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Skyrim Alchemy guide – craft better potions, find skill trainers, and level up your skills

Skyrim Alchemy
(Image credit: Bethesda)

With this Skyrim Alchemy guide, we hope to remove some of the grind from one of The Elder Scrolls 5's most powerful side-hustles. While so much of Bethesda's sprawling RPG is focused on fighting dragons and exploring the world, it is possible to spend hours doing little more than Smithing or Alchemy in Skyrim. It's fun, but can require patience. In this Skyrim Alchemy guide, we have prepared a number of tips that'll get you crafting the best potions and poisons in no time. 

There are four ways to level up your Alchemy skill in Skyrim: using skill trainers, reading skill books, or completing specific quests, and crafting potions. But to speed things up you'll want to get your hands on the Thief Stone (found among the Guardian Stones southwest of Riverwood) as this will level your Alchemy skill in Skyrim faster – 20% faster, in fact. There's also The Well Rested buff to consider, gained by sleeping, which can add an additional 10% boost, or the Lover's Comfort buff, gained by sleeping with your spouse, which adds a 15% XP boost. 

You could also invest some time into the Skyrim Enchanting path, which will let you create gear that can boost your Alchemy skill, or you should focus on adding skill points to the following Alchemy perks to further increase your levelling speed: Alchemist, Physician, Benefactor, and Poisoner.

Regardless of how you want to go about it, follow these tips below to start unlocking more Skyrim Alchemy recipes and improve your Alchemy skill level in Skyrim quickly.

Skyrim alchemy leveling methods

1. Level up by crafting potions from Giant’s Toes & Wheat

Giant’s Toes and Wheat are the unlikely keys to Alchemy leveling. Combining these two easily-obtainable ingredients yields one of the highest value potions and is quite possibly the quickest and easiest way to level up your Alchemy skill.

Giant’s Toes are especially valuable in the Alchemy process, so slaughter every walking skyscraper you see during your travels. Giant camps are marked by Mammoth Skulls on your map. If you haven’t found any yet, there are two camps right next to each other in the valley between Whiterun and Windhelm, as seen below. You can also sometimes find Giant’s Toes for sale at Alchemy shops.

As for wheat, lots can be found at the Brandy Mug, Hlaalu, and Hollyfrost farms, all found immediately east-southeast of Windhelm, and all are very near each other. Harvesting wheat from these fields is not a crime, and in no time you’ll have more than you know what to do with.

Adding a Creep Cluster to these two ingredients gives you one of the most valuable mixtures in the game, although it’s only about 30% more valuable than the basic wheat and giant toe mix. So it's up to you if you want to spend the time finding a third ingredient. If you do want to do the extra legwork, Creep Clusters are quite abundant and can be found by starting at Windhelm and heading south by foot. You’ll find some on the rocks beside the round, near the geysers south of Bonestrewn Crest, around the Atronach Stone (directly south of Bonestrewn Crest), and around the Riverside Shack.

Because Wheat and Creep Clusters are so extremely abundant and easily obtained for free, you can forego the Giant’s Toes if you want and just use these two ingredients. The resulting potion is not nearly as valuable as the above combinations, but you'll get quantity over quality and avoid fighting giants.

2. Buy out shops to craft potions you can sell back

If you’re tired of tracking down Giant’s Toes, an alternative method to quick levelling is to find any Alchemist, buy out all of their stock, create potions like a mad scientist, then sell everything you’ve made back to the vendor to get your original gold back.

3. Use Enchanting to improve Alchemy

You can disenchant gear that has the Fortify Alchemy enchantment in order to learn this skill and then use it as you wish on headgear, necklaces, rings, and gloves. You can find pre-enchanted gear randomly at shops or in the wild, but if you wish to take chance out of the picture, accept the “Mourning Never Comes” quest (given by Astrid of the Dark Brotherhood) and complete the optional objective along with the rest of the quest to receive Muiri’s Ring. You can also get the Ring of Pure Mixtures from the Forsaken Cave as part of a quest given by Frida from Dawnstar, but if you give the ring to her, you’ll have to steal it back or loot it from her corpse in order to disenchant it.

You can boost your Enchanting skill even more by drinking specific potions. This allows you to further increase the Fortify Alchemy enchantments, though the ingredients needed to make potions that increase your Enchanting skills may be hard to obtain and such potions only increase the maximum effect given by a piece of gear from 25% to 29%. Remember that both your Smithing and Enchanting skills have to be maxed out to achieve such numbers, and this is no easy task.

