I am curious as to how far herbalism kits can be pushed.

In the PHB (p. 153), it says about the herbalism kit:

This kit contains a variety of instruments such as clippers, mortar and pestle, and pouches and vials used by herbalists to create remedies and potions. Proficiency with this kit lets you add your proficiency bonus to any ability checks you make to identify or apply herbs. Also, proficiency with this kit is required to create antitoxin and any potion of healing.

In XGE (p. 82), it says about the herbalism kit:

Arcana. Your knowledge of the nature and herbs can add insight on your magical studies that deal with plants and your attempt to identify potions.

Investigation. When you investigate an area overgrown with plants, your proficiency can help you pick out details others might miss.

Nature and Survival. When you travel in the wild, your skills make it easier to identify plants [...]

Identify Plants. You can identify most plants with a quick inspection of their appearance and smell.

This is great when you're looking to make antitoxins and potions of healing/penicilin and all the good stuff, but I am curious to know about the other side of herbology; such as identify poisonous berries, mushrooms, herbs and all the other remedies that herbalists need to know about to avoid making a poison by mistake.... wouldn't proficiency in herbology not help in that way too?

More specifically, given that nature itself is a two-sided coin, with medicinal plants offering hallucinogens, paralysis, poison, inflammatories, etc, wouldn't a PC who is proficient with herbalism kits also be able to create plant/nature-based poisons and potions of special effects much like one proficient with poisoner's kits?

As a player, this can give some interesting options, such as mixing potions of healing with potions of sleep applied to a large gaping wound to help prevent the wound from reopening right away or using potions based on mushrooms to coat your weapon/ammunition and cause the enemy to trip out and cast/swing wildly, or even numb their bodies so they can no longer fight and/or talk...

Though I agree that these would have to be plant-based, and thus most likely would not consider wasp farming or toad slime, I'm wondering why the PHB and XGE only focus on the positive benefits of herbology in this matter...


It would not be wise

The Poisoner's Kit is designed to do exactly what you want to do and fairly safely. The Assassin rogue's 3rd-level Bonus Proficiencies feature (PHB, p. 97) grants them proficiency with the Disguise Kit and Poisoner's Kit. So by making the Herbalism Kit more powerful, you are weakening the Poisoner's Kit and the Assassin subclass.

An example of what could happen:

Let’s look at a level 3 Scout rogue with an Herbalism Kit vs. a level 3 Assassin rogue with a Poisoner's Kit.

At Level 3, a Scout rogue gets the Survivalist feature (XGtE, p. 47):

you gain proficiency in the Nature and Survival skills if you don’t already have it. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of those proficiencies.

By being proficient in the Herbalism Kit, you know all beneficial and harmful plants and you have expertise in finding them. The Kit also has leather gloves for harvesting the poison; leather gloves basically make you immune to poison (sarcasm). And because healing with plants is just the other side of the coin to hurting with plants, you are able to make poison. In fact, you are proficient in making healing potions and likely plant-based sleeping aids - nice, you just created a synthetic Drow Poison without ever having to have heard of Drow Poison or the Drow. You could even make a super deadly poison with no cure! ...Wait, why is the room spinning and so cold?

At level 3, an Assassin rogue gets the Bonus Proficiencies feature, which grants them proficiency with the Poisoner's Kit. Per XGtE p. 83, the Poisoner's Kit allows you to apply poisons and create them from various materials. You can identify poisonous plants and animals. And it lets you handle poisons: "Your proficiency allows you to handle poison without risk of exposing yourself to its effects."

In the above example the Herbalism Scout outclassed the Poisoner Assassin - but without a proficiency in a Poisoner's Kit, you will likely be poisoned during the harvesting, creating, and applying of the poison.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not entirely clear what your last few paragraphs are stating, and the formatting is off. I've fixed some of the formatting, but you'll have to clarify what you're trying to say in the last few paragraphs. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 12 '19 at 7:22

The Herbalism Kit cannot create poisons... but D&D has an item for this: the Poisoner's Kit

The Poisoner's Kit is the equipment required to make poisons in the game rules. The game designers chose to separate out making beneficial potions from poisons and related knowledge (for unspecified reasons).

The two kits are pretty similar, but not identical (XGtE, p. 82-83; emphasis mine):

Components. An herbalism kit includes pouches to store herbs, clippers and leather gloves for collecting plants, a mortar and pestle, and several glass jars.


Components. A poisoner’s kit includes glass vials, a mortar and pestle, chemicals, and a glass stirring rod.

Notably the inclusion of "chemicals and a glass stirring rod" in the poisoners kit suggests that making poisons in game is more complicated and specialised than making healing potions and treating wounds.

