Welcome to Potions 101!

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Lesson 4) The Remedy is the Experience (Lab #1: Cure for Boils)

Welcome to the fourth lesson of Potions 101. I hope that you’re excited to brew your first in-class potion today. We will be starting off by brewing the Cure for Boils. All the potions we produce in class, from first year and beyond, are important, but some are more glamorous than others. This is one of those not-so-glamorous potions. However, it is one of the simpler concoctions to generate, which is why it is so good to start with! There can be some nasty complications if it is brewed incorrectly, as you will see, but otherwise it is a mostly innocuous potion that is very difficult to get too wrong. Typically, even if it is not brewed just right, as long as the instructions are more or less heeded, you will be able to use this potion to help burst your boils effectively. It’s a wonderful place to start for my First Years and can be quite a useful potion to have in your potions cabinet.

For those who are unaware of what a boil is, it is an infection located in a gland or a hair follicle. These boils may appear somewhat like painful and inflamed infected pimples. If untreated, not only are they very painful, but the infection can spread and cause additional - and more dangerous - problems. If left untreated, boils have even been known to grow to the size of a throbbing, painful golf ball. Muggles typically deal with this infection by soaking the boil in hot water for several days, as well as repeated application of hot compresses. Eventually, the boil bursts and the pus drains away (very appealing, I know), at which point the drained site of the boil is treated with medicine and dressed.

The process of the Cure for Boils is not terribly different from the Muggle method of dealing with the boil. However, it does occur in a much quicker fashion. The potion is applied topically (that is, to the surface) of the affected area, which draws the boil to a “head” in mere minutes. The boil will then pop -- sometimes quite dramatically, so be warned -- and will then drain completely. Much like the Muggle treatment for boils, after the boil has been popped and drained, it is important to clean the site and apply essence of dittany or another healing potion or herb. It should also be covered and allowed to heal naturally and with the help of normal healing potions and elixirs.

You will note that all of the directions for the Cure for Boils are written on the board in front. Sometimes my handwriting can be a bit difficult to read so I have left a legible copy at each brewing station for you to reference. I will be brewing this potion with you in order to illustrate proper procedure and methodology. While the potion is brewing, I will wander around and help you should you fall behind or need a bit of additional assistance. Please do not hesitate to ask questions about the process as we brew as well! I promise I am quite good at multitasking, and it will not throw off my own brewing here in the front of the room.

Please notice that I have listed temperatures in Kelvin, Celsius, and Fahrenheit. Please feel free to take heed of whichever method of measurement makes the most sense to you. For those who have never heard of Kelvin before, it is a unit of measurement for temperature. It is part of the International System of Units (abbreviated as SI from the French Le Système International d'Unités), and it measures thermodynamic temperature. It is not, in fact, named after a man named Kelvin, but rather after William Thomson, who was the First Baron Kelvin. He wrote a paper in 1848 that called upon the need for an absolute thermometric scale. This may, in fact, make little to no sense to you, but do not worry: you do not have to understand it yet! I just wanted to give a little bit of backstory.

As an additional safety note, please wear your goggles at all times in the lab. However, if something should happen, you will notice that I also have an eye-rinsing station at the front of the room. There is a bottle of Ephesial’s Eye-Saving Rinse as well as other medicinal and first aid potions. If the potion makes contact with your eyes at any point during this brewing process, we will certainly rinse your eyes, but it will also require a trip to the infirmary.

One last bit of housekeeping information is, of course, the Stirring Charm. As I’ve mentioned more than once already, you should never, ever dip your wand into the potion in order to stir it. There is a very simple charm that you will almost certainly be able to perform to allow for this stirring, however. When moving your wand either clockwise or counter-clockwise, as you begin to move your wand in smooth, even circles across the top of the surface, say the phrase Halato” (pronounced hah-LAH-toh). You will see the potion move and churn in the direction you are moving your wand and, in some cases, you may see a very pale beam of light between your wand and the cauldron. When stirring, continue to move your wand in the number of times listed in the recipe. When you stop and lift your wand, the charm will cease. You will have to remember to say the charm every single time you stir. If in these first few brewing exercises, you occasionally find yourself waving your wand around the top of your cauldron without it doing anything, do not worry! We all forget to say the incantation on occasion.

