Katrina: Hu...don't you need to know what toxin...
Elsbeth: It's a magic, broad-spectrum antidote, don't worry about it.
The panacea, named for a Greek goddess of healing, is a mythical substance able to cure any illness or poison and even prolong one's life. This basic form of wish-fulfillment, a medicine that instantly fixes everything, is an old idea and takes many forms in various mythologies and subsequent fiction.
The strength of its effect varies. A weak panacea will work on natural diseases but might be useless against certain ailments, especially if they are of a magical or evil nature. It might elongate one's lifespan, but must be taken regularly to do so and it may not work forever. A strong panacea, on the other hand, is proof against anything you can think of and might well bestow endless life with one sip, making its user The Ageless.
It takes many forms as well. Classically it's a liquid, but common substances also include mystical fruits, herbs, flowers, or the body part of some mythical creature. It might even be some kind of jewel.
This is not the same as a Healing Potion, though there is a lot of overlap, especially since both are most often liquids. The distinction is that the Healing Potion is geared towards fixing physical injuries rather than invisible and silent ailments. Nevertheless, many cases of one will work as the other, though this is not always so.
- The Grand Panacea from Baccano!. Its perfect form also grants immunity to aging.
- One Piece: Chopper's dream is to become a living Panacea, a doctor capable of curing any illness.
- Invoked in Jin, when the pre-Meiji era doctors at Medical Institute think that penicillin is a panacea. As we know today, it's not.
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure
- In Diamond Is Unbreakable, Antonio Trussardi's Stand, Pearl Jam, lets him cook up meals that cure illness. However, eating his food makes you heal in some unfortunate ways, like throwing up your intestines, however after that end you are 150% as healthy. One drawback is that any individual meal Pearl Jam makes is not a "cure-all", it takes a specific recipe to cure one specific malady.
- Jojolion has a much darker version of the Panacea in the form of the Locacaca, a mystical fruit capable of healing pretty much anything...but also turns another part of the body to stone, and while it seems to work on the basis of Equivalent Exchange it has an odd sense of priority, such as healing minor injuries by turning brain tissue to stone. A concentrated, experimental liquid version called Locacaca 6251 seems to be more potent and has less adverse side-effects, petrifying patches of skin rather than entire limbs, but the risk is still there, and the creation and distribution of the drug itself is controlled by a secret organization made up of Rock Humans.
- Negima! Magister Negi Magi: One exists in the Magical World, in the form of a potion that can cure any disease if taken. As one might expect however, it is rare and incredibly expensive. When three of the girls purchase just one dose of it to cure a life-threatening disease, the price is such that all three have to sell themselves into slavery to pay for it. Also, we later learn it's made from the powdered horns of an intelligent magical being...
- Subverted in the first Squadron Supreme miniseries. Science Hero Tom Thumb knows that a "panacea potion" exists in the future one of the team's foes comes from, so when a person important to him gets a fatal illness, he goes there to obtain it. Turns out that in the future, people are so healthy that they only need penicillin and a few vitamin supplements to beat any illness...
- Batman villain Ra's Al-Ghul uses a pool of liquid called the Lazarus Pit to prolong his lifespan and reverse aging. He's over 600 years old because of this, but the effects no longer last as long as they once did and Ra's is afraid the pits will soon stop working on him altogether.
- In Creature Tech, the staff at RTI realize they're dealing with the real Shroud of Turin when they realize the blood on the shroud can heal any wound and raise the dead.
- Doctor Strange had a miniseries where, when Wong comes down with cancer, he fights and defeats an extradimensional being to get its elixir that can cure any ailment. Once he gets it, another problem comes up in a cabal of pharmaceutical companies that conspire to suppress magical solutions in medicine.
- Wonder Woman:
- The Amazons developed the healing purple ray during their many years of immortality spent inventing things. The Ray's limitations tend to depend on the writer but it can perfectly heal damage modern medicine can't do anything for and during the silver age was used to bring dead characters back to life. They refuse to share the tech with the world at large because it can very easily be reconfigured into an incredibly dangerous weapon and they don't trust other countries not to do so.
- In Wonder Woman (1987), Diana uses Astral Projection to get a piece of golden fleece to be used to heal burn wounds on a victim whose doctor says he cannot be saved. After the fleece basically erases the man's wounds the doctor takes it and runs around healing all the children in the burn unit before the fleece gets used up and dissipates and Wondy indicates it's healing properties cover quite a bit more than burn injuries.
- In "Prince Ivan The Witch Baby And The Little Sister Of The Sun", the Sun's sister gives Prince Ivan two youth-giving apples.
