Follow TV Tropes


Heal It with Fire

Go To
"The sun's fire makes a garden grow,
A forge fire tempers steel.
Why then are you surprised to find
A fire that can heal?"
The Arbolit, verse 3, from Magi-Nation

Fire burns, and has been used as a weapon since before recorded history, but sometimes that gets turned around and fire is instead used to heal or treat wounds.

In works that tend towards realism, this most often takes the form of cauterization: the medical practice of searing a wound to prevent blood loss and reduce the likelihood of infection.note  In more fantastical works, fire may heal by means of the concept of "purity", burning away contamination and leaving the essence of a thing behind.

A common element with both mundane and fantastic uses of fire to heal is that it causes a great deal of pain in the process, thus lending itself to metaphors about enduring temporary hardship for long-term gain. For similar reasons, it can be an expression of Bad Powers, Good People, with a power that's typically used for harm turned around to heal instead. In other cases, a being who is cursed to be unable to use their power for good may use this form of healing as a kind of Loophole Abuse.


Some attacks, like a Laser Blade or Frickin' Laser Beams, may cauterize wounds in the process of being employed, but that's not typically a case of this trope so much as it is a justification for Bloodless Carnage. Real life laser wounds would actually be a lot nastier than fiction anyway, since they would not cauterize in any helpful way, and there would be gruesome damage from water inside the flesh explosively vaporizing.

Compare Feed It with Fire, where fire or lightning in and of itself has a curative effect.

Related to The Flame of Life, where fire symbolizes life.

Contrast Kill It with Fire. See also Fire Purifies and Worst Aid. See also Heal It with Water and Healing Winds.

As noted above, the practice of cauterization to close wounds has been largely discredited in modern medicine, so Don't Try This at Home.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fana from Black Clover has the Flame Magic recovery spell Phoenix Robe (that she got from the body of the human Fana), that produces flames able to heal herself and others.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Roy Mustang sears his own wound closed after getting stabbed by Lust. It's only a temporary measure, though, and he winds up collapsing shortly afterwards and has to go to the hospital, and he even admits that in doing so, he almost passed out from the pain.
  • Natsu of Fairy Tail does this to one of his guildmates (only in the manga).
  • In the fifth The Garden of Sinners movie Paradox Spiral, Enjou Tomoe presses the stub left over after his arm fell off against a very hot slab of metal to seal it up. Even if the act itself is somewhat worthless since he's a fake human, and the stub wasn't even bleeding... it's the thought that counts.
    • Possibly trying to burn shut his shoulder to stop the gears inside falling out.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Entei's flames apparently have some kind of healing power as it cured Blaine of his Mewtwo cancer.
  • Baki the Grappler has Baki sterilizing the bite Ando got from the Yasha Ape by spreading gunpowder on it and setting it off.
  • Blue Exorcist the Impure King arc shows Rin using his blue flames in this way. His way is more interesting and most likely valid; he burns away the disease and every piece of the Impure King specifically targeting it while leaving all the exorcists, plants and whatnot unharmed. He had to use a purification mantra and needed help from a high ranked demon as well, but the targeting was all him.
  • Promare: The Burnish can regenerate which protects them from dangers such as being encased ice, burned or shot, but they will die and turn to ash if their flames go out. To prevent this, Burnish can perform a sort of CPR by blowing their flames into a dying person, akin to mouth-to-mouth. A successful attempt can allow a Burnish to regenerate their entire body even if they are already turning to ash, though the procedure is not guaranteed to work, as seen when Lio fails to save Thyma.

