• A treatment or elixir that can cure any and all afflictions and illnesses

  • A comprehensive or complete solution to every aspect of an issue


Do you wish sometimes that you could just find a single, perfect answer to all the questions and trials you face? It sounds nice at first, but if you think about it, part of what makes life interesting is that each challenge propels you to learn new things about the world and yourself. As appealing as a panacea might seem, be thankful for every chance to grow!

A panacea is literally a single medicinal remedy or treatment that cures all possible forms of illness or disease. As a true universal cure for disease is probably biologically impossible, a panacea has historically been regarded as an elusive, even mythical apex of the healing arts. In fact, one primary focus of the now-defunct practice of alchemy was finding a panacea that would not only cure diseases but prolong life indefinitely. But while there are no prescriptions that literally cure everything, panacea is still occasionally used in regards to medicine to mean something which treats a great many ailments or improves one’s overall health. For instance, although sleep, by itself, cannot cure all afflictions, it supplements the healing process for almost every condition or illness, making it a panacea in its own way.

Figuratively, a panacea is a single, all-encompassing means of resolving one or more issues, particularly ones that are complex or many-faceted. For instance, if you're lonely, looking for ways to be more active, and in need of a security system, adopting a dog might be the panacea you need. Like with literal, medicinal panaceas, though, a comprehensive solution to an array of interrelated problems is rare. Therefore, when panacea is used in this sense, it is usually to point out that something is not a panacea, and that more, complementary measures must be taken simultaneously for meaningful progress to be made. Actual or literal, a panacea is easier said than done, or even discovered.

Example: While bloodletting was thought of as a panacea during the Middle Ages, medicine has thankfully advanced enough to offer much more varied, targeted, and effective remedies.

Example: Many social reformers point to studies that suggest that providing a quality education to all citizens is a panacea to social ills like poverty and crime.

Example: The demagogue offered panaceas to his gullible constituents.


The word panacea first emerged in English in the mid-1500s to mean a “universal cure,” and came from the Latin panacea, which referred to an herb that supposedly treated all ailments. This latter term derived from the Greek panakeia, meaning “cure-all,” and, before that, from panakes, which means “all-curing.” Panakes consists of the prefix pan-and the root word akos, meaning “cure” or “remedy.” Pan-, meaning “all” or “every”, also resulted in words such as: pandemic, panoply and pantheon. Akos, meanwhile, comes from the Greek verb iasthai, which means "to treat medically" and is related to English words like bariatric, geriatric and pediatric.

Derivative Words

Panacean: The adjective form of panacea describes something as bearing the qualities of a complete cure for disease or a total solution to a problem or problems.

Example: Some doctors who once a bit too readily prescribed medications have come to see the panacean benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Example: In spite of economic research to the contrary, some politicians view tax cuts as a panacean policy.

In Literature

From Bangambiki Habyarimana's The Great Pearl of Wisdom:

Politicians are masters in the art of mixing truth and deceit and serving the deadly cocktail to the public as a panacea to their problems.

Habyarimana offers his (rather low) estimation of political leaders by cautioning that what they offer to their constituents as perfect fixes, or panaceas, for the ills plaguing society are misleading conflations of fact with fiction. By depicting their pernicious policies as a “deadly cocktail,” i.e. a poison, Habyarimana evokes the primary sense of panacea as a literal medical cure.


  • The best cure for a pandemic is a panacea.

  • A panacea will see a solution for every aspect of an issue.

  • Panacea: This pan will hold your sea of troubles


Medicine, Disease, Cure, Solution

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of panacea. Did you use panacea in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.