorize someone as a HOT/DRY if he exhibited qualities such as easy irritation/inflammation (emotional and physical), has dry skin and tongue, feels hot more often than cold, hot tempered, can’t sit still for long, has fast metabolism, can’t put on weight easily, etc.

Likewise, someone else might be COLD/WET if she has cold hands/feet, feels cold all the time, has a wet tongue, easily catches the flu/colds/infections, is easily sad/depressed, has slow metabolism, gains weight easily, etc.

For clarity purposes, these descriptions are divided into absolutes but people exist on continuums:

Someone might be 3 degrees warm and 1 degree cold while 4 degrees dry and 0 degrees wet.

People’s constitutions also change with time as their bodies change according to their internal and external conditions.


Every so often, Sebastian will talk about the concept of DAMPNESS.

This is a constitution which breeds illness/disease.

Like how in Nature, when you have a COLD/WET environment like under a leaky house or sink, mould and pests tend to grow and fester.

This can be easily seen in a tongue that is pale with a thick, wet coating. Coupled with other signs and symptoms observed or measured from the person.


Like humans, herbs also have energetics based on their effects after consumption.

A cold person needs a warming herb like Galangal or Ginger. A hot person might needs a cooling herb like Gotu Kola or Meadowsweet.

However, many herbs have other actions and effects, both physical and emotional. Therefore the choice of herbs requires careful consideration too. That’s where a herbalist’s training and experience comes in.


Human constitutions can be describe according to 4 opposite energetics which exist on an ever-changing continuum:

  1. WARM to HOT
  2. COOL to COLD
  3. MOIST to WET

A healthy person would have a constitution that falls in the middle of each of these, like a balanced Yin-Yang.

Treatment for an imbalanced constitution manifesting as disease might consist of herbs, meditation, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, social and environmental changes, etc. Often this is a holistic combination.

Thanks for reading.


Related Posts

  1. Naturopathic Theory: Humoral Theory
  2. Overview of the Naturopathic Profession

Further Geeking (deep diving)

  1. Proteomics of hot-wet and cold-dry temperaments proposed in Iranian traditional medicine: a Network-based Study | Scientific Reports (
  2. Greek Medicine: THE FOUR BASIC QUALITIES – Yin and Yang, Greek Style

Subscribe today so you never miss a post!

Looking for something?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s