In mythology and literature, a potion is usually made by a magician, dragon, fairy or witch and has magical properties. It is used for various motives including the healing, bewitching or poisoning of people. For example, love potions for those who wish to fall in love (or become deeply infatuated) with another (the love potion figures tragically into most versions of the tale of Tristan and Iseult, including Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde); sleeping potions to cause long-term or eternal sleep (in folklore, this can range from the normal REM sleep to a deathlike coma); and elixirs heal/cure any wound/malady (as in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Goscinny and Uderzo's character Asterix the Gaul gained superhuman strength from a magic potion brewed by the druid Getafix.

Creation of potions of different kinds was a common practice of alchemy, and was commonly associated with witchcraft, as in The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare