Darkness fell on the druids’ grove, and the orcs attacked soon after. Skirmishes were intense, with shapeshifters and beast masters fighting tooth and claw to hold every inch of the sacred area they had called home for so long.
The elder was seemingly waging three battles at once with her magic, giving her allies the advantage by taking the most ferocious opponents out of the fight. But she didn’t see one of the orcs break through their defenses, leaving her unprepared for the savage blow that left her barely standing, blood staining the earth where she staggered.
“No!” A single word of protest from a nearby druid, filled with anguish, desperation, and denial, latched on to the magic-laden air, and the mortal wound began to close. Wasting no time, the elder spoke a series of quick words, and a bolt of lightning fell from the sky, striking the orc and knocking it to the earth.
Healing Word is a unique spell that can heal a nearby ally as a bonus action, requiring nothing more than the ability to see your target and speak the magic word.
With so few requirements and so much flexibility compared to other healing spells, Healing Word has a lot to unpack. And what better place to start than the Player’s Handbook?
Healing Word Spell Breakdown
1st level evocation
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 60 feet
A creature of your choice that you can see within range regains hit points equal to 1d4 + your spellcasting ability modifier. This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the healing increases by 1d4 for each slot level above 1st.The Player’s Handbook, p.250
Healing Word brings 3 strong benefits to a spellcaster, and is very up front with all of them.
Benefit #1: Healing Word is cast as a bonus action.
Typically in 5th edition, if your class or archetype doesn’t have an ability that utilizes a bonus action, you simply can’t use one during your turn. This puts you behind in potential action economy, especially in situations where you’re following initiative order like combat.
While many magic items can give you something to do with this special type of action during your turn, Healing Word is available right away at level 1, and it’s very hard to do something more useful than healing, particularly in an emergency.
Note: if you cast Healing Word, or any other spell cast as a bonus action, you cannot cast other spells during your turn, except for cantrips with a casting time of 1 action, per page 202 of the Player’s Handbook.
Benefit #2: Healing Word heals a creature you can see within 60 feet – no touch required.
Unlike its more commonly prepared sibling Cure Wounds, Healing Word has useful applications no matter where you are in most combat situations. This is especially important at very low levels, as immediate ranged healing doesn’t start to become more prevalent until your spellcaster is able to learn 3rd level spells.
Benefit #3: Healing Word only requires the ability to speak and see your target when casting.
Having a spell or two that doesn’t require the use of your hands or materials is incredibly useful in situations where you’re grappled, tied up, or otherwise restrained.
It can also be a lifesaver in situations where you’ve been separated from your equipment, such as a jail cell, as a bit of healing can go a long way in convincing someone you’re worth helping or keeping around.
5E Classes That Can Learn the Healing Word Spell
Healing Word is normally only available to full spellcasting classes that normally gain access to healing spells, and does not appear as a named bonus spell option for any class archetypes except for the Artificer’s Alchemist. Because of this, the only classes that can naturally learn or prepare Healing Word are:
- Artificer (Alchemist)
- Sorcerer (Divine Soul)
Fortunately, the Magic Initiate feat grants access to Healing Word through the bard, cleric, and druid spell lists, so if you really want access to this spell, it’s easy enough to acquire.
Since Healing Word doesn’t appear on the wizard spell list, however, you’ll want a good score in Wisdom or Charisma to serve as your spellcasting ability modifier when learning this spell via feat – every point of guaranteed healing counts when you’re only rolling a d4.
5E Classes That Should Learn or Prepare the Healing Word Spell
At low levels (approximately 1-3), Healing Word can be an incredibly strong spell. Giving a character the ability to heal themselves or another party member, then cast an offensive cantrip or wade into melee combat allows them to have huge impacts in early level combat.
1d4 + up to 5 is also going to do a good job of stitching up characters with low hit dice and/or Constitution scores, restoring a sizable percentage of missing HP. Scaling up to 2d4 + up to 5 also keeps the spell relevant at 3rd level for full spellcasters, as an extra d4 adds just enough to bolster someone significantly on a good roll of the dice.
Beyond this point, however, Healing Word’s effectiveness really shifts away from healing, becoming a better emergency spell to pull someone back from the brink of death.
For example, when an ally gets knocked down to 0 hit points (HP) and is in danger of dying from death saves (either naturally or because an enemy is damaging them while they’re unconscious), Healing Word will not only stabilize them, but wake them up so they can participate in combat again.