Cure for Boils

Estimated Brewing Time (EBT):
Pewter cauldron: 44 minutes
Brass cauldron: 40 minutes and 6 seconds
Copper cauldron: 36 minutes and 33.4 seconds

750 mL of water
6 snake fangs
4 horned slugs
2 porcupine quills
3 measures of Flobberworm mucus


Part One:

  1. Add 750 mL of water to your cauldron and bring the temperature to 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F).
  2. Add all six snake fangs to your mortar and crush them into a fine and even consistency using your pestle.
  3. Take the tablespoon you see beside your mortar and add four measures of the fangs to your cauldron.
  4. Heat your cauldron to 383 Kelvin (110°C/230°F) for ten seconds, then turn down the flame to 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F). Please be careful not to ignite your instruction sheet, each other, or anything else in the classroom while adjusting the temperature up and down.
  5. Wave your wand once clockwise. At this point your potion should have a pink hue.
  6. Depending on your cauldron, your brew times will vary. For the purpose of today’s lesson, you can leave your pewter cauldron brewing for 22 minutes. Throughout much of this potions’ brewing, you will notice that, even as the color of the potion changes, the smoke remains pinkish in hue. (If you were using a brass cauldron, the brew time would be approximately 19 minutes and 48 seconds. Copper cauldrons have a brew time of 17 minutes and 49.2 seconds during this step.)

Part Two:

  1. At this point, all four horned slugs should be added directly to the cauldron.
  2. It is important during this step to take your cauldron completely off the flame before adding your porcupine quills. Failure to do so will result in the potion emitting a terrible odor and your cauldron melting. When this happens, the compound is known to cause very painful boils.
  3. Now that your cauldron is off the flame, add two porcupine quills to the potion and then return it to the heat.
  4. Wave your wand five times clockwise and ensure that the heat is still at 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F).
  5. Let the Potion finish brewing for 17 minutes (This would be 15 minutes and 18 seconds for a brass cauldron or 13 minutes and 46.2 seconds for copper).

To Finish:

  1. At this point, take your cauldron off the flame entirely. The potion should be sky blue in color, and the potion will begin to stop steaming as it cools down.
  2. Add Flobberworm mucus (about three measures), and leave to thicken for about five minutes.
  3. Stir the potion with a wooden spoon to ensure it is of a uniform consistency, and then use a funnel to bottle it in a clear glass or crystal phial. Remember to correctly label your phial before storing it.

Usage Notes: Avoid using this potion on sensitive areas of skin, such as on your face or particularly near your eyes. If you do get it in your eyes, flush your eyes out immediately and seek medical assistance. In some cases, an allergic reaction may occur. These symptoms are usually very mild, and consist of irritation and minor rash. This potion is safe for children, elderly, and those who are currently or may become pregnant. It should only be applied topically and never ingested or injected. If the potion is swallowed, please consult with a healer immediately.

Storage of Potions
As we mentioned last time, you should label every phial clearly. When storing potions, it is also important to take into account a few variables to ensure maximum shelf life. The first variable is the amount of light. Some potions are best stored in sunny areas, such as on a windowsill or other area where they have easy access to light. Other potions do not require any particular amount of light or dark to store, as long as they are not exposed to extremes of either. Meanwhile, certain potions thrive in dark areas, and they must be kept away from light exposure at all costs. In the case of potions that require darkness in order to properly keep, it is wise to keep a dark cabinet and to store them in tinted glass or crystal phials to minimize light exposure.

Temperature is also a factor that needs to be taken into consideration, as some potions store best at room temperature, without any exposure to extremes. Others thrive in a warmer environment, either in direct sunlight or kept in a warmer cabinet with similar potions. You may also want to have a slightly cooler cabinet, as certain potions need to be kept cool and away from too much heat exposure.

As you may have guessed, the reason for these specifications is the ideal amount of dynamic energy received by the potion in order for it to work most efficiently. In the case of the Cure for Boils, there are not too many storage specifications: it can be kept at room temperature for up to four years before it should be safely discarded and replaced. The Ministry actually has regular hazardous potion collection days biweekly. It is wise to keep your potions to be discarded away from your current consumable potions, and to prepare to give them to the Ministry employee on that day. There are special receptacles in which you can place the phials in case you will not be home. The Ministry employees possess a special key which allows them to unlock this receptacle from the outside and collect the hazardous materials within.

Next week you will be sitting for your first Potions midterm! As such, I will not extend the lesson too much further, as I want to give you time to study and prepare for the exam. There will be a quiz that is required for the midterm, and there will also be an extra credit essay option. Remember that this first half of the year, we focused on potions mechanics, process, and tools. For the second half of the year, we will spend a good deal of our focus on types of ingredients as well as their interactions. Do your best and be sure to study up for your midterms.


Original lesson written by Professor Lucrezia Batyaeva
Image credits 
here and here

This course provides an introduction to potions and potioneering. First Years will learn safety and fundamental potions usage, terms, brewing, and basic theory. We will cover major ingredients as well as some history of potions.
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