    Comic Books 
  • Thorgal uses a hot knife to amputate an injured man's mangled fingers.
  • The unfortunately named Adam Smith becomes even more unfortunate over the course of Elk's Run—when he's shot in the stomach, and his friends carry him into a mine for shelter, one of them cleans the wound of infection using explosive natural gas, carefully contained by a miner's helmet.
  • In one Superman/Batman collection a Serial Killer cuts off a thief's hand and Superman uses his heat vision to cauterize the wound.
  • In the third volume of New Mutants, Doctor Nemesis triggers Magma's molten form in order to cauterize some wounds she'd suffered earlier.
  • During X-Men: Messiah Complex, Bishop used Sunfire's flaming body to cauterize his severed arm.
  • In Marvel's G.I. Joe, Serpentor is grazed in the arm during a firefight with the Joes, but uses a hot knife to cauterize the wound. As he's binding the wound, he gives a pep talk to the Cobra troops watching him, boasting that they are too tough to let such trifling things stop them.

    Fan Fiction 

  • Doctor Gordon is shown to have survived his wounds thanks to this technique in Saw 3D.
  • Lightsabers in the Star Wars franchise appear to automatically cauterize flesh as they cut, with one exception: In A New Hope, there's a bit of blood when Obi-wan cuts off Ponda Baba's arm in the cantina (may have been a very, very minor example of Early Installment Weirdness).
    • The Expanded Universe attempts to justify it by saying his species' biology is just weird like that.
  • In Rambo III, Rambo gets impaled through the stomach with a bit of wooden shrapnel; leaving both an entry and exit wound. After pulling the remaining shrapnel out he cuts off a tip of a bullet, pours the gunpowder into the wound and then sets it alight; with flames coming out of both sides. With this being Rambo the wound barely slows him down.
  • The Killer does this with gunpowder from a shotgun shell. Being as neither of the heroes has anesthesia, the cop gives the title character a big stick to bite down on before igniting the powder.
  • Whatever the hell that blue stuff is that the Predator puts in his wounds to stop the bleeding. In the second movie, it appears to seal off the stump of his severed hand quite efficiently, and it clearly hurts like hell.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves showcases prisoners getting their hands cut off by a searingly-hot scimitar. Next they put Robin on the chopping block and let's just say that the wardens were sent into early retirement.
  • In Braveheart, Hamish's father needs to have a wound cauterized with a red hot iron after receiving an arrow to the shoulder. In a nice nod to how such a thing might have played out in those days, alcohol gets a lot of use both as an anesthetic and disinfectant. Unusually for this sort of scene, it's played more for laughs than drama, as a whole line of brave Scottish warriors get handed the iron and told that they're going to be the one to use it, only to immediately pass it on to the next guy, saying "You do it... I'll hold him down". When they finally get some poor sap to actually do it, there are at least half a dozen men holding the patient down. Sure enough, the first thing dad does when he gets up after the treatment is to punch the guy who applied the iron, even though the guy is in the middle of frantically apologizing.
  • B-Western The Last Outlaw features the leader of an outlaw group who pours gunpowder into a shoulder wound and lights it on fire to cauterize it. Quite squicky and cringe inducing because we see the flames spouting out of both sides of his shoulder since the bullet went straight through.
  • The Boondock Saints has Power Trio Connor MacManus, his brother Murphy, and Rocco all take turns under an iron to cauterize wounds they received during a disastrous firefight with Il Duce.
  • In John Carpenter's Vampires, Montoya does this pretty much every time he's wounded, once with a lighter, and once by firing his sub-machine gun into the air then holding the hot barrel to the wound.
  • The Headless Horseman from Sleepy Hollow (1999) decapitated his victims, and it was noted that the head wounds were cauterized instantly, as though the blade used was red hot. Constable Crane wondered how this could be possible, due to the absence of blistering of the skin or scorch marks on the clothing. The superstitious believed it to have been caused by "the Devil's fire."
    • Constable Crane himself survives and recovers from a stab wound much more quickly than he should have due to this effect.
  • The main character of Ultraviolet cauterizes one of her wounds with the heat generated by firing her gun.
  • In Day of the Dead (1985), one of the protagonist's arms is cut off after he is bitten by a zombie. His friends then cauterize the stump with a makeshift torch. Whether or not this saved him from infection is unknown, as he was devoured by zombies soon after.
  • In Man of Steel, Lois is injured by a Kryptonian security robot when she discovers the ship. Clark notes that she's hemorrhaging internally and proceeds to cauterize the injury with his heat vision.
  • In 300, one of the soldiers uses a heated spearhead to cauterize the wound of a fellow soldier on the second night.
  • In Hidalgo, after falling into a concealed trap in the sand filled with wooden stakes, the titular character seals the stab wound his horse suffers using his heated knife.
  • Riddick is stabbed with a giant alien stinger. He has to leave it in the wound to plug the hole until he can find some glowing rocks to cauterize the wound.
  • In Dragonheart, after Draco performs the dragonheart ritual, he gives the wound a quick shot of flame to cauterize it.
  • In The Revenant, Glass seals his throat wound by covering it with gun powder and then igniting it.
  • Star Trek Beyond. Bones uses a captured energy weapon to heat up a shard of metal, using it to cauterize Spock's wound. This is only a holding action, as they have to walk to a place that fortunately has more advanced medical equipment.
  • Clash of the Titans (2010): The Djinni summons up an eerie blue flame to purify Perseus' poisoned wound. It's extremely painful and he doesn't bother to warn Perseus in advance, so he has to fight off several of Perseus' companions before they realize he's actually healed him.
  • In Revenge (2017), Jen heals her injuries by cutting open and flattening an aluminum beer can, holding it over the fire and then pressing it against her wound. In doing so she inadvertently brands the beer can's logo on her flesh, which happens to be The Phoenix. (The film has a lot of phoenix symbolism in it.)
  • The Equalizer. Done twice by Robert McCall. The first time he warms up some honey on a stove, then pours it on a wound in an After Action Patch Up, then during the final battle he heats up a doorknob with a blowtorch and presses it on a gunshot wound.
  • Deadtime Stories: Volume 2: In "The Gorge", after they amputate Gary's leg with an ice axe, Craig cauterizes the stump with a flare.

