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Healing Magic Is the Hardest

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"They say healing's the hardest form of magic... but if my power's so damn great... then I should at least be able to manage this, right?"
Tessa Quinn/Alchemical Aether, Sleepless Domain

In speculative settings, magic usage ranges from Utility Magic to world-breaking rituals but very often it will fail at fixing grievous bodily harm or resuscitating a recently deceased person. If healing magic is possible, it will require a disproportionate amount of power and skill to pull off, compared to anything else on the same scale—up to a Divine Intervention. That "natural" Healing Factor is looking better by the second.

Out-of-universe, this is done to make the characters avoid injuries as hard as they would in Real Life. When you can easily recover from grievous bodily harm or be brought back to life altogether, things get a lot less dramatic and the threats less credible. An alternative approach to increase the risks is to introduce dangers that are either exempt from magical healing or worse than death.

This trope is somewhat justified and parallels a lot of difficulties with real-life medical science, which are often invoked in fantasy terms as justification. This can be framed as Life being a different kind of energy, accessible only by gods, but a simpler justification lies in the complexity of all living things. Even simply closing a wound is more complicated than just stitching the flesh together, and dealing with organ damage or disease is even worse. In any setting which applies this justification, expect anything as complex as turning someone into a frog to be right out. This is true in real life too; it could be said that we probably understand more about the first few seconds of the universe than we do about, say, the human brain. A vast proportion of medical treatments have no known mechanism (i.e, we do not know what they do inside the body to affect it in the ways they do), which is why new treatments are developed by trial, and side effects can only be catalogued, not fully understood. In magical terms, this can mean some pretty squicky Body Horror if the procedure goes wrong, splicing body parts into others, removing organs entirely or causing unintended transmutations.

Sub-Trope of Healing Hands. Compare All Deaths Final. Compare and contrast Magic Is Rare, Health Is Cheap. See also Rule of Drama.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, characters with healing powers are exceedingly rare.
    • Neliel has healing saliva/vomit, which only slightly accelerates natural healing—her drooling on Ichigo is played for laughs, but the ability itself is treated as valuable.
    • Orihime has the power to "reject" wounds and injuries on other people (I.E. they never happened), but she can only do it slowly. This power is so sought after that Big Bad Aizen kidnapped her for it. (Sort of.) Even that isn't so much "healing" as applying Ret-Gone to the injury or death.
    • Many Lieutenants can cast healing and attack Kido with near equal proficiency, it's just that few bother to learn it, because Squad 4 (the healing squad) is the Zoidberg of the Court Guard Squads.
  • All superpowers in Chainsaw Man are derived from devils and No Cure for Evil is in full effect. Devils heal by drinking blood but make contracts just to harm humans via payments, so you're hard-pressed to find a devil willing and able to heal them. The only established cases have involved becoming a least partially demonic yourself to gain said self-regeneration, which seems very rare (and means you aren't legally human anymore). The real Santa Claus needed a contract with one of the most power devils in existence to heal her body, though it also gave a very impressive Healing Factor on top of that.
  • In Claymore, the eponymous warriors possess an impressive Healing Factor but only two characters (Cynthia and Yuma) can actually accelerate others' regeneration. The fact that there seems to have been no healing techniques used by the many previous generations of Claymores suggests that they were the only ones who actually found a way to use yoki for it. Healing normal humans is right out. Moreover, only "defense-type" Claymores can regenerate from particularly grievous injuries (like having an arm cut off); "offense-type" Claymores must resort to either Pulling Themselves Together or Appendage Assimilation.
  • Healing is one of the rarest forms of magic in Dorohedoro, so healers enjoy a great deal of prestige and wealth in the magic-user society.
  • While there are still ways of treating injuries with magic in Fairy Tail (for instance, one of Ichiya's perfumes acts as a painkiller and can cure some poisons, Slayer Wizards can restore stamina and power from consuming their respective elements, Brandish's Sizeshifter magic can be used to shrink wounds to negligible scratches), actual healing magic is considered a lost art. The only three beings who are shown to possess healing magic are Wendy, Chelia, and Acnologia. The former two are masters of rare Lost Magic involving wind manipulation and while they can heal even fatal wounds and heavily implied could even do the same to severed limbs, it drains their own energy to do so which increases with wound severity. The latter is over 400 years old from a time where it was more common and even his wasn't nearly as impressive as theirs (he could only stop bleeding, not fully heal wounds or even null pain). Plus, he kinda gave up on healing magic after a traumatic event and devoted himself to destructive magic.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, healing is a sign that an alchemist is skilled.
    • In the first anime, this is limited to Dr. Marcoh because he has a Philosopher's Stone.
    • In the manga and the second anime, there are more characters able to heal, but it's still not something that many are capable of. It's made clear that Amestrian Alchemy was developed to be highly military- and industry-oriented, while healers are more common in Xing — which isn't to say that healers aren't skilled, just not necessarily more so than someone who can create a giant fireball.
  • Though characters with supernatural powers are everywhere in Hunter Hunter, medicine appears to be roughly at the same level as it is in the real world, and these characters are shown getting mundane medical treatment, suggesting healing powers are rare or hard to access. One subplot of a major arc involves obtaining "Angel's Breath," a spell that can heal all injuries and illnesses on the target, which can only be found in Greed Island, a virtual reality world (actually a remote island that players are transported to) and can only be taken outside by winning the game, which no one had been able to do at that point. Relatedly, there are people out there known as "exorcists," who specialize in removing curses, who are highly sought out and paid handsomely as there are less than 10 of them in the whole world.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Antonio Trussardi's Stand, Pearl Jam, is capable of healing anything (unlike Josuke's Crazy Diamond, which heals physical injuries by 'resetting' the body back to its base state) by making healing food. Problem is, it comes with a mountain of conditions. First, basic rules of cooking still apply, and if Antonio screws up the dish, it won't work. Second, each curing dish is specific to one malady and one only, so he needs to know what he's curing. Third, the difficulty of preparing the dish is directly proportional to how bad the problem is. He can fix minor problems easily, but stuff like curing cancer will require a lot of time and rare (sometimes even illegal) ingredients. It also looks absolutely disgusting in action.
  • In the world of Jujutsu Kaisen, all magic (known as Jujutsu) is powered by negative emotion, and is thus, in it's natural state, harmful and destructive. The only way to heal a human body with Jujutsu is to reverse Cursed Energy to create Positive Energy, a process so complex that even Gojo Satoru, universally regarded as the most powerful wielder of Jujutsu in the current era, can only use it to heal himself. Of all the characters introduced so far; only three Sorcerers (Shoko Ieiri, Yuta Okketsu, and Ryomen Sukuna) have displayed full mastery of it.
  • In the Lyrical Nanoha series, magic can fix cuts, bruises, and even sprained ankles — but get yourself wounded for real and it's weeks to months in the hospital.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Recovery Girl can heal severe injuries in seconds, but her power can only accelerate someone's normal recovery speed. This can cause severe strain on the injured person. If she tries to fix too much in one attempt, the patient may die from exhaustion. Additionally, it means she can only heal injuries that the body could recover from naturally given time, so very severe injuries can be untreatable. Especially in cases where body parts are amputated or outright destroyed as she can't create new body parts to replace ones destroyed or damaged beyond repair. She has to be skilled in actual medicine as well as some injuries require surgery beforehand to ensure proper healing. Despite these limitations on her Quirk, she's considered an invaluable asset as the chief medic working at one of the most prestigious academies for superheroes in the world.
    • Healing Quirks are demonstrated to be extremely rare. Recovery Girl is the only one shown with the ability to heal others, and even Healing Factor Quirks were practically unheard of. However, shortly before the start of the series, All For One managed to get a hold of a hyper-regeneration Quirk, which his scientist was able to replicate and give to most of their Nomus. The scientist specifically says that if they had discovered such a Quirk years earlier, he would have recovered from his fight with All Might easily. Unfortunately for them, All For One healed imperfectly without it, meaning that now he can't be restored to what he was before his injuries. (As a side note, when the legendary century-plus-old setting archvillain with zero scruples and essentially unlimited resources can't find a regeneration Quirk when he needs one, that says a lot about how rare they are.)
    • The most powerful and dangerous potential healing Quirk seen in the setting belongs to a young child named Eri. Her Quirk, Rewind, lets her revert anyone she touches to any earlier point in its physical or genetic history, letting her undo any degree of damage or even remove someone's Quirk by reverting their bodies to a state before the Quirk manifested. Unfortunately, as a very young child, she has little to no control of it. She's much more likely to rewind someone out of existence than heal them. She had to be entrusted to UA's staff as they're the only institution with staff able to protect her and hopefully teach her to use her Quirk safely.
  • In Naruto, the characters can do a lot of different jutsus including making 10,000 copies of themselves, summoning giant animals and making themselves nigh immortal, but Lady Tsunade struggles to heal Lee's bones when he gets savagely beaten by Gaara. Tsunade is the best healer in this series, though to be fair she was very out of practice after years of not healing people for her Dark and Troubled Past, and Lee's injuries were bad enough that everyone else had given up on healing him.
  • In Ojamajo Doremi using magic to heal is a forbidden technique because it comes at cost of magic user's own health. This comes in play when Hazuki attempts to heal a bunny that is about to die to spare the bunny's very traumatized caretaker, Nanako, from feeling guilty due to her Dark and Troubled Past; she does so despite knowing the risks and despite Aiko and Doremi's pleas, and gets a severe cold... but only because the Queen of the Magical Land intervened. She still can't remove all of the "bad karma", so Hazuki doesn't die but gets the cold and is Brought Down to Normal for several days as punishment for being reckless.
  • One Piece:
    • For all the amazing things Devil Fruits can do, the only healing ability shown in the first half of the Grand Line was Emporio Ivankov's hormone injects to forcibly accelerate healing, which will still take hours, shorten your lifespan, and require you to actively resist agonizing pain to survive. Ivankov even defies his reputation as a miracle maker, simply viewing it as enabling people with the will to survive to save themselves.
    • Gnome Princess Mansherry can use her Chiyu Chiyu no Mi/Heal-Heal Fruit power to heal any living thing that is wounded or injured, via Swiss-Army Tears or floating dandelions. She can only produce so many of the former at a time, while the latter is either temporary or based on Equivalent Exchange via Energy Donation. She can also heal constructs, but it would cost some of the lifespan. Even with these limits, her power is treated as a tremendous asset, and she's almost forced into negating all the work that went into incapacitating Doflamingo's officers.
    • Trafalgar Law has the powers of the Op-Op Fruit, which allows him to telekinetically "operate" on anything within a certain distance from himself. He will occasionally use it to heal when needed, such as removing toxic lead from his body that would eventually kill him, but the powers work by swapping the locations of things or fragments of things. That means he needs to know exactly what to remove or replace in the subject's body to properly heal them, and that in turn means he needs to be a medical expert to make full use of the Devil Fruit powers.
  • In Sally the Witch, Sally's trials involving healing are always pretty complicated since, despite being a highly skilled Cute Witch, her healing capacity is next to none and healing magic in itself is extremely hard to perform since it involves either the use of the four basic Elemental Powers or filling a quest with a time limit:

    Comic Books 
  • Lanfeust: Played With in Lanfeust de Troy. Of the main cast, the only one with a non-obvious limitation is the healing power. The other two main cast powers are heating metal and changing water temperature. The healing power can nearly instantaneously heal any non-fatal wound the caster can see, but only at night. The casting itself isn't easier or harder then any other power but for an unexplained reason it only works at night and is the only power with that limitation.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): The "Siege of the Crystal Empire" arc implies that a talent in healing magic in the setting is very rare, as Radiant Hope is signaled-out to become a princess when she gets her cutie mark in healing (though granted, she is very good at healing, having been able to resurrect King Sombra from nothing but his horn, though some of that might be due to him not being a normal pony).
  • Silver Surfer: While the Surfer won the Superpower Lottery, healing others' injuries has always been difficult for him. He does it by transferring his Life Energy to them, leaving him correspondingly weakened until he has a chance to recuperate. Even healing minor injuries is harder for him than one might expect, and bringing somebody back from the brink of death leaves him completely exhausted.

    Fan Works  
  • A Certain Magical Friendship: In the Equestrian universe:
    there had been exactly one pony in the last millennium who could cast healing spells. That was a super-rare Talent.
  • Discussed and played straight in Child of the Storm, where Harry notes that not only is healing magic a difficult and complex branch of magic, it scales depending on the complexity of the condition. For example, setting a broken nose is much easier than curing a disease.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls: Equestrian magic is potent, but healing is still rather difficult, at least compared to some of the spiritual healing techniques out there.
    • Discord cannot use his powers to heal because his chaos magic can only disrupt and rearrange already existing orders, or create his own in place of another (presumably undoing what he's already done counts). If he wanted to replace Luna's injured wing with a jet engine or spider legs, he could, but healing her isn't something that he's capable of.
    • Celestia mentally lampshades how healing magic is harder than many people think. Transmutations can make people less familiar with magic think that changing a body is an easy task, but it's just layering a "costume" over the true form, and never last for more than a few days. Even then they tend to be more fragile than the real limbs. Most practitioners of medical magic are limited to healing relatively simple injuries that normal medicine could have done anyway, simply accelerating what would happened without them, with Celestia being one of the few skilled enough to truly regenerate limbs.
    • Hollows and Arrancar often have a Healing Factor, but there aren't many in Los Noches actually skilled at medical treatment as a result. Besides Roka, apparently the next best choice is Grogar.
  • Recovery Girl in Level Up (MHA) is impossible to replace due to the rarity of Quirks that can heal injuries. When Izuku shows up with the ability to produce healing food, she exclaims she can retire.
  • In Slayers Trilogy, while Lina Inverse retains her bordering-on-casual ability to throw highly destructive attack magic around, her attempts at casting healing spells in Reflect are written in extreme detail and make a point of the amount of effort needed.

    Film — Animation 
  • In Wolfwalkers, Mebh normally has no problem using her Healing Hands to fix minor injuries like bites and scratches. However, in the climax of the movie, Mebh struggles to heal the arrow wound in her mother's chest since she's never healed such a serious injury before, which drives much of the tension. Succeeding requires the power of the entire pack and other Wolfwalkers.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: The Force can supposedly be used to heal, but the ability to do so is extremely specialized and only three onscreen characters (The Mandalorian having Grogu, and The Rise of Skywalker having Kylo Ren and Rey, and even then Kylo dies by healing Rey after an intense battle) have ever demonstrates the power. Darth Plagueis allegedly developed this kind of ability, but even his apprentice Palpatine did not know how it worked. Which kind of sucked for Anakin since he turned to the Dark Side specifically because Palpatine promised to teach him how to do it.

  • In Accel World, healing abilities are very rare among Burst Linkers, and there are only three individuals with that ability. The first is Lime Bell, also known as Chiyuri Kurashima. The second is an unknown individual who apparently quit Brain Burst as a result of being sought after so much. The third is White Cosmos, the apparent Big Bad of the series, leader of the White Legion and one of the most powerful Burst Linkers in the setting (not only is she level 9 out of 10, but she's strong enough that she's most likely to win even if Nega Nebulus ganged up on her all at once).
  • In the Arcia Chronicles, Gerika is powerful enough to shake mountains like maracas but gives up on fixing Alexander's hunchback without even trying, saying that only Erasti may be capable of it.
  • Justified in The Black Magician Trilogy and its sequel Traitor Spy Trilogy: Healing magic is Psychic Surgery, and thus no more exerting than any other form of magic, and no more difficult to cast aside from requiring skin-to-skin contact - but the sheer knowledge of anatomy and medicine required to effectively treat someone makes it the hardest discipline to study. This leads to ugly consequences factoring in the always-present risk of Power Incontinence: magicians who are rendered unconscious and Heal themselves automatically in their sleep may wake up with the affected tissues and organs fused together all wrong.
  • Jim Butcher:
    • In The Dresden Files healing magic seems to be nonexistent, at least for humans (Listens-To-Winds does have some capability in this matter, but he's a Senior Council Member, a trained doctor, and regularly goes back to medical school to keep himself sharp). Magic can be used to stanch a wound or keep someone alert, but not in any more direct fashion. Very powerful beings like the Faerie Queens can do more, including fixing a broken spine and bringing Harry back from the brink of death, with the help of a powerful Genius Loci. According to the RPG, Summer Magic can be used to heal people (at least, better than most people) as the magic grants some kind of instinctive knowledge of physiology via Intellectus. Miss Gard's Runic Magic and certain forms of Necromancy can also stave off death - which is not the same thing has healing them, necessarilynote . Kumori using necromancy to save a man's life is described as her preventing him from dying of his wounds before mundane doctors could patch him up. A Justified Trope in that the reason healing is so hard is that the body is really complicated and if you try to fix someone without knowing exactly what you are doing, you'll probably kill him or at least make him even worse.
    • In his other notable series, Codex Alera, healing is the purview of watercrafters. In theory, anyone with any watercrafting ability can heal wounds, but for the most part, skilled watercrafters are true healers, and the less skilled are at best medics or nurses performing triage. The healing process is also described in detail, with watercrafters specifically speeding and directing healing, rather than magically sealing wounds. The process also extremely draining for both crafter and patient, with both generally collapsing after long-term procedures, and the patient being ravenous on waking due to the extreme energy expenditure of rapid healing.
  • The Cosmere:
    • In Elantris, the Elantrian magic system, AonDor, involves drawing symbols in the air that get increasingly more complex as more modifiers are added to the spell. This makes healing magic particularly troublesome, as the spell must be cast with literally surgical precision. Modifiers specifying which parts of the body must be healed, and in what ways, must be added to the basic healing symbol, all with very little margin for error, and with horrific consequences if a healer does mess up the spell.
    • In The Emperor's Soul, using Forgery for healing—a technique known as "Flesh Forgery" or "Resealing"—is among the most complex and specialized uses of Forgery, and is notably one of the only techniques that Master Forger ShaiLu lacks any practical experience in. Forgery works by altering the history of an object in order to transform it into something else, and the Forger must know that history beforehand. Additionally, to make a more convincing Forgery, the Forger should ideally have the knowledge of how to produce a similar result through mundane means. For healing, this means the Forger needs to know the placement of every part of the body—down to individual veins and sinews—and should have some prior expertise as a surgeon. And none of this repairs spiritual damage; that requires a different discipline of Forgery that's difficult enough to perform on the Forger's own soul, but an almost impossible task to perform on another's.
    • In Mistborn, healing is among the more difficult Feruchemical attributes to store, as one must spend a certain amount of time being sickly in order to store that health in a goldmind to tap later. The least disruptive way to fill a goldmind—simply enduring a mild cold for a time—is a very slow way to accumulate health. Conversely, leaving oneself severely bedridden would store health much more quickly, but would be highly disruptive to one's everyday life, and runs the risk of other complications. On top of all of this, gold—a rare and expensive metal—is required to use the power in the first place.
    • The Stormlight Archive:
      • To a point. On the one hand, anyone holding Stormlight gains a powerful passive Healing Factor. On the other hand, only Surgebinders can hold Stormlight. They can also use this power to produce a number of effects like gravity control or illusions. However, of the ten orders of Knights, only two (the Edgedancers and the Truthwatchers) have access to Regrowth, which lets them heal others. And even then, it's an advanced technique; the basic version of the ability just lets them grow plants.
      • In the fourth book, Lirin, a mundane surgeon, worries that his discipline is now useless because there are people with magical healing powers who can work miracles he could never dream of. Kaladin explains that their world-spanning coalition with millions of troops has a grand total of fifty-three healers. Normal medicine is definitely still important.
  • Healing magic isn't only difficult in The Charmed Sphere, it's also rare. Magic is tiered according to the color spectrum — from Red to Violet — and only higher colors of magic can soothe or heal physical and emotional wounds. Orange spells soothe physical pain, yellow spells soothe emotions, and blue spells can heal physical wounds. (Indigo and Violet spells are even more powerful, theoretically capable of healing emotional wounds, but mages of that caliber were exceedingly rare to the point of being thought apocryphal.) The background character of Healer Skylark is a blue mage, and the only trained mage healer in the entire country of Aronsdale. In the seventy-plus years since Healer Skylark's birth, no other mage with blue-level powers has been discovered.
  • Children of the Lamp plays this straight, as Nimrod explains after a certain character had a concussion that to wish a brain injury fixed, the djinn would have to know exactly how the brain was damaged and how to visualize it better.
  • Cradle Series: The only sacred artists who can perform any physical healing are Life artists. They are rare, and their techniques take much skill, so they are in high demand. It's also common to combine Life madra with Blood madra; Blood madra deconstructs the flesh, and Life madra regrows it. In the Blackflame Empire, the Brightcrown family are the most accomplished healers, and they are some of the most respected people in the Empire. All this difficulty is one of the reasons that Eithan made sure to give Lindon an Iron body with an overpowered Healing Factor; short of amputation, Lindon can heal from practically anything in a matter of hours. Of course, this is all putting aside that spiritual damage (damage directly to someone's magical power) is also a serious problem in this world, and healing that is even harder.
  • Deryni Healing is a rare talent, so rare even before the Ban on Magic that Deryni found to be Healers were actively discouraged from taking vows of celibacy. By the 1120s, only four people in the whole nation of Gwynedd are known to be able to do this, and three of them are blood relatives.
  • In Discworld, most healers are witches (although, as with so much on the Disc, this is changing), but healing magic isn't really a thing. There are spells that can be used to aid healing, such as Spolt's Forthright Respirator, which gets someone breathing again, and a spell that takes away pain (which itself can be dangerous, because the pain has to go somewhere), but witches "heal" using first aid, chiropractics, herbalism, and the placebo effect.
