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Lesson 3) Stronger Than Yesterday (Strengthening Solution and Muscles)

Welcome back to Year Four of Potions! I hope that you enjoyed your trip to Madam Pimpernelle’s shop and that you were able to experiment with some of their more exciting and innovative beauty products in the name of education.

Today we will be discussing another “attractive” trait that can be enhanced with potion use. If you can’t sway your foe with good looks or spells, what’s the next best thing? If your guess was physical strength, then you are correct! There are numerous potions that assist in building muscle mass and improving both overall strength and endurance. Most of these potions simply assist in building muscle mass more quickly when paired with exercise, although there are some more extreme potions that will build greater muscle mass on their own. However, the latter can be very dangerous, and they will typically come with some pretty nasty side effects. We will be brewing the former, milder type of potion in the lab today.

As you may imagine, there have been issues in the past with magical athletes, such as professional and even collegiate Quidditch players and professional duelers, taking bulking and girding potions when training. Many have disputed the fairness of this practice, and assert that it’s creating an “unfair advantage” if an athlete trains using these potions. However, others assert that, if all athletes have access to these potions and they’re mostly safe, it is not “cheating”, but rather using additional tools at their disposal. There was a large public spectacle regarding this issue following the 1988 Quidditch World Cup, when it was confirmed that the Romanian Beaters had all been on a rather heavy regimen of strength potions.

After this time, such potions were formally banned from the sport overall. Even generic Muscle-Building Potions are currently banned, although they may be used to help heal general athletic injuries more quickly. There are periodic tests for these substances that are conducted a number of ways: there are charms that can detect the presence of certain potions and magical substances, and there are also “marker” potions that will indicate - in partnership with charms - whether certain more complex and harder to detect substances are in the athlete’s body. Thus, if you seek a life as a professional athlete in the magical world, prepare yourself for a number of physically altering potions - including healing ones - to be off limits to you even in relatively serious circumstances.

The potion we will be brewing today is moderately complicated in nature, but do not be intimidated! As long as you take your time and follow the directions, you should have no problems with the recipe. This particular Strength Solution was first discovered by Austrian witch Griselda Heißenberg in 1793. A rather argumentative witch, she found herself in a dispute with a Muggle wrestler named Falkland Dreher over some small matter in the local market. In the heat of the fight, Heißenberg impulsively challenged the rather large man to a wrestling match. When Dreher accepted, Heißenberg found herself staring at a slim two week window to prepare to fight the bulky non-magical man.

With Muggle as well as magical spectators anticipated, Heißenberg knew that she could not use magic to defeat Dreher, as it would violate the at that time 101-year old Statute of Secrecy. She had no choice, therefore, other than to fight a significantly larger opponent using her physicality. Determined not to be outdone, she set about studying previous strengthening potions that existed. Most of them were rather dramatic in effect, and Heißenberg knew that Dreher would suspect some form of foul play. With some experimentation, she concocted the most popular current recipe, which is also much gentler on the body than previous incarnations of the recipe.

Taking a somewhat heftier dose than is currently recommended, Heißenberg spent the half month before the fight exercising regularly and taking the Strengthening Solution twice daily. By the time the day of the fight arrived, the witch was in fine fighting shape, though not so bulky that it was apparent that she had used this subtle edge. Needless to say, her opponent Dreher did not quite notice the difference, and came to the fight confident in his victory. Nonetheless, while Heißenberg sustained many bruises and smaller injuries - none life threatening - she eventually bested the well-known wrestler at his own craft.

Following the fight, many came to Heißenberg encouraging her to keep wrestling. However, the process of preparing for the fight was so grueling, she declined the offer to join the Muggle world of physical combat, instead withdrawing into privacy. Many potions experts suggest that this antisocial behavior may have been a side effect of consuming so much of the potion in so short a period of time, although this has neither been proven nor discredited. All that is known is that Griselda Heißenberg’s recipe was passed to her nieces, who claimed to be present for the fight and suspicious of their aunt’s sudden wrestling talent. One of her nieces, the well-known potioneer Elfriede Heißenberg, modified the potion slightly to include tertiary ingredients for taste and refined the dosage. Elfriede Heißenberg’s exact recipe is what you are about to brew. Are you ready?