This can turn a dire combat situation for the PCs into one that is reversible, as the spellcaster using Healing Word doesn’t have to interrupt what they’re doing in many cases.
Most characters that primarily fight with weapons will find this to be especially true, as spellcasting doesn’t trigger attacks of opportunity in 5th edition, so they can go right back to fighting after waking an unconscious ally.
While spellcasters will need to sacrifice the chance to cast a different spell to get an ally back on their feet, they also still have other things they can do on their turn. Additionally, since Healing Word scales with higher spell slots, you can get an ally up with enough HP to take a hit if needed at higher levels.
That said, Druids gain access to a better 2nd level spell in Healing Spirit, which also casts as a bonus action and can heal people that move or start their turn in the spirit’s space, so Healing Word is only really useful at levels 1-2 for them.
Mass Healing Word also fills the same role, but can heal the whole party for a small amount, allowing you to support the party a bit while dealing with an urgent situation.
If you’re looking for something to do with 1st and 2nd level spell slots as a high level character, you might still occasionally use Healing Word as an artificer, bard, cleric, or Divine Soul sorcerer, but realistically the upgraded version is going to just prove more effective most times.
Classes that should always consider the Healing Word spell:
- Artificer (Alchemist, before level 9 and Mass Healing Word)
- Bard (before level 5 and Mass Healing Word)
- Cleric (before level 5 and Mass Healing Word)
- Druid (before level 3 and Healing Spirit)
- Sorcerer (Divine Soul, before level 5 and Mass Healing Word)
Classes that can benefit from learning Healing Word with the Magic Initiate feat for emergencies:
5E Classes That Should Never Learn or Prepare the Healing Word Spell
Barbarians really don’t get much out of any spellcasting – the Rage class feature just isn’t compatible with casting spells in any form.
Half and 1/3 spellcasting classes/archetypes like the paladin and Eldritch Knight fighter should also never take Healing Word if they are looking for a healing spell. While it does scale, and is fine for when someone drops to 0 HP, 1d4 + up to 5 is just unimpressive healing at 3rd level, and it will only look worse as your character levels up.
Even full spellcasters should really think twice about taking Healing Word for the purpose of healing beyond level 3. 1d4 per spell slot level for 1 creature is an extremely poor rate compared to other spells, so if you’re keeping this spell on hand, it’s because your party is prone to sticky situations or biting off more than they can chew.
Mass Healing Word is also just better across the board, healing the whole party for 1d4 + up to 5 with a 3rd level spell slot instead of 1 player for 3d4 + up to 5.
Sometimes the distinction will matter for an individual, but the difference between 8-17 points of healing (assuming the caster’s spellcasting stat is 20) for one person vs 6-9 points of healing multiplied by up to 6 people always works out to more net healing once you’re healing 3 or more people.
By the numbers, this usually means bards, clerics and Divine Soul sorcerers should switch to the Mass version of Healing Word as soon as possible if they are healing focused and still want a spell like Healing Word on standby for emergencies.
5th Ed classes that should not consider the Healing Word spell at all:
- Artificer (Alchemist, level 9 or beyond)
- Bard (level 5 or beyond)
- Cleric (level 5 or beyond)
- Sorcerer (Divine Soul, level 5 or beyond)
5th Ed classes that should not consider the Healing Word spell for dedicated healing:
- Bard (beyond level 3)
- Cleric (beyond level 3)
- Druid (beyond level 3)
Is Healing Word Good?
While we’ve established that Healing Word can be invaluable in an emergency situation where someone is dying, when you’re restrained, or when you’re without your adventuring gear, it’s safe to say it isn’t a good healing spell. That isn’t hyperbole either – it’s really easy to prove when comparing it to other healing spells.
|Spell Name||Level||Healing||Casting Time|
|Aura of Vitality||3rd||2d6/bonus action, up to a minute||1 action|
|Beacon of Hope||3rd||Maximizes all healing for up to 1 minute||1 action|
|Cure Wounds||1st||1d8 per spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier||1 action|
|Enervation||5th||1/2 of 4d8 + 1d8 per additional spell slot level/action, up to a minute||1 action|
|Goodberry||1st||1 per berry/action, up to 10||1 action|
|Heal||6th||70 + 10 per additional spell slot level||1 action|
|Healing Spirit||2nd||1d6 for each creature entering or starting in the spirit’s space each turn + 1d6 per additional spell level||1 bonus action|
|Healing Word||1st||1d4 per spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier||1 bonus action|
|Heroes’ Feast||6th||2d10||10 minutes|
|Life Transference||3rd||You take 4d8 + 1d8 damage per additional spell slot level, then heal another creature 2x the damage||1 action|
|Mass Cure Wounds||5th||3d8 + 1d8 per additional spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier for up to 6 creatures||1 action|
|Mass Heal||9th||700 HP divided as you choose among any number of creatures||1 action|
|Mass Healing Word||3rd||1d4 + 1d4 per additional spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier for up to 6 creatures||1 bonus action|
|Power Word Heal||9th||All HP for 1 creature||1 action|
|Prayer of Healing||2nd||2d8 + 1d8 per additional spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier for up to 6 creatures||10 minutes|
|Regenerate||7th||4d8 + 15, + 1 each round for an hour.||1 minute|
|Soul Cage||6th||2d8/bonus action up to 6 times within 8 hours||1 reaction|
|Temple of the Gods||7th||Add your Wisdom modifier to any spell that regains hit points (minimum 1)||1 hour|
|Vampiric Touch||3rd||1/2 of 3d6 + 1d6 per additional spell slot level/melee spell attack, up to a minute||1 action|
|Wish||9th||All HP for up to 20 creatures||1 action|
As you can see, Healing Word compares unfavorably with almost all other spells you can use in combat on this list, only consistently edging out Goodberry at low levels when you don’t have the time to eat all the berries.
Healing Spirit does an especially good job of competing with Healing Word at 2nd level, as it also casts as a bonus action and can be kept up for up to a minute via concentration. Unfortunately, it’s only available to druids and rangers, with only the former receiving access to both spells.
Concentration is often a big ask, however, so it isn’t always going to be a better spell for druids if you need to keep your focus elsewhere.
Healing Word’s inefficient healing only becomes more pronounced as you reach higher spellcasting levels, as it only beats healing spells that are usually better used other ways like Soul Cage.
Aura of Vitality, Mass Cure Wounds, and Heal are all capable of heavier lifting either over time or in the moment, to say nothing of Mass Heal and Wish, the pinnacles of healing magic. A scaled Cure Wounds is also going to do more work on average, as d8s just offer up to twice the healing of d4s.
But is this problem as pronounced when comparing Healing Word to magic items? I pulled all items that have healing capability from the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (omitting artifacts and any that only provide temporary HP) to see.
|Item Name||Cost/Rarity||Healing||Use Time|
|Absorbing Tattoo||Very Rare||1/2 the damage of the tattoo’s damage type, 1/day||1 reaction|
|Blood Fury Tattoo||Legendary||4d6, up to 10/day||Successful melee weapon attack|
|Cauldron of Rebirth||Very Rare||1 Potion of Greater Healing/day that must be used within 24 hours||1 action, after a long rest|
|Devotee’s Censer||Rare||1d4/round for all creatures within 10 feet, up to a minute per day||1 bonus action|
|Efreeti Bottle||Very Rare||10% chance of casting Wish 3 times within 1 hour||1 action|
|Healer’s Kit (with Healer feat)||5 gp||1d6 + 4 + target’s total number of Hit Dice once between rests, 10 uses||1 action|
|Healing Word||—||1d4 per spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier||1 bonus action|
|Instrument of the Bards (Mac-Fuirmidh cittern)||Uncommon||Cure Wounds (1st level spell slot with your spellcasting ability & DC)||1 action|
|Instrument of the Bards (Canaith mandolin)||Rare||Cure Wounds (3rd level spell slot with your spellcasting ability & DC)||1 action|
|Instrument of the Bards (Anstruth harp)||Very Rare||Cure Wounds (5th level spell slot with your spellcasting ability & DC)||1 action|
|Ioun Stone (Regeneration)||Legendary||15/hour||—|
|Keoghtom’s Ointment||Uncommon||2d8 + 2, 1d4 + 1 uses||1 action|
|Luck Blade||Legendary||Cast Wish, up to 3 times||1 action|
|Moon Sickle||Uncommon+||+1d4 to any spell that restores HP||—|
|Necklace of Prayer Beads (Curing)||Rare||Cure Wounds (2nd level spell slot with your spellcasting DC), up to 6/day||1 bonus action|
|Potion of Healing||50 gp||2d4 + 2||1 action|
|Potion of Greater Healing||Uncommon||4d4 + 4||1 action|
|Potion of Superior Healing||Rare||8d4 + 8||1 action|
|Potion of Supreme Healing||Very Rare||10d4 + 20||1 action|
|Potion of Vitality||Very Rare||Regain the maximum number of HP for any Hit Die you spend||1 action|
|Ring of Regeneration||Very Rare||1d6 every 10 minutes, as long as you have at least 1 HP||—|
|Robe of Useful Items||Uncommon||9% chance of removing a patch for 4 Potions of Healing, contains 4d4 patches||1 action|
|Rod of Lordly Might||Legendary||1/2 of 4d6, DC 17||Successful melee attack with the Rod|
|Rod of Security||Very Rare||1 Hit Die/hour||1 action|
|Staff of Healing||Rare||Cure Wounds (1 charge/spell slot up to 4th) and Mass Cure Wounds (5 charges) with your spellcasting ability & DC, up to 10 charges||1 action|
The answer here is decidedly mixed. Healing Word, while not the strongest spell, is still free, so you don’t have to tie up a bunch of gold in order to heal yourself with it. It also isn’t permanently consumed like a potion, as you can simply replenish spell slots after a long rest.