  • The Dragonlance books, based on the early Dungeons & Dragons games, has healing magic reserved to clerics. In the first book of the series, the appearance of clerics with healing powers is a sign that the gods have returned.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Largely averted since broken bones can be healed with a wave of a wand and injuries that would be serious in the real world are treated rather cavalierly (Harry fracturing his skull is at one point Played for Laughs and fixed fairly easily). Exceptions are some types of serious magical harm. A dead person is also beyond the reach of any healing magic, as no spell can resurrect the dead. While Healing is a challenging career, it's challenging in the same sense that medical school is challenging in the regular world.
    • Played straight, in the sense that Harry never learns any healing spell or potion at Hogwarts. The only healing spell he ever learns is by copying it after Tonks casts it (which is an aversion again).
    • Also played straight in the seventh book, as Hermione -despite being quite adept at most types of magic- utterly refuses to try any healing spells herself and advises Harry and Ron to do the same, as none of them are trained healers and botching an attempt to heal an injury can make things even worse (as seen by Lockhart's attempt at healing Harry's broken arm in the second book resulting in him losing all the bones in his arm). Instead they rely on a limited supply of healing potions and herbs Hermione put together before they set off.
    • Wizard Healers have mundane diseases and injuries licked, but wizards are vulnerable to magical diseases like dragonpox, and injuries inflicted by curses, like George's lost ear, can be unhealable.
    • Played straight with wands, which are quasi-sentient and to some degree, treated as living things in their own right. Wands that sustain damage are generally seen as unsafe to use, as magic cast with them is unpredictable and can backfire on the user. While repair can be attempted, it is generally considered to be very difficult and more trouble than it's worth, as the wand could easily become damaged again in the same place. If a wand is broken in half, it is beyond any form of magical repair. The only exception to this is the Elder Wand, considered to be the most powerful wand in existence, and the only known object that is capable of repairing broken wands.
  • The Heralds of Valdemar setting is one where Mind-Gifts, Healing-Gift, and Mage-Gift are all distinct talents. Mages can learn and work spells with which to heal but it seems to be difficult; Kethry's healing spells in Vows and Honor are noted to be unreliable.
  • The Hurog duology does have healing magic, but it is very hard to do - a powerful mage is shown to be exhausted to the point of needing a nap after healing injuries on only one hand. And it is stated that the survival of said body part is uncertain even after the healing. The person has lots of other injuries, which are treated with more mundane methods. Healing magic in the 'verse esentially consists of "Psychic Surgery", the wizard Oreg had to magically remove the necrotized tissue.
  • In the Iron Druid Chronicles, druid magic is very powerful but it cannot do direct healing on others. Using druid magic to directly harm another living being will kill the caster on the spot and any healing process can harm the patient even if only temporarily. Druids can use healing magic on themselves but to heal other people they need to use indirect means like potions.
  • In In Another World, I Am Called: The Black Healer, the main character's initial attempts to avoid standing out when she is dragged into a fantasy world and granted magical abilities immediately fails when she mentions off-hand that she can use healing magic, thinking that healing magic is something standard like it is in the videogames she enjoys. Healing magic is apparently extremely difficult and is a fusion of multiple types of magic in that world.
  • In The Inheritance Cycle, magic can heal, but it takes a lot of energy - unless it's life-threatening, it's better to just let it heal on its own. Healing anything more complicated than a surface wound also requires memorizing long and complex incantations in the Ancient Language, which means that many would-be healers are limited to cuts and bruises anyway.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • Healing mages are basically the world's version of doctors which means they go to medical school and learn about how the body works and how magic can be used to fix problems.
    • When Nolien is tending to someone's battle wounds in A Mage's Power, he has a ditty that goes along the lines of "stop the bleeding, check infection, reconnect the nerves and veins..."
    • As a necro priest, Brother Neuro is capable of healing by directing kon from one area to where it is needed. In this way he can mend serious injuries but he's just accelerating the natural healing process and doesn't truly know what he's doing. That's why he demures Tiza's praise and insists that Nolien is a superior healer.
  • Used in Magic for Liars, wherein healing magic requires physically expanding the area to be addressed to the point that microscopic details can be perceived by the human eye, making any changes, then shrinking and reassembling everything back into place. The school nurse describes it as analagous to a surgical procedure. The text refers to it as "exploding" and all characters who experience it find it extraordinarily traumatic.
  • In the Nightrunner series this is very much the case. Even the Drysians, priests who are known for their healing powers, cannot always cure certain illnesses or negate the affects of poison. The fact that healing magic is so difficult is what drives the villainous side of the plot in a couple of the books, as an evil alchemist undertakes an elaborate effort to produce a superior source of magical healing.
  • In The Powder Mage Trilogy, it's noted that healing is an extremely difficult branch of magic. Only Privileged (the most powerful and versatile of the setting's three main types of magic-user) have healing magic, and even most of them aren't very good at it.
  • In Ra, magic is a field of physics and anything that needs doing must be described completely. Human bodies are VERY complex, and the magic it takes to fix them unimaginably more so.
  • In Rivers of London magic can do a lot to the human body, Your Head Asplode, blending people and cats, keeping a severed head alive for decades, but sadly for Lesley it cannot heal injuries. A human body is just too complex to put back together again.
  • In Scrapped Princess, Raquel Casull can blow up buildings just by looking at them funny but all her magic cannot prevent Pacifica from bleeding out after being stabbed in the back. It takes a personal intervention by Lord Mauser to fix that wound.
  • In Star Cursed, healing magic requries knowledge of anatomy and can be very taxing for beginners. The protagonist gets a headache when she heals deep wounds.
  • Shades of Magic: People in the setting are quite lucky if they have a gift for more than one form of elemental magic. Healing and growth magic, however, requires command of all five elements in a delicate synthesis, so healers are widely believed to be chosen by Magic itself for the priesthood.
  • In the Smoke series, wizards can use magic to heal. But in doing so you have to endure all the pain you would normally experience over the time it would take for your injuries to heal naturally - all at once! Needless to say, it is not something one would want to go through unless really necessary.
  • This trope is usually played straight in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, where there are many examples of reliable Force healing, but it's often presented as being more difficult than most areas of Force manipulation. In Clone Wars Gambit, it's noted that Obi-Wan has some skill in this area, but it's difficult and draining, especially since the healer has to experience at least some of the pain of the injured. It's very possible for incautious healers to overexert themselves and burn themselves out.
    • One novel included Darth Vader himself attempting to heal his injuries using the Dark Side of the Force, and making at least some progress. But he ultimately failed, as the Dark Side is powered by hatred and anger, and he was unable to sustain those emotions through the healing.
