In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, alchemy is a fun, profitable skill. With the right potions you’ll soon be relieving the town merchants of their daily allotment of gold. As it’s one of my favorite ways to earn in Skyrim, I’ve written a quick and easy beginner guide featuring recipes, ingredient lists, and alchemy apps to help you make a serious profit from your very first moments in the game.
Alchemy requires ingredients and an Alchemist table at which to mix them. When you begin gathering ingredients you will have no idea what their powers are. The game intends you to direct your character to eat each ingredient to uncover its first ability. You can then blend ingredients with the same power to create a potion.
Neat idea, but it has its drawbacks. You will eat a lot of ingredients before you have a good base of knowledge for potion-making. That’s money you could have been making. Some ingredients are rarely encountered, especially early in the game, so there’s that waste, too.
Combining ingredients successfully also uncovers their powers. Recipe lists and Alchemy apps can be a great shortcut to unlocking recipes. This beginner guide and the apps I’ve linked will help you cut right through the experimental stages to the profit.
Ultra Newbie Alchemy Start Guide
After you escape the dragon and head into the Keep storerooms, watch for salt piles (in small bowls) and herbs hanging from the ceiling. These are the first ingredients you’ll encounter.
The skeletons beneath the Keep have bone meal, which is another.
Spiders’ nests have spiders eggs, as you might expect.
On the path from the keep to the first village, you can find mountain flowers of several colors, thistles, and snowberries to harvest.
Fallen logs and tree stumps offer mushrooms such as Mora Tapinellas.
You will also encounter a trio of standing stones known as Guardian Stones. Tapping the thief stone will give the rate at which you learn thief skills and alchemy a boost. You can go back and switch which stone is active at will.
You will not have to stray far from the beaten path to collect enough ingredients for a good start by the time you reach Riverwood. There you can access your first Alchemy table at the inn.
Combing Riverwood yields Fly Amanitas under the trees on the small island in the river, salt piles in barrels, and a chicken egg in a nest found in the yard of a house in the back.
At the Alchemy table, click Ingredients, then work your way down this list, making as many of the first set listed as you can before moving to the next:
Blue Mountain Flower, Bone Meal, and Spider egg
Have chicken’s eggs? Chicken’s Egg, Elves Ear, Spider Egg
Blue Mountain Flower, Elves Ear, Spider Egg
Elves Ear, Fly Amanita, Mora Tapinella
Garlic, Salt Pile, Thistle Branch
Fly Amanita, Mora Tapinella, Snowberries
Frost Miriam, Purple Mountain Flower, Red Mountain Flower
These give you the most leveling power plus the higher priced potions for the ingredients you should have at this stage. Sell as many of your potions as the Riverwood Trader can buy. With that gold in your pocket, you’re ready to move on to Whiterun to visit Arcadia’s shop and buy out her supplies, where the more advanced fun begins.
On the way to Whiterun you’ll see your first Lavender, Tundra Cotton, Butterflies (daytime) or Lunar Moths and Fireflies (nighttime) to capture, and possibly your first Nirnroot (by a log in the river).
At Arcadia’s Cauldron in Whiterun, I recommend using the Skyrim Alchemy Calculator, keying in the ingredients she offers for sale + what you have in your pack. Little by little, buy the items she offers that you need to make the best potions. You’ll get your money back by selling her the potions you make, and soon you will be afford to buy everything she has without risk of running out of funds.
* Don’t forget to visit your skills selection screen to Level Up and upgrade your Alchemy perks with your new points!
Rapid Alchemy Leveling in Skyrim
(making money while you level)
Visit any Alchemy ingredient merchant.
Buy all the ingredients offered for sale.
Combine into potions working from highest sell price to lowest.
Sell the potions until the merchants run out of funds.
Go to the next city. Repeat.
Unlocking Potions with High Sell Value
For a couple of high value potions, combine:
Giant’s Toe (cheap but rare, best bought) + Wheat (harvest from farms) + Creep Cluster (grows wild along the road south of Windhelm)
Chaurus Eggs (dungeons around level 10 in difficulty) + Luna Moth Wings (capturable at night at any level)
Good Alchemy Apps
Skyrim Alchemy Laboratory – pick your ingredients and the potions you can create appear. Or, you can pick the effect you want the potion to have, and the lab will display the ingredients you need to create that potion.
Alchemy Recipe Finder – type one ingredient and it will display the best potion that can be made from it (a multiple effect potion). Click the tabs at the top to see the potions with fewer effects that can also be made. Or check the box on the initial search page to see all recipes using that ingredient.
List of Merchants by Location:
Merchants in Skyrim – Apothecaries sell potion and poison ingredients. Apothecaries and General Goods venders buy poisons and potions.