So at last he persuaded her, and she let him go away to find out about his home. But first she provided him for the journey with a brush, a comb, and two youth-giving apples. However old any one might be, let him eat one of these apples, he would grow young again in an instant.
- "The Three Snake Leaves": The titular leaves are used to bring any living being back from the dead.
After a time a second snake crept out of the hole, and when it saw the other lying dead and cut in pieces, it went back, but soon came again with three green leaves in its mouth. Then it took the three pieces of the snake, laid them together, as they ought to go, and placed one of the leaves on each wound. Immediately the severed parts joined themselves together, the snake moved, and became alive again, and both of them hastened away together.
- "The Death Of Koschei The Deathless": When Prince Ivan is cut into pieces by Koschei, his brothers-in-law use Dead Water to piece his body back together, and Living Water to bring him back to life.
Afterwards they all three met, broke open the barrel, took out the remains of Prince Ivan, washed them, and put them together in fitting order. The Raven sprinkled them with the Water of Deaththe pieces joined together, the body became whole. The Falcon sprinkled it with the Water of LifePrince Ivan shuddered, stood up, and said:
"Ah! what a time I've been sleeping!"
"You'd have gone on sleeping a good deal longer, if it hadn't been for us," replied his brothers-in-law.
- In "Godfather Death", Death shows his godson a magic herb that can cure all diseases so long as the sufferer is not destined to die. The godson becomes a physician who heals all his patients with the magic herb, except those who Death claims for himself.
- Nutricula: One of the powers of Izuku is Antibiotic Blood: he can cure illness by ingesting his blood. Izuku can just activate it and it'll work immediately on him.
- Hearts of Ice: Cologne keeps a couple of Shards of the Apple, pieces of fruit of the first apple tree which have incredible healing properties. Unfortunately they are so incredibly old than they have lost most of their potency.
The Shards were, of course, immeasurably old, remarkably preserved pieces of fruit from the very first apple tree in the world. Legend had it that the tree grew far to the north-east of Qinghai province, in the Heilongjiang region, in ancient times. Known to have fantastic healing properties, the fruit from that tree cured the worst diseases and injuries, from blindness, to strange and deadly wasting illnesses, to lost limbs...
- Rapunzel's hair in Tangled, as well as the flower that she got her magic from.
- The father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding pulls out Windex anytime someone has an ailment, and in the film, it seems to cure everything from poison ivy to pimples.
- Ravenous portrays the Wendigo myth as being true, and eating the flesh of another human grants a wide range of benefits, including a Healing Factor which allows someone to recover from gunshots, stab wounds, or messily broken bones without so much as a scar. Diseases don't fare any better, as the film's Big Bad was on death's door due to tuberculosis before he first turned to cannibalism, and within months he was fully cured and hasn't ever been sick since. Too bad all of this comes with the side effect of an unstoppable Horror Hunger.
- Star Wars: Bacta is a liquid medicine used to regenerate people from severe injuries. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker is immersed in a bacta tank to recover from hypothermia and being mauled by a wampa during a misadventure at the start of the film. In The Mandalorian, IG-11 uses a bacta spray to heal Din Djarin of a head injury sustained in an explosion. In the Expanded Universe, bacta has also been used to treat diseases.
- The Radix: The eponymous MacGuffin is an ancient plant that, if cooked properly, can heal any illness and even raise the dead. Supposedly, it belonged to Jesus himself. Stored in a mummy's chest for ages, it made its dead tissues regenerate and bleed.
- In the first (plotwise) book in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew, the apples of a particular tree in a special garden have the power to cure disease. The scenario was written to reference the garden of Eden, and the fruit enfolded a Secret Test of Character: after taking one, Diggory is told that had he eaten it himself, or stolen it for his terminally sick mother, he'd have ultimately regretted it; it doesn't just cure disease, it makes one unable to die even if one wants to - they have given up any possibility of Heaven in favor of unending life on Earth. The White Witch did exactly that, and it took Aslan's personal touch to end her. But because he resisted temptation, he is given an apple from the tree which grew from the one he retrieved, which fully restores his mother and permits her to die peacefully decades later.
- The Athelas weed, aka Kingsfoil, in The Lord of the Rings has unspecified medicinal properties; it may not be good for everything, but it is able to cure several ailments, most notably the Black Breath, a curse brought on by contact with the corruption of Sauron. The process of preparing the remedy suggests that magic is involved. The same plant is used in The Silmarillion.