  • In Misery by Stephen King, Anne Wilkes uses a blow torch to prevent blood loss when she amputates the protagonist's foot.
  • The ending of Making Money had Moist cauterizing the gangrenous finger of Cosmo by bringing his imitation Vetinari ring under the sun, making its stygium components white-hot.
  • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, has mentioned several times that since lasgun shots cauterize the wound, it's better to be hit with a lasgun than a solid-slug weapon.
  • Inverted in Codex Alera: in this setting, Elemental Powers are capable of many things that they aren't capable of in some magic systems. Control over water includes the ability to heal people, possibly because most of the human body is water. However, Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors is also in effect, and touching or being near one element prevents the other from being used. Therefore, cauterization makes it nigh impossible for a watercrafter to heal the wound.
  • In the first book of the Coldfire Trilogy, the Hunter uses coldfire (fae generated blue flames that are as cold as real fire is hot) to cleanse Senzei's gangrenous wound.
  • Similarly to the above, the dragon Firedrake demonstrates that his firebreath, which is also blue, actually heals people instead of burning them in the book Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke.
  • How Mackenzie Calhoun of the Star Trek: New Frontier series by Peter David got his facial scar: self-cauterization while seriously injured and lying alone in the desert with a laser welder.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Victorion Greyjoy has to have his hand cauterized by a red priest to save him from blood poisoning. However, this priest worships a god of fire and has received a power boost due to dragons reemerging from extinction, and as a result, Victorion's arm becomes superhumanly strong.
    • Boiling wine is a standard treatment to simultaneously cauterize and sterilize wounds.
  • Happens a few times in Barbara Hambly's Sun Wolf and Starhawk books, usually after nuuwa attacks. And then, there's Sun Wolf gouging out his own eye and cauterizing the socket in The Ladies of Mandrigyn.
  • The dragons and Dragonlords in Joanne Bertin's The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix can channel their fire breath into a healing ability. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Kantri of Tales of Kolmar flame their own wounds clean, especially when they've been fighting demons, which leave a kind of taint otherwise.
  • Kaladin from The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson uses such techniques several times, generally when working in sub-par conditions or with suboptimal equipment - which is standard in the bridge crew.
  • In The House of Hades, Percy and Annabeth drink from the River Phlegethon, a river of literal fire, to heal themselves from the poison of Tartarus. It works.
  • In Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms novel Spellfire, it's eventually discovered that the eponymous fire can in fact be used to heal, not just to burn. Justified here in that what it really is is the barely controlled raw essence of magic itself, not just any old fire spell or mundane form of combustion.
  • In The Tenets of Futilism, Joe cauterizes the enormous wounds cut into Sasha's arms and stomach with a lighter, saving her from bleeding out.
  • Phoenix and Ashes: After being drugged, Eleanor uses a fire spell intended for purification to purify the morphine out of her blood.
  • Joelle Charbonneau's The Testing has Cia cauterizing Tomas's wound with a hot piece of metal.
  • In Wings of Fire, Peril uses her burning scales to heal Clay when he is bitten by a venomous dragon bite viper. It is noted that he would have died from his burns if he wasn't virtually immune to fire and heat, and he still was permanently crippled by the injury.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in Charmed. Colonial era witches were about to cauterize someone’s wound, but Piper instructs then to just use hot water and soap.
  • In the Lost season 1 finale, Sayid cauterizes Charlie's wound by opening a bullet and igniting the gunpowder. This wound is on Charlie's forehead, just above his eye. Yee-ouch!
  • Burn Notice inverted this by having Michael use a liquid nitrogen gun to both cauterize a wound (which he secretly had planned) and to sabotage the bad guys pistol.
  • The 100 makes frequent use of this since the characters are living in the wild on earth with no real medical supplies. On one instance after the character applying the red hot iron has just acknowledged that the wound has already been cauterized and is likewise already infected. The only reason none of the patients die from infection is because there is a local species of seaweed that has powerful antibiotic properties, and it is readily available.
  • Chris Ryan's Strike Back. The protagonist does this in Zimbabwe, also using the powder from a cartridge.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand shows Crixus' nasty chest wounds being cauterized. It hurts so much he has to be strapped to the table.
    • In Spartacus Vengeance, Nassir's wounds are treated this way. There is even a Call-Back to it saving Crixus. In the final episode Spartacus tries to do it for Mira, but it's too late.
  • Game of Thrones.
    • Averted in "Mockingbird" when Sandor Clegane is bitten on the neck, yet refuses to allow Arya Stark to cauterize the wound due to his fear of fire. Arya cleans it with water, but it still gets infected, hampering Sandor's fighting skill later on.
    • In "Beyond the Wall", Lord Beric uses his Flaming Sword to cauterize the wounds of his friend Thoros of Myr. However it's only a temporary measure, and without medical care available he dies of his injuries.
  • Spoofed in Danger 5. Jackson gets impaled by a splinter, so he fires his Luger into the wound to sterilize it.
  • There's another example in MacGyver. In the episode "To be a Man" Macgyver's gunshot wound is cauterized with a red hot poker. He passes out from the pain.
  • In Frontier Declan Harp has been tortured (but don't worry, "Torture Is Ineffective") and is examining his wounds. It doesn't look all that bad and in fact seems to be healing nicely, but a hot blade is still called for.
  • Westworld. The body techs use a medical cauterizer to seal wounds on the cyborg hosts. When a tech gets a Slashed Throat, his colleague uses one so he won't bleed to death. Turns out it really hurts when used on a human being.
  • In the pilot of Animal Kingdom Craig cauterizes his gunshot wound. He still almost dies of infection before a doctor in Mexico cures him.
  • In season one of Daredevil (2015) Matt Murdock uses a road flare to cauterize a Russian mob leader's bullet wound as per the advice of Claire Temple, a nurse with a talent for on-the-fly medical assistance. He's in an Abandoned Warehouse with no first aid kit, and has to keep the mobster from bleeding out long enough to spill the goods on the mysterious man he's been working with. The mobster had earlier had Claire tortured in an effort to find out Matt's Secret Identity, so she's not particularly bothered how much it hurts the man.
  • The Mandalorian. The title character shows he's Not So Stoic as he's heard groaning in pain as he cauterizes the injuries he received in the previous episode.
  • The Boys (2019). In "The Bloody Doors Off", Starlight uses her energy superpowers to cauterize Hughie's wound so he won't bleed out before they can get him to a hospital. Though she's delayed in doing so because she needs a working power source to draw energy from.
  • In the 2020 miniseries The Head, the doctor on an isolated Antarctic research station gets shot accidentally and has to advise her boyfriend on how to treat her injuries, including cauterizing a vein. In this case he uses the proper surgical tool—the problem however being that the doctor can't take anything except a local anaesthetic as she has to be fully conscious.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magi-Nation provides the page quote, from the flavor text of one of the cards. Many of the spells and creature abilities from the Cald (the fire domain) deal with healing your creatures or rearranging their energy in general. However, this trope is averted in the Gameboy Color game based on the TCG.

