In honor of Severus Snape’s birthday on January 9th, I have researched the different potions ingredients found throughout the books. On Pottermore, JK Rowling said, “I always enjoyed creating potions in the books, and researching ingredients for them. Many of the components of the various draughts and libations that Harry creates for Snape exist (or were once believed to exist) and have (or were believed to have) the properties I gave them.”
Chopped daisy roots: Daisies symbolize childhood, innocence, gentleness, and purity, and therefore were probably used in this potion to represent becoming smaller or younger.
Skinned shrivelfig: The Abyssian shrivelfig is a magical plant that seems to have been created specifically for the Harry Potter series, with unknown potion making qualities.
A dash of leech juice: leeches drain away from their host, and therefore represent shrinking, or growing smaller
Draught of Living Death: A powerful sleeping potion
Powdered root of asphodel: A plant connected to death and the underworld
Infusion of wormwood: Wormword was historically used in absinthe, and was believed to cause a condition called absinthism, which involved sleeplessness and hallucinations
Valerian Roots: Used as a natural remedy for insomnia
Sopophorous Bean: Probably comes from the root soporific, which means “tending to induce drowsiness or sleep.”
Aconite (Monkshood and Wolfsbane): Aconite is a genus containing many species of plants, most of which are poisonous. Aconite poisoning in humans may ultimately lead to coma, which may explain why they are ingredients in the “Draught of Living Death.” In the first book, Snape claims that aconite is the main ingredient in this potion, although when Harry makes this potion in his sixth year, neither monkshood nor wolfsbane is mentioned.
Potion to cure boils:
Dried nettles: Nettles are used for many medicinal purposes, including to cure hives
Crushed snake fang: Snake’s venom is often associated with either poison or medicine
Stewed horned slugs: The slime from slugs has been used for centuries to cure skin afflictions such warts.
Porcupine quills: porcupine quills have the amazing ability to pierce the skin and then expand, making them very difficult to remove. It is unclear, however, what makes them useful in this particular potion
JK Rowling said, “I remember creating the full list of ingredients for the Polyjuice Potion. Each one was carefully selected.”
Lacewing flies: JK Rowling says,”the first part of the name suggested an intertwining or binding together of two identities”
Leeches: JK Rowling says were used “to suck the essence out of one and into the other”
Fluxweed: A plant in the mustard family, used to cure dysentery. JK Rowling used it in this potion to represent “the mutability of the body as it changed into another.” Flux means, “a series of changes.”
Knotgrass: JK Rowling used the word knot as, “another hint of being tied to another person.”
Powdered horn of a bicorn: Bicorns were magical beasts in medieval times who were said to feed on devoted husbands. JK Rowling used this ingredient because its name represented, “the idea of duality.”
Shredded skin of boomslang: Boomslang is a large, venomous snake. The skin of snakes represents becoming something new, getting rid of the old, rebirth, etc. JK Rowling described it as “a shedded outer body and a new inner.”
The Draught of Peace: a potion to calm anxiety and reduce agitation
Powdered moonstone:moonstones are given many symbolic meanings, but one of which is calming powers and the ability to help with sleeplessness.
Syrup of hellebore: Hellebore is used for nervous disorders or hysteria
Confusing and befuddlement draughts:
Scurvy grass: Rich in vitamin C, often used by sailors suffering from scurvy. It’s unclear why this ingredient would be used in a confusing and befuddlement draught, as the symptoms of scurvy are mainly spotted skin, fatigue, and bleeding from mucous membranes.
Lovage: In the UK, lovage is mixed with brandy to create a winter drink. If you drank too much of it, you may become confused or befuddled.
Sneezewort: The plant is poisonous to cattle, sheep, and horses. Symptoms include fever, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, drooling, spasms and loss of muscular control, and convulsions.
Other Potion Ingredients:
Bezoar: In ancient medicine, the bezoar actually is a stone from the belly of a goat, that was believed to be an antidote to most poisons. The word “bezoar” comes from the Persian pād-zahr (پادزهر), which literally means “antidote.”Modern scientists have shown that bezoars are, in fact, capable of removing arsenic from a solution.