- In the Belgariad, Garion makes one of these by accident. When asked to make a rosebush bloom with sorcery for his cousin, he refuses because it'd hurt the plant but compromises by creating a new flower from some twigs. This seems to be the end of the matter until well into the Malloreon, when it turns out to be the "sovereign specific", capable of curing any poison, even one previously believed to have no antidote and resist magic curing. Its further medicinal properties are explored by Polgara but never specified on the page.
- Similarly, in The Elenium by the same author, The High Queen has been administered a poison believed to have no remedy, and her champion must find an object of power to cure her. As it happens, none will suffice but the Bhelliom, a Cosmic Keystone of practically unlimited power. Although the story initially serves up the Bhelliom as a cure to this specific predicament, it quickly becomes a greater MacGuffin by dint of the desire of the Big Bad to possess it by any means.
- Harry Potter:
- A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat, and it can resolve most, though not all, poisons. Despite the seeming mundanity of the origin, bezoars seem to be quite rare, as they are mentioned to be expensive, and the school's potion ingredients store contains only a few.
- As well, phoenix tears, in addition to mending flesh, are strong enough to be the only cure for basilisk venom.
- Drinking unicorn blood can sustain one's life no matter how serious the affliction, but the drinker is cursed thereafter because of how evil it is to hurt a unicorn.
- Mandrakes can be used to brew a potion that will dispel any curse, and even cured an affliction that merely looked like a curse. However, not just any mandrake, only a specific, extra deadly, stubborn variety will do.
- The Hogwarts hospital wing also has a drug that will clear up a wide variety of common illnesses, at the cost of causing smoke and steam to continually come out from the patient's orifices.
- On Gor the Caste of Physicians have created a pretty good panacea in the "Stabilization Serums," a series of shots which effectively make you immortal and stop aging. You can still die due to injuries of course, and it doesn't work 100% of the time; more like 98%. In book 27 there's a newer version which de-ages you 10 years per treatment. And the Priest-Kings — the Insectoid Aliens Powers That Be of Gor — have perfected them even more: Misk the Priest-King is over 6,000,000 years old. The physicians have also cured almost all diseases except "the Holy Disease" which is believed to be a punishment by the Priest-Kings.
- Lansip fruits in Tales of Kolmar can cure just about anything, and can even reverse aging. However, they're extremely hard to come by, as lansip only grows on an island that is protected by strong storms - ships can only get through about once every hundred years.
- Codex Alera has the mushroom called the Blessing of Night, which grows in only one place and can heal injuries, poisoning and also infertility.
- Kate Daniels has panacea be a miracle drug that helps shapeshifters to not go full loup. It's incredibly hard to get a hold of. Until Kate rescues a guy who knows how to make it and brings him home with her, anyway.
- In The Andromeda Strain, when a rubber seal fails and one of the main characters is exposed to the virus, he volunteers to take Kalocin, a top-secret antibiotic that destroys all unicellular life — bacteria, fungi, viruses, you name it — and even causes remission in cancer. One of the other scientists absolutely refuses to allow it. An expository paragraph then explains that when tested on humans, the drug wiped out all the symbiotic microorganisms living inside and on them; when the doses stopped, harmful microbes moved into the now-empty biological niches and killed all the subjects in various grotesque ways within six hours.
- Among its many other functions, the titular energy of The Stormlight Archive can heal just about anything, including cuts, broken bones, bad eyes, missing limbs, damaged souls, and, under the exact right circumstances, death itself. It is as yet unclear whether it will stop aging.
- In Bridge of Birds, when the children of Number Ten Ox's village fall deathly ill from chewing poisoned leaves, Ten Ox and the sage Li Kao go on a quest to find a powerful ginseng root that can cure any disease. Unfortunately, said ginseng root has been broken up into pieces and stored in the extremely well-hidden and guarded treasure vaults of the villainous Duke of Ch'in, and only the entire root will be enough to cure the children.
- The Outer Limits (1995):
- In "Blood Brothers", it is believed that Deighton C is capable of curing any disease and is resistant to any poison. However, it turns out that it uses up the body's natural ability to heal within days, leading to the complete collapse of the immune system.
- In "The New Breed", Dr. Stephen Ledbetter describes the Nanomachines that he has invented as having the potential to cure any and all diseases. However, they prove to be too efficient in altering the body. Having injecting himself with them to cure his osteosarcoma, Dr. Andy Groenig develops gills, eyes on the back of his head, nematocysts and a significantly strengthened ribcage. The transformation is extremely painful.
- Some versions of the Holy Grail myth had it that the Grail could cure anything, grant immortality, etc. This idea was relished by treasure-seekers for whom a relic of unrivaled holiness just wasn't good enough. The same kind of powers have been attributed to any number of other Christian relics.