  • The Thermal powerset used by Controllers and Corruptors in City of Heroes, which has powers like "Warmth" and "Cauterize". Aside from the names, they work like any other healing powers.
  • In the Tomb Raider (2013) reboot, an injured Lara is forced to heal an open wound in her side with this method, using a lighter and an arrowhead. Needless to say, it's incredibly painful, but it does get the job done.
  • In the [adult swim].com game Amateur Surgeon, the titular pizza delivery guy turned brilliant unlicensed physician, Alan Probe, uses a disposable lighter to cauterize wounds after stapling them shut. Also to attach transplanted organs. He must be a genius, because he somehow makes it WORK.
    • In the sequel, he uses a match.
  • In Borderlands the Soldier class has a talent called "Cauterize". It allows him to heal allies by shooting them.
  • One of the many lovely healing animations in Far Cry involves lighting a bundle of matches and jamming it into the wound.
  • In World of Warcraft, Mages get a talent called "Cauterize". The talent negates an attack that would kill the mage, heals him to 40%, and puts a Fire typed damage over time effect on him that deals 45% of his maximum health. So, basically, what would be a lethal blow is prevented, but they'll need healing soon anyway. Mages can also get a spell called Mage Ward (formerly Fire Ward) that absorbs Fire damage, so he can prevent the damage from Cauterize.
  • In Warlords Battlecry, the Pyromancy spell list has an AoE healing spell called "Cauterize". It heals for 25 HP per spell level within the casting hero's command radius.
  • In Heavy Rain, should Ethan cut off part of his finger during the Lizard Trial, the player has the option to cauterize the wound with a heated steel bar. There's a Trophy for doing so.
  • Lords of Magic gives the cauterize wound spell, which provides healing.
  • The usual modus operandi of the Purifier cleric soul in Rift.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and its sequel have an Elementalist spell that counts as Fire-elemental healing. This let it heal undead units (due to not being Holy-elemental) and heal more if the unit was weak to Fire attacks.
  • Dark Souls II has the Warmth pyromancy, which places a floating ball of fire that periodically heals everything in a small radius around it, including enemies. In the Crown of the Old Iron King DLC, some of the Ashen Idols use a much stronger version of this pyromancy that only heals the enemies. Four of them must be neutralized in order to properly challenge the Fume Knight.
  • In Star Stealing Prince, Snowe is both a powerful user of fire magic and the party's resident healer using "pleasant flames".
  • In The Binding of Isaac Rebirth, you can get an item called Pyromaniac, which allows you to heal half a heart each time you get hit by an explosion, including your own bombs.
  • In Injustice 2, Supergirl uses her heat vision to cauterize Harley Quinn's stab wound inflicted on her by Wonder Woman.
  • Golden Sun
    • The Mars Adept Jenna possess the unique Aura line of spells that heal the entire party and fellow Mars Adept Karst uses it when she is fought. These spells were introduced in the second game to fix an oddity in the first where Karst's sister Menardi used the water-elemental spell Wish to heal herself and her partner despite fire and water being opposite elements.
    • The ultimate summon spell, Iris, simultaneously causes heavy fire damage to the enemy party and heals the player's party back to full health.
  • In The Sunken City Collection the Seraph's Cauterize skill cures bleeding from the target and gives them a significant boost to bleed resistance, but also debuffs their speed and causes them to take more stress for a few rounds.