  • In the Sword of Truth series, healing is common, but a wizard healing an injury does so at least in part by taking on the pain and/or disease of whatever he's healing. So when Zedd regrows Adie's severed foot, he experiences the pain of her lopping it off in the first place. So while a Wizard can heal most things that aren't fatal, they usually need a substantial break between patients to recover their strength. The few times we've seen Wizards acting as mass healers, they work themselves to exhaustion—and even that is still one patient at a time. By contrast, a Wizard can throw Wizard's Fire around over and over for hours before they start to get tired.
  • Healing magic in Tough Magic is described as being particularly difficult.
  • Whateley Universe: While any mage can learn healing magic, it is more difficult than most other forms of magic, and using it safely and effectively requires general medical knowledge. Whateley Academy has classes in the equivalent of magical first aid, but to become a full-fledged healer requires a regular medical degree in addition to arcane knowledge. Fey and Kodiak cheat on this somewhat, as their Avatar spirits have millennia of experience at healing magics, but even with that, Wyatt ends up going to medical school after graduating Whateley.
  • In The Wheel of Time, healing is the rarest talent among Aes Sedai, and requires more training than other disciplines to do safely. It's also hard on the recipient, since it essentially takes the body's current resources and fast-forwards the natural healing process — their patients tend to wake up extremely hungry. There is a way to heal without draining the patient's resources, but it's even more complicated and one of many uses of the Power that were lost long ago. And the Elemental Powers used are so different from normal healing that the only character who can do it is assumed to be doing it wrong by all the other Aes Sedai.
  • Magical healing in The Witcher series is extremely difficult even for powerful mages, to the point where trying to treat a critical injury pretty much guarantees the healer dying from overexertion. In the non-canon Revised Ending, Yennefer (who previously brought down fortresses without breaking a sweat) passes out after healing a shallow wound on Ciri's face.
  • In Worm, justified by the fact that nearly all superpowers are intended to be used offensively, for spoiler reasons. The few parahumans with healing superpowers have it either as a side effect of their main power, or are being really creative with their seemingly non-healing power. For example, Panacea's power is biokinesis and can be used to do stuff like creating plagues and mutated monsters, but Panacea is holding herself back, and minor character Othala is a power-granter with 'super regeneration' as one of the powers she can give out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, supposedly Buffy's witch friends Willow and Tara couldn't use magic to fix her mom's brain tumor in Season Five because "the mystical and the medical don't mix" and if they tried to help her with magic without knowing what they were doing they could make things worse. It's apparently easier to turn someone into a rat than it is to heal. Although the thing that actually eventually killed Joyce was an aneurysm following the removal of her tumor, and that was undetectable until it was too late. Also, Osiris mentions that it is impossible to revive humans who died non-supernatural deaths in the Season Six finale, following Tara's death after being shot by Warren. Buffy's resurrection in the premiere of Season Six was only possible because she had died of leaping into a gateway of mystical energy, and even then it was an epic feat to pull off.
  • Into The Bad Lands has the "dark gift" that was supposedly originally created as a way to heal injuries, but only two exceptionally skilled and long-practicing characters are able to use it for that - in contrast to several who can use it to do telekinesis and dozens who it gives superhuman strength, speed, and coordination.
  • In Merlin (2008), the main character has a much harder time when it comes to healing Arthur the couple of times he does it than he does doing other spells.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): There's only one, but crucial, caveat. An Aes Sedai cannot heal herself. Otherwise, healing is a standard ability and there's an entire Ajah, the Yellow one, that's devoted to it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Ars Magica, you can heal someone easily, but the injury would come back a relatively short while after, and just as bad. Permanent healing required expenditure of vis, i.e. a scarce magical resource. This is also true of any other magic that creates something permanently. The reason for this is debated in-universe; some think it's because only God has the power to create something from nothing, while others think it's because "not-existing" is part of the item's essential nature, which magic is unable to change.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, healing spells have traditionally been the prerogative of the clerics, who not so much cast magic as channel the godly powers of the their patron deities.
    • Only in the 3rd and 3.5 editions did Arcane healing spells (i.e. ones that don't require godlike powers) begin to proliferate. Oddly enough, Bards (and anyone with shenanigans to take spells from the bard list) are fully able to heal through arcane spells. The other group who can pull that off are dragons, but they are dragons.
    • Forgotten Realms in AD&D era already had the Simbul's Synostodweomer converting arcane spells into healing magic. Of course, it's high-level, and the developing wizard already was able to do it at will, though with some risk, as a daughter of the goddess of magic.
    • In the original Iron Kingdoms RPG, despite being based on D&D 3.5, healing magic was rare and difficult even for clerics. Raising the dead was almost non-existent. In the new version, healing magic is still rare.
    • Once D&D added level zero spells (called cantrips) that could be cast an infinite number of times a day, they added damage and utility spells abound for this class. However, there currently isn't a single official healing cantripnote . Whether using items, spell slots, or hit die, healing must take resources.
    • Mending is a cantrip used to repair a broken object. Cue long arguments between players and DMs on whether a Warforged (sentient golems/robots) can be restored by the spell.
  • GURPS has it as a Downplayed Trope: Repeated use of healing spells on the same person in a 24 hours period becomes more and more difficult, and healing is the only type of magic with that limitation. Eventually, proper rest will be needed.
  • One observation in the 4th edition Hero System supplement Mystic Masters is that comicbook wizards in the mold of Dr. Strange for all their flashy powers generally don't do much magical healing, and that conversely what magical healers exist often aren't all that powerful when it comes to doing anything else — as though "active" combat magic and the "passive" art of healing were to some extent mutually exclusive. Consequently the book recommends keeping healing magic relatively scarce (especially among player characters) to help the game feel more like the comics.
  • In Ironclaw an apprentice white mage can't do much more than mundane first aid, and the stronger healing spells can only be cast once per day. Other varieties of mage capable of healing don't gain access to healing magic until at least journeyman, if not master levels.
  • Shadowrun has a variation where magical instant healing becomes harder depending on the target, forcing players to choose between cyberware and the lack of healing potential that comes with essence loss. Damaging magic works just fine on everyone.
  • Played with in Spheres of Power; you can give temporary hit points for free, but actual healing is more expensive.
  • Unknown Armies. Two Adept schools (Nacro-Alchemy and Eperidermomancy) have decent potential for healing, and neither of them are easy to work with. There is an Avatar of The Healer, and a complicated, long ritual to make a magic item that speeds up natural healing and protects against ailments. That's about it. Resurrections? Fuck you.
  • Urban Jungle: Occult Horror psychic surgery using Vitalism is more difficult than using mundane medicine for the same results, but at least it's mostly instantaneous.
  • Wicked Ones: While the exact abilities of a magic path are somewhat open to GM interpretation the only examples given in the book for a spell being used to heal are Pyromancy cauterizing a wound and Bloodreading closing one. These are both given as examples of Tier 3 spells, the most powerful tier of magic and the most likely to fail or backfire.