That said, a Necklace of Prayer Beads still manages to make Healing Word look pretty unexciting as a prospective bonus action, and even the Devotee’s Censer is more attractive in the right hands.
Most healing items that require an action also hold their own comparatively at low levels, and a souped up Healer’s Kit, Keoghtom’s Ointment, or Staff of Healing are ultimately going to be the most frequently used items in a party’s first aid kit.
On the bright side, the Moon Sickle can add 1d4 to Healing Word’s effectiveness for a ranger who took Magic Initiate or a druid, so that’s something, right?
Is Healing Word Worth It?
If you need a spell that will get someone at 0 HP back on their feet during a fight, Healing Word can do a lot of work without disrupting the flow of battle. Between its ability to scale and be cast as a bonus action, it is flexible enough for full spellcasters like bards and Magic Initiates to help an ally fight for a little while longer.
Healing Word is also handy if you’re expecting to fight enemies that will grapple or otherwise restrain you, or if you’re expecting the possibility of being captured and/or separated from your gear. Spells that only require you to speak are few and far between, so having one or two on hand isn’t the worst idea.
Regrettably, it just doesn’t compare well to other low level bonus action spells like Healing Spirit or Mass Healing Word in terms of raw healing output, and loses outright to most healing spells cast as an action and many magical items.
In short, if your party has the reputation of running like a well oiled machine, Healing Word isn’t going to be of much use to you. If you’re at very low levels or prone to frequent combat hiccups, however, keeping this spell in your back pocket will almost certainly save lives.
Healing Word FAQs
Can You Cast Healing Word on Yourself?
Absolutely! So long as you aren’t blinded or otherwise invisible to yourself, you are a creature within 60 feet you can see.
Is Healing Word a Cantrip?
No. Healing Word is a 1st level evocation spell.
Can You Cast Healing Word and Another Spell in the Same Turn?
Yes, but only if the other spell you cast is a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action. This rule can be found on page 202 of the Player’s Handbook.
Can You Cast Healing Word as an Action?
No. Actions are not interchangeable in 5th edition, so you cannot cast Healing Word as an action if you would prefer to use a different bonus action.
Can You Twin Spell Healing Word or Use Other Metamagic With it?
Yes! Many metamagic options work with Healing Word, as enhancing a spell with a metamagic ability does not take an action.
Does Healing Word Work on Warforged?
Yes! Per page 35 of the Eberron: Rising from the Last War book: “Resting, healing magic, and the Medicine skill all provide the same benefits to Warforged that they do to other humanoids.”
Does Healing Word Cure Poison?
No, Healing Word does not cure poison – it can only heal hit points.
Does Healing Word Work On the Unconscious?
Yes! Many would even argue that using Healing Word on an unconscious creature or party member with 0 HP is one of the best ways to use the Healing Word spell.
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Braden is a founder of Assorted Meeples and has been a gamer & writer with a vivid imagination all his life. Don’t believe us? Check out his excitement when meeting Goosebumps author R.L. Stine as a kid! An avid Magic: The Gathering spellslinger for over 15 years, you can always convince him to shuffle up for a game (or three!) of Commander.