Proficiency with the Poisoner's Kit (as described in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, p. 83) gives you the ability to make poisons, handle them safely (i.e. don't poison yourself), but also to identify and treat poisons:

A poisoner’s kit is a favored resource for thieves, assassins, and others who engage in skulduggery. It allows you to apply poisons and create them from various materials. Your knowledge of poisons also helps you treat them.

It also enables you to:

  • identify poisonous plants and animals
  • inspect and investigate poisoned objects safely

You probably don't want to be mixing the two using the same kit

Another (RP) reason to keep them separate is simply that you don't necessarily want to make your healing potions using the same bit of kit that you just made a poison from.

Doing that could (and in this DM's opinion... would) open you up to the risk of accidentally poisoning yourself when you are trying to make a healing potion. This could be justified pretty easily, for example:

  • you didn't clean the kit out properly before making your healing potion
  • healing potions may require no impurities for them to function properly
  • etc

But what if I do it anyway?

If you choose to allow it anyway you are increasing the availability of crafting poisons in your game. Currently there aren't a whole lot of ways in the game to get lots of tool proficiencies.

By effectively combining two tools into one (by allowing the Herbalism Kit to make poisons) you are reducing the opportunity cost for your players to have to choose between the two. This should also have an in game effect on the availability of potent poisons (as everyone with a Herbalism Kit proficiency in your game can now create poisons!).

Finally, you would reduce the ability of the authorities to "prove" someone was a poisoner by not requiring a separate bit of kit (I swear g'ovner, I was just making some healing potions. Legitimate business that is!).

  • \$\begingroup\$ A DM could homebrew and allow for an advantage on the roll to create poisons with the poisoners kit if you are also proficient in herbalism. If it were something a player thought was important he could talk with the DM and take the feat “skilled” \$\endgroup\$ – Alk Apr 11 '19 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Alk do you have a rules source for your first sentence? And certainly, a player could indeed take the feat "Skilled" in place of their ASI, however that is another opportunity cost that the player needs to take in order to gain both tool proficiencies. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Apr 11 '19 at 19:32

Short answer is: no. Rules as written, herbalism kit proficiency doesn't give you the ability to create anything but Anti-Toxins and Healing Potions. If you're wondering why the PHB focuses on only the positive side, it's because they are trying to balance the game. (More poison means more damage output.)

Long answer is: heck yeah it can! Anything that heals can harm in heavy doses. I'm sure if you pumped enough Healing Potion into a person it would kill them. Only problem is that you'll have to go homebrew, since there's no material for actual crafting in any of the books, besides the arbitrary trading of coin for the item. If your GM is more into realism than character-balance then it should be easy to sell them on the material.

There's a lot of good homebrew material specifically on this topic; I'll link some that I've found on my journeys:

  • \$\begingroup\$ Another idea I was thinking is making Healing Potions with Holy Water to make them effective against the undead, but I wanted to keep it on topic. That said, wouldn't it keep it balanced if you limit the herbalism kits to making basic vials of poison? Which makes me wonder why that part isn't added? It's also missing from poisoner's kit as they are based more on the chemistry of poisons rather than the herbalism side of identifying toxins in plants. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Apr 6 '19 at 23:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depending on your lore, Healing Potions are already harmful to the undead. (This was true in 3.5 and pathfinder, i believe) You'd essentially be making a super-poison for undead. Basic Poison deals 1d4 damage, the same amount as a dagger. It would effectively change the rogues math from 2d4+dex (Assuming they are using two daggers) to 4d4+dex, which is a big difference, especially for lower level characters. \$\endgroup\$ – JohnOutWest Apr 6 '19 at 23:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought I read that this feature was untrue for 5e, hence the added bonus... \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Apr 7 '19 at 0:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 7 '19 at 0:37
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnOutWest: Healing potions have no special effect on undead in 5e. (Nor do healing spells, except for those that mention that they don't affect undead at all.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 7 '19 at 0:42

Short Answer

No. They might be able to try, whereas someone wihtout proficiency in either wouldn't even be able to make the attempt. But this will most likely result in a dead Herbalist and a perfectly safe intended victim.

Detailed Answer

Let's look at the rulebooks.

TOOLS (Player's Handbook, pg 154)

A tool helps you to do something you couldn't otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock. ... Proficiency with a tool allows you to add your proficiency bonus to any ability check you make using that tool. Tool use is not tied to a single ability, since proficiency with a tool represents broader knowledge of its use.