    Video Games 
  • Healing magic is available to mages of the Creation school, which is said to be the hardest of the four to master, in Dragon Age, but it cannot hold a candle to the Spirit Healers' abilities, which draw upon the energies of powerful benevolent spirits, which puts them at an even greater risk of Demonic Possession than a normal mage. Furthermore, the basic heal spell has been outright removed from Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Spirit Healer no longer counts among the available mage specializations. A different specialization gets a full party heal, but it still counts as this because it is a Focus Spell instead of a standard ability.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, the Restoration School, due to its (mostly) non-combat nature, is the slowest magic school to increase in level. (Especially in Oblivion, where it increased at half the speed of the next slowest school, Destruction, and one tenth the rate of the fastest, Conjuration.) In-universe, this has lead many of its practitioners to bemoan the lack of students and perceived respect they get. Somewhat ironically, despite their deep mistrust of magic, Nords greatly value this school.
    • The series includes countless types of magical spells, ranging from mundane Utility Magic, to the Restoration spells mentioned above, to fully blown Reality Warping for certain special characters. One thing it doesn't have? True resurrection. Sure, you can use Necromancy to bring a body back to (un)life, but to reunite body and soul in a healthy way has yet to be performed in the series or mentioned in the backstory.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, there's only one Healer base Class, the Conjurer, and the class's questline and background lore establish that not only is the use of conjury strictly regulated, but it's also potentially dangerous for those who don't have the vast aether reserves the Warrior of Light has. With the Job Change, more healing options open up, but they're still pretty exclusive lore-wise. White Mage (an extension of the Conjurer) is normally only reserved for a special group of individuals, with the Warrior of Light being the only known exception, Scholar (an alternate path to the Arcanist DPS class) is a lost art, and Astrologian and Sage are arts native to the isolationist nation of Sharlayan, and the Warrior of Light just happens to be lucky enough to meet the few people from there that are willing to teach an outsider. Somanoutics, the Sage's arts, are also described to be incredibly difficult to learn and master. In the grand scheme of things, healing magic can only do so much to mend an injured person. You'll often see more mundane medical practices used to put someone on the mend with healing magic amounting to stabilizing the patient. Even then, the most grievous wounds are potentially impossible to mend with magic.
  • In the first Kingdom Hearts game, healing magic is cast with the same amount of MP as a few other spells. To encourage the player to avoid taking damage, every other game imposes some sort of restriction on healing spells that other magic doesn't have.
    • Kingdom Hearts II and III, as well as A Fragmentary Passage, make the Cure lines of spells take all of a character's MP to cast. Different levels of healing spells merely increase its range as opposed to recovering any more health. While the MP bar eventually recovers on its own, it usually takes around twenty seconds to completely recharge even at the best of times, during which no other spells or Limit Breaks can be used.
    • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories has healing cards show up relatively rarely for Sora, and they can be broken pretty easily unless combined with other cards. The only way Riku can recover HP is with King Mickey cards, and those drop during battle at random, so they can't be pre-loaded onto decks.
    • Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance both use command decks that can be loaded with various abilities. In each game, Cure spells take the longest to recharge out of any commands.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Of all the spells Link can get from the deceased Champions, the healing spell Mipha's Grace takes the longest time to recharge, 20 minutes. Healing food, on the other hand, is extremely common.
  • In Mordheim: City of the Damned, only the Witch Hunters and Sisters of Sigmar have healing spells. The Sisters of Sigmar have a somewhat weak healing spell that affects an area, while the Witch Hunters's spell affects only one person but recovers a lot of health. Both these spells take the maximum amount of time and money to learn. Other than those two, healing becomes limited to finding healing draughts (they recover small to medium amounts of health depending on the quality) or buying DLC characters, Poison Wind Globadier and Doomweaver and learning their respective skills Infused Globe and Idol of Blood (the first can cause side-effects, while the second requires units to attack an enemy before they recover health).
  • In Othercide, you are a being of incredible power capable of manipulating time and memory as well as summoning "Daughters" through bits of your friend's memory. However you normally can't restore any health to wounded Daughters, except by sacrificing the life of another Daughter.
  • Persona: Downplayed. The original Persona shows Healing Hands Dia line of spells used by Personas, while effective on fellow Persona users and other supernatural entities, don't really work properly on people who have not awakened their Personas. At one point, the party members attempt to heal a schoolmate, and they find that healing spells only give an effect comparable to massaging. Persona 3 has Chidori being able to heal dead flowers back to life, but she does so with her unique Empathic Healer ability rather than the standard Healing Hands spells. The same game also implies Persona users who are rendered unable or unwilling to evoke their Personas are also difficult to heal normally, as Shinjiro and Junpei can attest to.
  • Most "healing" spells in Pillars of Eternity actually only restore Endurance—a limited pool of hit points that regenerates quickly on its own out of combat and knocks you out if it runs out. Health points, on the other hand, are lost at a much slower rate but cannot be restored by magical means at all: Resting Recovery and some out-of-combat special abilities are the only way to get them back.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, people that can use the Seventh Fonon, which allows for healing, are noted to be extremely rare. When someone who isn't born with the ability tries to use it, at best nothing happens. At worst, those healed by those without natural ability go insane. It's telling that Jade Curtiss, otherwise something of a traditional master sorcerer for the setting, far more knowledgeable on the topic of Fonons and their magic than Natalia or Tear, actual Seventh Fononists, could never pierce the barrier of simply not being born with the natural talent to use the Seventh Fonon. Instead, he had to resort to more...drastic measures to do anything resembling a curative spell for the sick and wounded.

  • Aurora (2019): According to both of Word of God and All There in the Manual; Life Magic is much more dangerous/difficult to use than any of the other types of magic. Probably doesn't help that there's a plague of the raw stuff randomly cropping up...
  • Castoff: While Vector thinks Arianna would heal the cuts on his feet, the best she can do is clean them with a spell and bandage them. Arianna explains there's no such thing as a healing magic, and, being a competent mage and the story's main source of magic-related Exposition, she'd know. Then again, Marina does heal the cuts on Vector's hands a few chapters afterwards. Then again, she's hinted to be exceptional.
  • El Goonish Shive: Mr. Verres asks extra-dimensional visitorsnote  about how healing magic in their universe works, stating that the healing magic known to their own world was minor and cosmetic, and could complicate long-term healing. The visitors explain that in their own, more magically-driven world, that there are some effective magical treatments, but that they require advanced medical knowledge to use them; also, one of the two main approaches involves stimulating natural healing processes, which could place a strain on the one being healed. Despite these warnings, he asks them to teach him as much as they could about it.
  • Homestuck: Healing is generally limited to certain class(es) that may or may not be part of a (game) session, and may also be limited by one's Aspect (probably best described as abstract concepts such as nothingness and the soul in the form of elemental affinities). However, all players with the Life aspect have the ability to revive the dead, regardless of class. Jane Crocker and Feferi both demonstrate this. The catch is, this seems to be limited to once per person. This hasn't come into play as of this writing, (mainly because Death Is Cheap in Homestuck and there are a variety of ways for the dead to come back), but it's bound to figure into the plot at some point, as everyone is running out of extra lives.
  • Sleepless Domain:
    • Tessa is the most powerful member of Team Alchemical, and she completely burns out her magic trying to heal the one surviving member of her team from near-death. She flat-out says that healing is the most advanced form of magic while she's doing it.
    • Rue has a more "typical" healing ability that takes the form of a green Healing Potion. When she uses it to treat some minor burns and scrapes, it seems to use up almost all of her magic supply for the night, as it only takes a few more attacks for her to go over her limit and pass out.
  • Zap!: Psychic healing is possible, but it takes a very strong telekinetic who has studied anatomy extensively and had a lot of practice.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Jeong Jeong describes the healing subset of waterbending to Katara as something very few are able to do, and something that only true masters are able to perfect. When the Gaang gets to the enormous city of the Northern Water Tribe, Katara attends a healing class and sees only five other girls in training.


Video Example(s):


Katara Learns Healing

After Aang accidentally burns her hands, Katara runs to the water and discovers that she is able to heal them with waterbending.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / HealingMagicIsTheHardest

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