- Russian Mythology and Tales: Living water and Dead water, used to bring someone Back from the Dead - the dead water removes the dead person's wounds and rot (but kills the living) and the living water is then used to bring them back to life.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The Philosopher's Stone item, which can be broken open and used to make a potion which can heal anything up to and including death.
- Pathfinder also has this item. In addition the Alchemist class can (at high levels, and if they take the relevant skill) make one.
- The 3rd Edition supplement Creature Collection: The ewe of the Amalthean Ram gives milk that neutralizes non-magical poisons and diseases in anyone who drinks it.
- There is also Keoghtum's Ointment which can cure various things.
- Warhammer 40,000's background lore features an STC, Standard Template Construct, known as the Panacea which would have led to medical breakthroughs that would save billions of Imperial citizens across the galaxy... if the Dark Eldar Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue hadn't stolen it because Asdrubael Vect dared Lady Aurelia Malys to do it.
- In Tales of Vesperia Yuri, Karol, and Estelle try to use a panacea bottle to heal the big cherry blossom tree in Halure and, from then on, it becomes a regular item that cures both physical and magical ailments.
- Panacea is a summonable item in Scribblenauts (along with everything else). In the sequel it heals any sick or diseased creature, and renders an already healthy one invincible.
- The goal of one subplot in Ōkamiden is to make a perfect medicine in order to cure a terminally ill girl.
- In Cave Story, you retrieve a "cure-all" pill from the abandoned hospital in the labyrinth. The full curative abilities of this medicine are unknown, but it heals Curly Brace (who is a robot) from unspecified debilitating injuries.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has disease-curing potions that are easy to make or buy, raw ingredients such as hawk feathers and charred rat skin that cure diseases on their own, and if that's too much bother, praying at a local shrine will have the same effect, plus a deity-specific blessing. Curing vampirism and lycanthropy is a different story, however.
- Bloodborne is themed around disease and blood, set in a Mystical Plague infested city that uses Blood Magic. The player character has some sort of disease, and came to Yharnam seeking a substance called "Paleblood" that can cure any ailment.
- There are several "chems" that can cure any addiction. Fallout: New Vegas has "Fixer", which can temporarily cure any addiction (with the side effect of making the user woozy for a little bit). Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 replace this with "Addictol", which permanently removes addiction, with the relatively small side effect of increasing hunger and thirst (in 76 and 4's survival mode).
- Across the series, stimpacks can be used to instantly cure broken limbs and serious head injuries.
- Doctors are able to cure addictions, remove radiation, fix broken limbs, and restore health points for a small cap fee (usually no more than 100), no matter how remote or under-supplied.
- Fallout 4 has the "Mysterious Serum" in the Cabot House quest line. It ups the player's strength score by 5 (for context, 10 is considered the upper level of superhuman), gives 50 damage resistance, and removes 36,000 rads. In-game, the serum is derived from the Cabot family patriarch, a pre-war madman with an ancient alien artifact fused with him. It has been used to elongate the lifespan of the entire Cabot family by nearly 400 years.
- The Disease Cure in Fallout 76 will cure one disease when taken. Radaway, in this game, also has the chance to cure mutations, although, depending on the mutation, this may be more a hinderance than helpful.
- Pou has potions that make the pet healthier and gives it more energy.
- Knights of the Old Republic: Kolto, which occurs naturally on the planet Manaan, is a liquid medicine used to heal major injuries. The government of Manaan uses kolto production as a sledgehammer to maintain its neutrality in the conflict between the Republic and the Sith Empire. Literature around Star Wars: The Old Republic states that bacta was introduced later from Thyferra, and outcompeted kolto, which led to Manaan being conquered by the Sith.
- Solstoria has a character who is searching for a panacea for her mom.
- In Grrl Power, the magician Elsbeth can pull an antidote potion from her magical thesaurus, which is broad-spectrum enough that she doesn't have to bother identifying the toxin.
- In Mortasheen, the Streptile is a reptile-like artificial organism whose body is intensely hostile to all microorganisms, and can even spray a "medicine breath", a cloud of phagocytes which immediately wipes out even the most virulent germs on contact. However, this also includes beneficial symbionts like gut bacteria, so being cleansed by the Streptile is basically just as detrimental to one's health as having an illness, if not more so.
- SCP Foundation:
- The SCP-500 pills that cure any disease, but there's just about fifty of them and they're impossible to replicate perfectly (though knockoffs can work if you're lucky).
- Later, SCP-427: the Lovecraftian Locket was developed that has eclipsed it in use. It has its own problems like overexposure, though.