Proficiency with a tool/kit means you have gained the requisite knowledge, experience, and training to do specific things with them. As to why can't this apply to whatever you want, the DMG elaborates:

TOOLS (Dungeon Master's Guide pg 239)

Having proficiency with a tool allows you to apply your proficiency bonus to an ability check you make using that tool. For example, a character proficient with carpenter's tools can apply his or her proficiency bonus to a Dexterity check to craft a wooden flute, an Intelligence check to craft a wooden secret door, or a Strength check to build a working trebuchet. However, the proficiency bonus wouldn't apply to an ability check made to identify unsafe wooden construction or to discern the origin of a crafted item, since neither check requires tool use.

So we can infer from this that proficiency with Carpenter's Tools does necessarily impart knowledge of History (origins of an item) or Investigation/Perception (is this bridge sturdy?). It lets the character do things they've been trained to do: craft wooden objects. And the components of a set of artisan's tools are specialized: Carpenter's Tools and Smith's Tools each include a "hammer", but a hammer best suited for tapping a woodworking chisel is not going to work well if you try to use it to forge-weld metal.

In the same way, an Herbalism Kit and Poisoner's Kit have some similar components, but not identical, and not as specialized. And while not all tool proficiencies don't imply knowledge of history or arcana, some explicitly do as part of the training required to become proficient. Each explicitly says what you can use them for, and what they can help a properly trained character to attempt to do. Xanathar's Guide to Everything gives more specific detail into these two, and let's also include Alchemist's Supplies, as they're very similar as well. Here are the (heavily truncated) descriptions:


...enable a character to produce useful concoctions, such as acid or alchemist’s fire.

  • Components. glass beakers, metal frame (hold beaker over flame), glass stirring rod, mortar & pestle, pouch of alchemical ingredients (salt, powdered iron, purified water)
  • Arcana. more information on Arcana checks involving potions and similar materials
  • Investigation. add insight into any chemicals or other substances...used in an area
  • Alchemical Crafting. create alchemical items: dose of acid, alchemist’s fire, antitoxin, oil, perfume, soap
  • Activities. Create a puff of thick smoke (DC10); Identify a poison (DC10); Identify a substance (DC15); Start a fire (DC15); Neutralize acid (DC20)


... allows you to identify plants and safely collect their useful elements.

  • Components. pouches, clippers & gloves for collect plants, mortar & pestle, glass jars
  • Arcana. add insight to magical studies that deal with plants, to identify potions
  • Investigation. details and clues others might miss [in] an area overgrown with plants
  • Medicine. improve ability to treat illnesses and wounds...with medicinal plants
  • Nature/Survival. in the wild, identify plants and sources of food
  • Identify Plants. with a quick inspection of their appearance and smell
  • Activities. Find plants (DC15); Identify poison (DC20)


... allows you to apply poisons and create them from various materials; helps you treat them.

  • Components. glass vials, mortar & pestle, chemicals, glass stirring rod
  • History. recall facts about infamous poisonings
  • Investigation/Perception. inspect poisoned objects or try to extract clues from events that involve poison
  • Medicine. treat the victim of a poison; insight into how to provide the best care
  • Nature/Survival. acquire lore about which plants and animals are poisonous
  • Handle Poison. handle & apply poison without risk of exposing yourself to its effects
  • Activities. Spot a poisoned object (DC10); Determine the effects of a poison (DC20)

Each Kit discusses working with very specific things for very specific purposes:

  • Alchemy: "chemicals" and "substances", states you can create specific potions (of utility), involving same chemicals and substances (salt, iron, purified water, chemicals, acid)
  • Herbalism: "(medicinal) plants" and "herbs"; potions, but specifies "healing potions"; treatment of illness/wounds, but specifies "with medicinal plants"
  • Poisoner: "poisons", also "substances", "chemicals", and "materials" (pertaining to poison); "plants" and "animals" that are poisonous; and treament, application, and creation of poisons.

The first two can "identify" a poison, but one proficient with a Poisoner's Kit can "determine the effects of a poison", "recall facts about infamous poisons", "inspect poisoned objects", and "extract clues". Most importantly, only the Poisoner's Kit implies how to SAFELY handle, apply, create, collect, or treat poisons specifically. A doctor can diagnose luekemia, but an oncologist knows much more about how to prevent, treat, and manage it.

I'd say that proficiency in one of these three could possibly allow a character to attempt to do what the others can, but certainly not with ease, proficiency, experience, or any semblance of safety, to them or their tools. I dunno about you, but I wouldn't want someone healing my to be grinding up herbs in a mortar & pestle that was used last night to mix snake venom and neurotoxin; or to quaff a healing potion poured into the same vial that previously held acid. As always, though, ask your DM. They'll decide if you can even try it, and how difficult or dangerous will be the attempt, if any.