Strengthening Solution

Estimated Brewing Time:
Pewter Cauldron: 2 days, 2 hours and 7 minutes
Brass Cauldron: 2 days, 1 hour and 57 minutes
Copper Cauldron: 2 days, 1 hour and 48 minutes

Ingredients:
1.25 L of water
90 mL of salamander blood1
1 owl liver1
6 pumpkin seeds2
2 troll whiskers1
4 fairy wings2
30 g of powdered griffon claw2
1 Chinese chomping cabbage2
3 dandelion leaves3
30 mL of Flobberworm mucus3

Instructions:

Part 1:

  1. Add 750 mL of water to your cauldron and bring the heat to 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F).
  2. Add 30 mL salamander blood to the cauldron.
  3. Leave the cauldron on the heat for 2 minutes and then remove it from the heat for 5 minutes.
  4. While the potion is sitting, cut the owl liver into cubes about 0.5 centimeters diameter.
  5. Re-add cauldron to the heat source.
  6. Add the owl liver to the cauldron.
  7. Stir twice counter-clockwise with your wand. (Note: At this point, the cauldron may start to hiss and steam a bit. This just means that the owl liver came from a particularly young owl. It will work just the same, but the brewer should be cautious not to get splashed by the contents of the cauldron.)
  8. Add 6 pumpkin seeds to the cauldron.
  9. Stir 5 times clockwise with your wand.
  10. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for 35 minutes. (This would be 31 minutes and 30 seconds in a brass cauldron and 28 minutes and 21 seconds in a copper cauldron.)

At this point, the potion should be a deep red in color.

Part 2:

  1. Add 2 troll whiskers to the cauldron.
  2. Simultaneously add 30 mL salamander blood and 4 fairy wings to the cauldron. (Note: If these ingredients aren’t added simultaneously, the potion may become weak or ineffectual.)
  3. Bring your heat up to 393 Kelvin (120°C/248°F) for 7 minutes. Then reduce heat again to 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F).
  4. Stir thrice clockwise.
  5. Add 15 g of powdered griffon claw.
  6. Stir once clockwise with your wand.
  7. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for 35 minutes. (This would be 31 minutes and 30 seconds in a brass cauldron and 28 minutes and 21 seconds in a copper cauldron.)

The potion should have turned a canary yellow at this point, and the steam should be a distinct orange in color.

Part 3:

  1. While the potion is brewing, carefully chop your Chinese chomping cabbage into segments about 1 cm in width.
  2. Bring your heat up to 393 Kelvin (120°C/248°F) for 30 seconds. Then reduce heat again to 363 Kelvin (90°C/194°F).
  3. Stir twice clockwise with your wand.
  4. Add the pieces of Chinese chomping cabbage to your cauldron.
  5. Stir once counter-clockwise with your wand.
  6. Remove the potion from the heat and allow it to sit for 2 minutes.
  7. Put the cauldron back on the heat and allow 30 mL salamander blood to the cauldron.
  8. Add 500 mL water to the cauldron, which will be greatly depleted of water at this point.
  9. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for 15 minutes. (This would be 13 minutes and 30 seconds in a brass cauldron and 12 minutes and 9 seconds in a copper cauldron.)

At this point, the potion will be a pale yellow-green and the steam emitted will be clear or white in color. You must then leave the potion to settle for 2 days, regardless of cauldron type.

Part 4:

  1. Add 3 dandelion leaves to your cauldron.
  2. Stir twice clockwise.
  3. Remove the caudron from the heat source and wait 30 seconds.
  4. Add 15 g of powdered griffon claw.
  5. Stir thrice counter-clockwise.
  6. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for 15 minutes. (This would be 13 minutes and 30 seconds in a brass cauldron and 12 minutes and 9 seconds in a copper cauldron.)
  7. Remove the potion from the heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
  8. Add 30 mL of Flobberworm mucus and stir it with your wooden spoon until the potion is of an even consistency. Then siphon it into a phial for labeling.

The final potion will be pale pink in color. It will smell a little like pine needles and moldy bread.

To Store:

The potion should be stored in a clear phial in a slightly warm location out of direct sunlight. It can be stored for up to three weeks before it should be safely discarded.

To Use:

Only 15 mL of the Strengthening Solution should be taken orally within a twenty-four hour period. It can be taken on its own or mixed with a tea or other beverage if desired. It can be dangerous to over-consume the Strengthening Solution, and it should not be taken without approval of a Healer or other magical medical professional.

Effects:

When the Strengthening Solution is taken as advised, it stimulates quicker growth of muscles. It does not grow muscles on its own, but rather speeds the development of muscular structure while one exercises.

Overdose of the Strengthening Solution can have very troubling effects, including erosion of the stomach lining and dissolution of muscle mass. In some cases, Healers have reported seeing muscles erode within a matter of days when too much Strengthening Solution has been taken. The potion should not be taken for more than six months at a time, or it can lead to permanent issues, including chronic muscle cramps, brittle or permanently disfigured muscles and similar effects.

