Magic potions' main draw in fiction is twofold. Firstly, they act as essentially bottled spells — potions with desired effects can be made whenever one has time and the chance to do so and can be stored away until they are needed. When their power is wanted, the potion is quickly drunk and its magic becomes active. Secondly, potions can be used, and often made, by people who cannot otherwise use magic. Typically, potion-making takes its effectiveness from inherent properties of the ingredients and processes used to magic the potion, without requiring active spellcasting; thus, even someone who cannot cast "true" magic can make potions if they know what to mix and how to prepare it. Even when magic is needed to make a potion, it's not needed to use it — thus, regular old Muggles can simply buy potions from a wizard to use as needed later.
Magic potions can have a tremendous number of effects. Some of the most common variants are the Healing Potion, which closes wounds and restores lost health, and the Love Potion. Also common are potions which make you tougher or faster, or which give resistance to all or certain types of damage. Certain potions may be actively harmful, but may still be handy if you can get the other guy to drink them. They tend to be named very prosaically after their effects, usually as either "X elixir/potion" or "elixir/potion of X".
Eye of Newt is often an important ingredient in these brews. Many potions have extensive, complicated recipes with long lists of abstruse ingredients, which can range from easily-accessed bits of backyard wildlife and woodland Healing Herbs to a Flower from the Mountaintop or the viscera of rare monsters to abstract Insubstantial Ingredients. Generally speaking, a potion's power tends to relate to the rarity and potency of its ingredients; a mix of common bugs and herbs will be effective but not mind-blowing, while the choicest and most powerful potions will require rare and expensive reagents. The relationship between specific ingredients and the potion's effects varies. Sometimes no specific link exists, and the potion will be stated to derive its powers from substances and properties that are present in the materials but not visible to the naked eye. Other times there will be more obvious links — for instance frog legs for a potion that makes you a good swimmer or leaper, a love letter for a love potion, and so on.
The actual brewing process is sometimes trivially easy, especially in video games, but in other media tends to be long and complex, and usually delicate. It's most commonly achieved by stirring everything into a big, bubbling cauldron, mixing and heating everything in a usually very specific sequence; some works drop this convention in favor of distilling potions through complex series of alembics, retorts, and that thing you get when you hook a whole bunch of them together. In either case, messing up the process, such as by adding the wrong ingredient or the right one at the wrong time, or even just jostling the pot, will result in a useless mass of goop... or an explosion. The explosion is more likely.
In appearance, potions tend to have one of two looks. Sometimes, they will be brightly-colored, often fizzy, bubbly, or containing various bobbing shapes; their taste will either be acceptable or unremarkable. Other times they will be vile, chunky purees like what you'd expect a newt, weed, and insect soup to look like, sometimes with things like eyes and dead insects still visible inside, to be choked down in a hurry for the sake of their conferred power.
Supertrope of Bottled Heroic Resolve, Elixir of Life, Healing Potion, Love Potion, and Mana Potion. Super Serum is in many ways a pulp and science fiction version of this. This is often a part of why Alchemy Is Magic. Potions of this sort are often brewed by a Witch Classic in a Magic Cauldron. In games, this is often represented through a Potion-Brewing Mechanic. These often act as a one-time Limited-Use Magical Device.
- The Gauls' main advantage over the Romans is the magic potion that the druid Getafix brews in his cauldron, which gives its drinkers superhuman strength. Its recipe is a closely guarded secret, but it's known to include mistletoe cut with a golden sickle, lobster (for taste), reasonably fresh fish, and rock oil (substitutable with beetroot juice). A few stories are set off when a crucial ingredient runs short and Asterix and Obelix are sent off to a remote location to gather more.
- Besides the Magic Potion itself, Getafix knows the recipes of more potions. These include an antidote against poison (Asterix in Switzerland), a healing potion (Asterix and the Great Divide) and a potion that can counter the effects of the Magic Potion, but at the cost of de-aging the drinker (Asterix and Obelix All at Sea).
- Bartok the Magnificent: What Bartok is given by Baba Yaga following the Fetch Quest for the ingredents. Whoever drinks it will transform into what they are in their heart.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- Brave: Princess Merida asks a reclusive old witch for a spell that'll change her mother, Elinor. Merida likely meant change as in less overbearing and insistent, but the potion the witch proffers actually changes Elinor into a bear!
- The Emperor's New Groove: The villainous Yzma brews various varieties of magic potions, the most plot-important of which are a variety of elixirs that can transform the drinker into another animal. Kuzco drinks one and magically transforms into a llama, and other characters are transformed into other animals such as cows, cats, octopi, lizards, birds, frogs, and more.
- One of these is how Ursula transforms Ariel into a human in The Little Mermaid; she later creates one that turns herself into a human to keep Ariel and Eric apart. (Because the setting is underwater, the potions are not drunk but mixed in a cauldron and send out magical energy waves to effect transformations.)
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Evil Queen transforms herself into an old peddler woman by way of one of these. She specifically has a whole spellbook of recipes for disguise potions.
- Shrek 2: The Fairy Godmother runs a magic potion factory. Shrek steals one of her potions, named "Happily Ever After", to fix his relationship with Fiona. He and Donkey drink the potion, and the next morning Shrek and Fiona look like gorgeous humans and Donkey like a white stallion.
- The Dresden Files: Harry occasionally brews potions for various uses, usually when his regular magic isn't enough; this happens more and more rarely as the series progresses. Making a potion involves eight ingredients; a base and something to stand in for each of the five senses, mind, and spirit. He then casts a spell that makes the mixture into an active potion. Magic in the setting tends to work because the person using it believes it will, and this extends to potion-making — there's no "true" recipe for any one potion, and the process instead tends to rely on exploiting what the brewer expects to work. This mostly works by using things associated with the potion's effects; other things can be substituted, but they affect the result based on their connotations and associations.
- Fighting Fantasy: The series has plenty of examples. Most books start with the default Health Potion that restores your Life Meter to its maximum level (or alternatively, a Skill or Fortune Potion that restores your SKILL and LUCK stat). Many of your adventures can also have you obtain magical potions necessary to advance on your quest.
- Beneath Nightmare Castle has one of the most powerful combat-oriented potions for the players, a Potion of Berserk Rage, which boosts their SKILL by four points. However, it can only be used in one combat, and players who drink this potion must fight an enemy to the finish, even if an option to escape or stop fighting is available.
- City of Thieves (1983): Halfway through the adventure, you can partake in a baseball game with a group of goblins and win a potion that helps you resist mind control, which is necessary to save you from getting killed by a hag.
- Deathtrap Dungeon: While the titular dungeon has its fair share of deadly traps, it also contains all kinds of magical items that aids your adventure, the most helpful which is a potion that help you detect traps.
- Eye of the Dragon has you coming across Pia the Enchantress, who will sell you various magical items, including a Clear Vision potion, a Water Breathing potion, and a Green Skin potion.
- The Forest of Doom: Early on, the wizard Yaztromo will open his shop and can sell you a variety of magic items before you explore the dreaded forest, including potions that cure poison, potions that help you keep still during an earthquake, and two flavors of potions that respectively control plants and insects.
- Legend of Zagor has various potions that can help you on your quest, including the usual potions that restores SKILL and STAMINA, an anti-venom (which makes you immune to poison attacks) and, the rarest of all, the Potion of Flying that can only be obtained in two areas.
- Siege of Sardath has you come across a potions-brewing machine which helps you create your own shapeshifting potion by combining various ingredients you obtained throughout your quest, although if you mix the wrong ingredients, you will be severely penalized (the worst outcome is getting transformed into a living mist... forever).
- Spellbreaker: You will need to seek Sam Boggart, a frogman potions master, who will help you create a series of magic potions to aid your quest. Among those, you will need Sam's help to create a potion that resists fire, and another that repels a magically-summoned swarm of spiders.
- Stealer of Souls has an alternate subquest for the players, where if they help a lizard capable of human speech get rid of two giant birds threatening its nest, the lizard will reward players with a potion that increase their speed in battle.
- Harry Potter: Potions are frequently used in the series, and there's a dedicated class at Hogwarts for teaching how to make them. Potions are a very "passive" form of magic, in that no active spellcasting is used in the preparation or use; instead, they draw upon the properties of the items used in making them and modified through very careful mixing and brewing (but it's also said that people with no magic talent, including a Muggle Born of Mages, cannot brew potions, so it still requires some passive magic ability). Properly brewed potions can do almost anything when drunk; improperly made ones tend to explode, become highly poisonous or just dissolve the cauldron.
- Impractical Magic: Each court at the Magic School has its own magic system, and the Summer court includes potion-making. On one occasion, a student asks a professor about a partially filled glass bottle that they didn't learn about in her lesson. She answers that it's alcohol.
"What, this?" Professor Mach lifted the bottle. "It's perhaps my favorite potion, known for both causing and relieving headaches." She uncorked it and took a swig. "It is commonly known as brandy, child." She set the bottle down. "Dismissed."
- Lord of Mysteries: Anyone can gain supernatural powers and become a beyonder by drinking potions belonging to one of twenty-two pathways and digesting them before drinking the next potion of the corresponding higher sequence and eventually reaching the gods. The potion formulas are simple though strictly classified and the brewing is trivial. The materials, however, are exceedingly rare, coming from extraordinary creatures or the remains of dead beyonders and rising in sequence is risky and might involve complicated rituals.
- The Salamanders: Alchemy is a common part of life in the five cities and relied upon to make things like Healing Potions for hospitals and adventurers and fire potions, a flammable liquid that is used for stoves and lamps.
- Uprooted: Potion-brewing requires magical talent, expensive components, and lots of time, but is invaluable for creating powerful magical effects in a storable, accessible form. Agnieszka's first brush with the practice is a bottle of mist that leaves her Taken for Granite; the infamous Fire Heart potion takes a master wizard ten years to brew but is a Fantastic Nuke in a bottle.
- Void Domain: Alchemical potions can produce a wide range of magical effects, and are a popular option for mages to have pre-prepared spells on hand. However, they work by reacting with the drinker's own magic, so they're ineffective or outright toxic for Muggles.
- The Worst Witch: Miss Hardbroom teaches the students how to brew potions, whose many effects include making witches' magic stronger and turning people into things.
- Ars Magica 4th Edition: People who have the Gift of magic, access to a laboratory, and at least a season's free time can create potions that function as bottled spells, granting the spell's effect to the drinker. 5th edition replaced potions with "charged items", a generic form of Limited-Use Magical Device.
- The Dark Eye: While one does not necessarily need to possess magical abilities to create a potion, having access to them allows the creation of more powerful varieties of regular potions and enables the alchemist to create certain potions one needs to cast a spell on.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Potions essentially work as bottled spells; when a character drinks one, the associated spell's effect is cast on them or, more rarely, they gain the ability to cast it themselves for a limited period of time. Other potions boost a specific stat or trait, such as by making the drinker faster or stronger, or give a temporary trait such as flight or invisibility. There are also various flavors of healing potions, with various perks and drawbacks each.
- The game uses the same "bottled spell" method as D&D; however, while most potions are drunk, others are made as oils to be applied to the skin. In terms of effect, they range from simple healing and stat-boosting things to drinks that cause you to sprout eyes all over your body or that turn you into a hive-minded swarm of wasps. Potions are often the province of alchemists but are also made by arcane spellcasters such as wizards and witches. The making of potions is a very complex process of selecting ingredients and distilling, brewing, and proofing mixtures, and professional potion-makers are often very protective of their trade secrets. Potion variants include ones with delayed effects, ones that heal you in addition to their other effects, and ones deployed as gaseous clouds instead of being drunk.
- Starfinder has "spell ampoules" acting as injectable "bottled spells" and "serums" that produce specific effects.
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Unlike non-magical "draughts", potions require the brewer to have magical potential and can achieve outright supernatural effects, like regrowing a lost limb. They're also more dangerous to make and can produce bizarre Magic Misfires as they age.
- Faust: In the first part of the tragedy, Mephisto and Faust visit a witch who brews a magic potion that makes Faust appear like a young man.
- Board Game Online: The game features an item aptly called "Potion", which can trigger random events to happen the turn after the player drinks it.