Elaborate, Long-Winded Answer

(spurred on by pedantry, insomnia, & too much caffeinne)

Proficiency with Alchemist's Supplies means knowing about and how to use materials and substances, like salt, iron, purified water, etc... In modern terms, a Chemist. They make "useful" potions (utility), not healing or magical. They deal with basic, fundamental things, like acids, fire, smoke, stone, charcoal, etc. They can identify a poison or potion by investigating their ingredients, they are not proficient with either.

Proficiency with an Herbalism Kit means knowing about medicinal plants and herbs--those specific to the purpose of healing. In modern terms, a Botanist or Healer. You can make potions and salves that heal or treat injury or illness. You might identify a poison, even know what a certain poison does to a body, but you don't know how or where to collect, craft, or administer them. You can't create acids or cause alchemical reactions.

Proficiency with a Poisoner's Kit means you can also deals with plants a bit, but the expertise is with poisonous ones. You also know about poisonous animals and materials, how it might have been administered, how much was needed, etc.You have the tools to collect and increase toxicity of these substances, and know how best to apply and administer poisons, as well as extensive knowledge and training in their history and use.

An Alchemist might know that a poison involves chemicals X, Y, and Z; but not how or where to best get it or how it was adminstered. They can isolate and combine ingredients to make "useful concoctions", but that's alchemy (chemistry). An Herbalist might know that a poison causes this pattern of necrosis or rash, but not where it comes from, how to isolate it, or whether it was natural (stepped on a thorn) or administered. They can find and combine plants to reduce its effect, but that's healing (botany).

Ah, but the Poisoner, the Poisoner can tell how the victim was poisoned, if it's natural or crafted, what the ingredients are, where to find them, their rarity or cost, substitutions. Whether the poison is a unique coctail used by a specific Guild thought destroyed a century ago. They have the tools and training to, say, find, catch, and milk a snake's venom glands without being bit themselves. And they will be better at treating poisoned victims than the Herbalist or Alchemist...if they want to. They might also make a treatable poisoning lethal, and the Herbalist or Alchemist won't be able to tell.

Proficiency in a set of tools does not imply proficiency in every related Skills, nor vice-versa:

  • a Fighter is lethal with a sword, but has to seek out a smith to craft or repair one
  • a Ranger knows exactly where an herb grows, have not which part they need, or how to use it
  • an Alchemist might know a type of herb contains a chemical, but not what it looks like, that it must be kept cold, or harvested in spring
  • an Assassin might know certain salts are used black powder, but not stabilizers (like starches) to keep a pistol from exploding
  • a Thief might know the names of poisons, and which killed a lord in their city, but not how to actually make and manage it (or use it without getting caught)

To answer your question, no, Herbalism Kit proficiency does not grant imply knowledge of poisonous plants, animals, or substances, only medicinal plants and herbs. Our Healer can identify a plant with a cursory examination, point out a poisonous vine about to be stepped on, and what symptoms a poison causes, but not how to safely or reliably find, extract, isolate, administer, or even treat said poison. It's not just the tools that matter, it's the specific knowledge, history, practice, and expertise that comes with being trained in their use. Without Nature proficiency, they've no clue where to begin to look for it in the wild.

I'd think any of these three proficiencies (Alchemy, Herbalism, Poisoner) would allow a character to attempt (ATTEMPT) to do what the others can, but not with the bonuses the correct training, experience, and knowledge would impart, nor would they know where to get the right ingredients, or how. And not at all safely, effectively, or without contaminating or destroying their equipment. Possibly adding INT or WIS mod, but no proficiency, at disadvantage and/or Difficulty Check. This would, of course, depend on your DM, and if you can make a convincing case for at least a passing familiarity with the process: "My brother, at the monestary? He was a ninja... (also my dad's a king and I know karate)". (roll Deception)

So, could our Herbalist create a poison? Maybe. Arguably, better than somebody who can't tell a potted plant from a painting. But note that a Healer's Kit doesn't talk about knowing anything about poisonous plants, how to safely handle all plants, how to combine, or mix, or administer them. The components don't include multiple glass beakers or stirring rods you'd need to isolate, concentrate, or amplify the toxicity of the plants they know, just how powder and combine them. You want to create a few drops of odorless venom? You create what looks like a chewed-up wad of moss the size of your fist that stinks of bogwater.

You're more likely to give someone a bellyache then a heart attack. Maybe you do manage to get someone sick, maybe even severely, but it won't be as potent (or discreet) as what a Poisoner could do. And our Herbalist is just as likely to end up poisoning themselves in the process, damaging/poisoning their equipment, or clumsily slopping a salve into a drink that is only poisonous if injected, and anyone with any awareness will see a floating blob of muck and probably retaliate.

Bottom line: If you wanna make poisons, get trained and proficient with a Poisoner's Kit.


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