For console players, we also recommend enchanting a Falmer’s Helmet and a Circlet and wearing both at the same time. This is an exploit. Falmers’ helmets can be found in Mzinchaleft (pictured below), just southwest of Dawnstar, or on random Falmer corpses. Doing this allows you to wear five pieces of enchanted apparel at once as opposed to the usual limit of four.

4. Use Alchemy Skill Trainers

You can also pay coin to have your skill levelled up for you. There are three Alchemy trainers in Skyrim, each of whom also sells ingredients:

Lami

Lami runs Thaumaturgist’s Hut in Morthal. She is an Adept level trainer.

Arcadia

Arcadia runs Arcadia’s Cauldron in Whiterun. She is an Expert level trainer.

Babette

Babette can be found in the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary. She is a Master level trainer.

5. Find and read Alchemy books

There are five books to be found throughout Skyrim that enhance your Alchemy skill upon reading. Below you’ll find the locations for said books, though you only get the boost upon your first read.

A Game at Dinner

  • The second floor of New Gnisis Cornerclub in Windhelm, on a table
  • On a bookshelf found behind an expert locked door in Harmugstahl, a dungeon in The Reach
  • In the second floor bedroom of Honningbrew Meadery in Whiterun, on a table
  • In the lower level of Forsaken Cave in The Pale, found near the White Phial during the “White Phial” quest
  • Near a lever in Dead Crone Rock, found west of Markarth

Song of the Alchemists

  • On a table in Anise’s Cabin in Falkreath
  • On the counter to your right as you enter Bard’s College

De Rerum Dirennis

  • On a tree stump in an alchemist’s camp just north of Evergreen Grove (northwest of Falkreath)
  • In the corner of Grave Concoctions in Falkreath
  • On the corpse of an alchemist at Clearpine Pond (found west of Solitude)
  • In the lab in The Midden (a dungeon under the College of Winterhold)
  • At Sinderion’s Field Laboratory (in Blackreach, southwest of Winterhold)

Herbalist’s Guide to Skyrim

  • Just beyond the door next to the Alchemy Lab in Arcadia’s Cauldron of Whiterun
  • On a shelf behind the counter of the Hag’s Cure in Markarth
  • In a chest in Journeyman’s Nook, located southeast of Winterhold
  • On a shelf in Boulderfall Cave, a location just west of Shor’s Stone (which is north of Riften)

Mannimarco, King of Worms

  • On an altar at Evergreen Grove (northwest of Falkreath)
  • On the Alchemy Lab in Nightcaller Temple (east of Dawnstar)
  • On the Alchemy Lab found just east of Dragon Bridge (southwest of Solitude)
  • In an apothecary’s satchel near the water east-southeast of Winterhold, next to two skeletons
  • At an altar southeast of Winterhold, next to Rundi’s corpse

6. Find and complete alchemy quests

There are a small number of quests that, upon completion, boost your Alchemy skill. They are as follows:

Discerning the Transmundane (+5 to Alchemy upon completion)

To begin this quest, seek out Septimus Signus in his outpost north of the College of Winterhold (pictured above). The quest is lengthy, but at the end, choose the ‘path of the thief’ for your stat boost.

Lami’s Misc. Quest (+1 to Alchemy upon completion)

Lami (she runs Thaumaturgist’s Hut in Morthal) is looking for a book called “Song of the Alchemists.” See the previous section for this book’s possible locations. Giving her the book, boost your stat, but don’t forget to read the book first for an additional alchemy boost!

Arcadia’s Misc. Quest (+1 to Alchemy upon completion)

Arcadia (she runs Arcadia’s Cauldron in Whiterun) is looking for some frost salts, which are dropped by Frost Antronachs.

Frida’s Misc Quest (+1 to Alchemy upon completion)

Frida (found at The Mortar and Pestle in Dawnstar) is looking for the Ring of Pure Mixtures. You can find it inside the Forsaken Cave (pictured above).

Inge Six Fingers’ Misc Quest (+1 to all stealth skills, including Alchemy)

Inge, who can be found at the Bards College, is looking for Finn’s Lute. You can accept the quest to find it from her directly, or find the lute first and present it to her. The Lute can be found in a chest inside Stony Creek Cave (location pictured above).


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