- Darklands: Characters can buy and trade alchemical recipes, obtain ingredients, and brew potions whose effects can range from buffing allies to creating explosions.
- Dragon Age: Potions are made from a variety of ingredients that you have to gather, mixed by either yourself or NPC shopkeepers to make potions. They're divided between regular potions (mostly healing items), tonics (elemental resistances and stat boosts), and grenades (thrown instead of drunk, various effects).
- The Elder Scrolls: Potions can be made — alongside poisons, the process is the same — at appropriate workstations or by using alchemical equipment such as alembics and retorts, and out of at gathered plants and parts taken from slain animals and monsters. Generally, the difference between a potion and a poison is that a potion is drunk and has positive effects such as restoring health, mana or stamina or granting elemental resistances or invisibility, while a poison is inserted into the bloodstream after being coated on a weapon and has negative effects.
- Epic Battle Fantasy 1: There are Attack and Magic potions to boost said stats.
- Guild Wars 2: The artificer crafting class can create potions that give you combat bonuses against specific types of enemies, as well as tonics that temporarily change your character's appearance into a different species. They are made by combining gems, gatherable vegetables, and specific types of Vendor Trash dropped from monsters.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The series has traditionally included a number of potions buyable from certain shops. You need at least one empty bottle to buy one, and can then store it indefinitely until you want to use it. The common types are the red potion, which heals you; the green potion, which refills either your magic meter or stamina bar; and the blue potion, which does both things at once. Less common variants include purple and yellow potions. In Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, they're stronger healing potions; in A Link Between Worlds, the purple kind creates an attack that damages all enemies in your vicinity and the yellow kind turns you invincible.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Instead of the usual potions, you can use the stew pots you use to cook to create a variety of brightly-colored elixirs by mixing at least one small critter (like a frog or a butterfly) and one monster part. Each eligible critter has an adjective in its name denoting its uses, and the elixir's effects are determined by the critters you toss in (monster parts determine how long the effect lasts); "chilly" critters and elixirs give you heat resistance, "electro" ones give resistance to electricity, "enduring" and "energizing" refill your stamina wheel (enduring supercharges it while energizing stops at your current maximum), fairy tonics (made with a fairy's help) and "hearty" ones heal you, "fireproof" elixirs make you immune to fire, "hasty" elixirs make you faster, "mighty" elixirs make you stronger, "sneaky" elixirs make you stealthier, "spicy" ones give you cold resistance, and "tough" elixirs increase your defense.
- Minecraft: Potions are brewed from a water and nether wart base and an additional ingredient, and a potion's effect tends to be in some way related to the ingredient that went in — a rabbit's foot, for instance, will make a Potion of Leaping, a magma cream will make a Potion of Fire Resistance, a pufferfish will make a Potion of Water Breathing and a phantom's wing membrane will make a Potion of Slow Falling. Potion variants include splash potions, made by adding gunpowder, that are thrown rather than drunk; and lingering potions, made by adding dragon's breath to a splash potion to create clouds that affect anything passing through with the potion's power. Fermented spider eyes will also invert a potion's effects (i.e., make a Potion of Healing into a Potion of Harming or a Potion of Swiftness into a Potion of Slowness; less negatively, a Potion of Night Vision, which lets you see better, turns into a Potion of Invisibility, which makes you unseen).
- Moshi Monsters:
- The "Make-All Smaller Potion" is made from troll snot, bat droppings, and berries, and shrinks things. It has a variant called the "Make-All Smallest Potion" which shrinks things to microscopic size.
- The "Glumping Potion" is made from a firebug, beanstalk sap, and other ingredients and turns Moshlings into Glumps. Without the firebug, it becomes a "Deglumping Potion" that turns Glumps into Moshlings.
- One mission features a sleeping potion that's used to put the Tonto Talk-speaking Big Chief Tiny Head to sleep.
- NetHack: The hero can use and make potions. Most of them bring good effects, although some of them are utterly harmful.
- Nickelodeon Clickamajigs: One of the games involves messing around with a witch's cauldron by adding a variety of ingredients into the mixture, such as eyes, bat wings, and werewolf fur. The combination of ingredients will then produce different results, such as creating a single puff of smoke, summoning a shark-hat wearing swimmer with sharp teeth, or creating flying skulls with bat wings.
- Pokémon: The various Potions are the series' primary healing item, coming in regular, Super, Hyper, and Max varieties — each kind refills more hit points; the Max kind completely restores the health bar. You cannot make them yourself, and must purchase them from shops. Unlike most examples, the Potions come in spray-bottle form and are applied to the Mons by their Trainer; it's even noted in-game that the Mons can't use man-made healing items, though they can hold on to a variety of Berries for similar effects.
- Scribblenauts: In the first game, the player can create potions that act as healing objects. Starting with Super Scribblenauts, adjectives can be added to potions, and those potions have the effect of changing the appearance of a character or object (for example, a "Golden Potion" will turn things to gold).
- The Witcher: Witchers are Super Soldiers produced by subjecting children to highly toxic alchemical regimens, and as part of their training, they learn how to brew potions that can temporarily enhance their abilities further. Many of these potions would kill a normal human, and even Witchers can only consume so many at a time (represented by a toxin meter in the video games).
- Wizards Castle has vendors in the titular castle, three per level. All vendors can sell the player strength potions, which heal the player's character from battle damage; intelligence potions, which allow the player to cast magic spells upon the monsters; and dexterity potions, which make the player's character less likely to be hit by a monster's counterattack. Each dose of potion costs one thousand gold pieces, regardless of type, and multiple doses are possible if the player has the gold on hand.
- Ava's Demon: Wrathia makes a potion that binds the drinker's soul to the next being that is born in the universe upon the drinker's death.
- Homestar Runner: "Halloween Potion-Ma-Jig" is an interactive Halloween Episode where Homestar has to find ingredients for Marizpan's "Halloween potion" despite having scribbled all over her recipe. By interacting with the other characters, Homestar has to find water, powder, essence, a stirring utensil, and some "magic words", the combination of which results in one of five different effects when he brings them back to Marzipan.
- Morphing potions will change a Neopet's colour and species. For example, a Blue Acara Morphing Potion will turn any pet who drinks it into a blue Acara.
- Transmogrification potions will turn the pet who drinks it into a mutant of the particular species (for instance, a Lenny Transmogrification Potion will turn the drinker into a Mutant Lenny).
- Edna the witch sends users to fetch ingredients for her potions, which are always called "Potion of [species] [participle]", e.g. "Potion of Grundo Shrinking".
- Potion Seller is about a knight who tries to convince a grumpy potion seller to part with his "strongest potions!" to aid him in battle.
- The Fairly OddParents: A variant in "Nectar of the Odds". Timmy opens up a lemonade stand to raise money to buy scalped tickets to see Crash Nebula on Ice. However, as his lemonade tastes terrible, he looks for a secret ingredient that will make it taste better. Cosmo tries to help by dunking his sweaty socks in Timmy's lemonade. The magic from his socks not only makes the lemonade taste better but when people drink it, it grants their wishes. Thanks to this, Timmy's lemonade stand becomes a massive success, but when people start wishing for dangerous things, Timmy is forced to use the lemonade to undo the wishes.
- My Little Pony:
- My Little Pony TV Specials: In Escape from Catrina, the titular sorceress makes heavy use of witchweed potion, a substance brewed from the eponymous plant using a complex system of machinery. Drinking it grants Catrina her magic power, and it's potent enough that a quick sip allows her to grow to enormous size and cast powerful spells, but it also causes her personality to become erratic and volatile.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Zecora and Mage Meadowbrook are a zebra and an earth pony, and so don't have any of the direct magical abilities that unicorns do. However, they are both very skilled at creating magic potions and brews, as well as medicines, solvents, and similar substances, which become plot-relevant in several episodes.
- The Owl House: Potions is one of the nine official Covens under Emperor Belos' rule, and thus one of the tracks of magic taught at Hexside. Potions exist for a variety of effects, and whilst the exact mechanics are not gone into some are highly important. Due to the high training that is needed to make them, many are sold at high prices. A recurring plot point involves Eda attempting to ensure she has enough of a very complicated elixir (complicated enough that she can't make it herself despite being the most powerful witch on the Boiling Isles) which she uses to keep her curse under control.