Caution:

Children should not take the Strengthening Solution, and women who are or who are looking to become pregnant should avoid the potion as well. Allergies to the potion are rare, but when they occur, can include swelling of the extremities, including fingers and toes, and deep purple rashes. If this occurs, discontinue use of the potion immediately and consult with a Healer, as this can lead to future complications. Those with allergies to specific ingredients should still be able to take the potion without side effects or complications.


No Pain, No Gain

So how does the Strengthening Solution work? We know that the solution does not create or improve muscle definition on its own, but rather increases the rate at which muscle builds when one exercises regularly. To understand this, it’s important to discuss the process of muscle building. Perhaps counter-intuitively, muscles grow and strengthen through trauma. When you work out, for example, you are causing minute damage and trauma to your skeletal muscle tissue. Thus, the old adage No Pain, No Gain is somewhat true when it comes to improving muscle strength.

Once the muscle tissue is damaged (often known as a microtrauma), it signals what are known as satellite cells, which move to the site of the trauma and fuse together. The satellite cells bind to the muscle fibers and also work to repair the damage, leading to hypertrophy, or increase in the width of the muscle fibers. With the increased number of cells, the muscle is also able to synthesize proteins in the muscle more quickly and efficiently. It also leads to a larger production of myosin and actin, the substances in cells that enable them to contract and are also what make us “stronger.”

The Strengthening Solution directly stimulates the satellite cells to work more quickly and also encourages a quicker synthesis of proteins. It can be compared to a more effective and faster-acting version of muggle anabolic steroids, which typically contain the hormone testosterone. Testosterone stimulates what is known as growth hormone’s response to exercise, which increases the size and growth rate of muscles. The exact role of testosterone is not yet fully known, but it may also enhance the behavior and efficiency of the satellite cells, much as the Strengthening Solution. Non-magical steroids are also much more dangerous than the Strengthening Solution, however, and can lead to sterility, increased psychiatric disorders and drug dependence, liver failure, increase in development of tumors and possibly cancer.

However, similar to how many muggle sports ban the use of steroids and other performance enhancing stimuli, most magical professional sporting associations also prohibit the use of the Strengthening Solution and of any other potion that may add an edge to strength and conditioning training within six months of competition. Thus, even if the Strengthening Solution is being used in a medicinal sense, such as to help rapidly rebuild muscle mass after it’s been lost through disease or injury, athletes may not use it ever in this capacity. Please keep this in mind should you ever consider using the Strengthening Solution to increase muscles.


Theory Break: Magical Residue

Although we will cover this in greater detail in later years, many have previously wondered about the longevity of magical “residue”, for lack of a better word, in the bloodstream following the use of a potion. Truthfully, it depends on the potion and the metabolic impact it has on the body. However, most potions can be detected through spells and tracking potions for up to six months after use. This is why, in the case of banned substances, such as the Strengthening Solution and athletics, the regulated cutoff is usually a six month period. Following that period, it’s impossible to establish reliable proof that an illegal or banned substance has been consumed.

If you read about the X-Ray Elixir in the healing potions supplement last year, then you’ve been exposed to potions that use spells to activate their use. Never fear if you didn’t read it, however! In essence, when a patient takes the X-Ray Elixir, it remains dormant in their system until it is “triggered” by a specific incantation. This is what is known as a Linked Potion. Most potions that are intended to detect other potion residue work similarly. The athlete - or person applying for a position with potion restrictions or anyone else - imbibes the more generic detection potion. Nothing happens immediately. However, the official administering the test performs a specific spell that activates that potion to detect a specific substance.

In the case of the Strengthening Solution, if an athlete has imbibed it within six months of the test, his primary muscle groups will begin to glow, alerting the official that some sort of strength-enhancing mixture with magical elements has been used. As it requires the detection potion to interact specifically to target magical residue, this test will not reveal the use of mundane steroids. However, the side effects and dangers of those steroids are usually enough to dissuade most professional magical athletes from using them to gain an edge.

And thus we come to the end of lesson 3. Enjoy your assignments, and I look forward to seeing you next week when we’ll discuss the Girding Potion.

Dismissed.

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

In Year Four of Potions, students will focus on Physical Modifying Potions. This will include beauty, blemish removal, and even the famous Polyjuice Potion. Every lesson will include a lab exercise that will teach the student the relationship between potions and their impact on the physical body.
Course Prerequisites:
  • PTNS-301

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