  • In what might be the only time that Richard from Looking for Group didn't use magic to murder or torture everything around him, he was cauterizing a wound that Cale had suffered to the neck.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Archer episode "Bloody Ferlin", Ray's family along with Archer and Cheryl are garrisoned in their home while having a shootout with the police. Cheryl was tasked with cauterizing bullet wounds with a hot fire iron.
  • Batman: Gotham Knight. In "Working Through Pain", Batman uses some kind of glowing disc from his utility belt to seal a gunshot wound.
  • Castlevania (2017): Sypha applies fire magic to her right hand to cauterize a nasty tri-clawed wound on her shoulder that Dracula infliced, she gets it properly treated after the fight, but the scars still remain.
  • In one episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, Sylvester Stallone (in a nod to the scene noted above) sets off a small pile of gunpowder on his shoulder in order to cauterize a wound given by his opponent, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Although many people used it in fanfiction already (such as Embers and Book Five: Legends, mentioned above), in the The Legend of Korra episode "Beginnings, part 1" included a Firebender using their powers to heal Korra, when that had previously been considered exclusive to Waterbending. However, there's a difference, that being that Waterbending heals people physically as well, while Firebending healing is apparently exclusively spiritual, reading chi paths and spiritual energy in a person to diagnose a problem.
  • Rick and Morty includes a fight scene where Rick plays laser tag with a gun-toting convict named Jaguar, and they both injure each other. It should be noted that Jaguar was the one lighting gunpowder in his deep shoulder wound while Rick was stapling the contents of a burger onto his pickle.

    Real Life 
  • According to The Other Wiki, cauterization is mentioned in the Hippocratic Corpus. Since Hippocrates was born after 500 B.C., this one is Older Than Feudalism.
  • Cauterization exists in real life, of course, but what makes this stand out as a TV / film trope is how it is so overused. Often it is shown in situations where a real attempt to cauterize would do far more harm than good, in terms of destroying healthy tissue and increasing the risk of infection.
    • In Real Life this was the standard practice before the technique of suturing the veins was rediscovered. More often than not, it killed the patient even if the wound wouldn't have. Pouring boiling oil into open wounds is counterproductive, most of the time.
    • Among the main problems with cauterization is the very real risk of gangrene. The wound isn't merely closed; the veins and arteries in the area are sealed shut. This can cause more tissues to die from lack of blood, which can turn gangrenous and ultimately require amputation. What it does do, however, is buy the wounded individual time to get to a hospital, which they still have to do.
    • Burn wounds are often treated with special military bandages and open holes in, say, the lungs are treated with bandages that seal around the wound preventing air from escaping the lung. While cauterization may help if your hand was cut off, military medical kits have tourniquets for that kind of thing. Cauterization isn't even a last resort for medics nowadays mostly because a tourniquet, while incredibly painful, can usually stay on just long enough note  for the patient to be evacuated to a field hospital. The best-case scenario for cauterization would be you have alcohol, a blade, some burn salve and/or burn bandages, a way to heat the blade, no time to wait or any place to evacuate to, no tourniquet or sutures, and a missing appendage. In other words, extremely specific circumstances.
  • One method that people use to remove leeches from themselves is to burn the leech with a lit cigarette or a cigarette lighter, which will cause it to let go. This is not recommended, since the burned leech will regurgitate its stomach contents into the bite, which creates a risk of infection. It’s better to either pry the leech off VERY gently (you do not want its teeth to be left in the wound) or just wait until it's eaten its fill and drops off by itself.

Alternative Title(s): Cauterize


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: