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Mana is the source of an individual's magical power. A person's Mana reserves determine the strength of their spells. Lady Stoneheart, the Witch of Westeros, has developed a black market industry which deals in the selling of stolen Mana extracted from a living being. However, extracting Mana from a human being is almost impossible, as Mana physically bonds with an individual. This makes it impossible to separate.

Mana begins to bond to an unborn child during the third trimester, albeit very loosely. During this period, Mana can be extracted from a 6-9 month fetus, killing the child but securing it's valuable magic energy. Stoneheart has developed a franchise of underground abortion clinics throughout Westeros. Individuals are paid to be surrogates, allowing their child to grow until it reaches a point where it can be harvested before Mana bonds to them permanently.

However, it turns out that this Mana is still dangerous for individuals to be used. Those who consume it to increase their power die shortly after. Using it in spells is also dangerous and usually ends badly. How can material that is necessary for human life be dangerous to use? How should it be processed to make it safer?

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    $\begingroup$ Here are five substances necessary for organic life that are harmful in it's purest form: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Fluoride, Chlorine, Potassium. I can name more if you want. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Jun 1, 2020 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed Don't forget about Oxygen; pure oxygen has very bad side effects. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed Isn't that like the OP's "mana"? It's natural (even necessary) in normal amounts, but causes problems in greater quantities. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ The Dose Makes The Poison Your question doesn't really make any sense $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ Phosphorous is a really good example here. It's absolutely critical for life, but pure white phosphorous is seriously nasty stuff. Zinc also comes to mind, zinc is crucial to most forms of life we know of in trace amounts, but too much interferes with iron and copper absorption, and consuming the pure metal is essentially suicidal (pure zinc in the stomach dissolves into zinc chloride, which is nastily caustic in solution to the point of potentially dissolving a hole in your stomach). $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 19:47

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turns out your mana is like almost every other component necessary for life

Food water and Oxygen are all basic needs for us. A well prepared human can last around a week without food, 3 days without water and less than half an hour without oxygen. However, breathing an atmosphere with an oxygen percentage too high will kill you, drinking too much pure water (or even "normal" water) will kill you and consuming too much of pretty much anything (caffeine, vitamin c, calcium, potassium, sodium, etc) will cause health problems and potentially kill you. The reason? In the right quantity, pretty much every substance is poisonous to you.

Apparently, your mana is no different, just like it's not good for you to breathe pure oxygen or drink too much water, consuming pure mana will cause what you could call mana poisoning, leading to an individual's death. What you should do to avoid that? Don't have too much of it. Just like everything in large enough quantities will kill you, many substances in low enough quantities can cause no major issues or even benefit you. So either grinding this pure mana and mixing with flour in medicine capsules (to ensure you're consuming the right amount, careful at which frequency you take one,sideeffectsmayincludeheadachesnauseaanddeath) or simply dilute it down into a safe dose.

Regarding its problems with handling, it's a similar thing. Mineral Charcoal with higher carbon index can generate much higher amounts of heat when burned than barbecue charcoal ever could. Your mana too, being a condensed form, has a very large amount of energy, meaning that if you aren't careful, it can react violently and release this energy in a very short period, aka an explosion. Again, this can be avoided by reducing the amount of pure mana you're using in spells, as a very small quantity already has a lot of power within.

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    $\begingroup$ On the flip side of this, there are elements that are poisonous even in relatively small doses, but you can still get sick if you have absolutely none of it, e.g. iodine. (Hence iodized salt.) $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Darrel Hoffman potassium will explode in contact with water and too much of it may lead to severe heart problems and paralysis, but don't have enough of it and say goodbye to your nervous system and healthy metabolism. It's much more of a matter of how much of something makes it toxic rather than what is toxic (even heavy metals, though we'd be just fine with none of those in our system as far as I know). $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ On the subject of volatility: At high oxygen levels your body is essentially a giant candle just waiting for an excuse to combust. If mana is the element that lets ordinary elements do extraordinary things, then high Levels of mana could lead to the otherwise innocuous elements in your spell acting dangerously. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jun 1, 2020 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @ProjectApex I don't think potassium is a good example. You need potassium ions from potassium compounds, but metallic potassium in any quantity is useless and harmful to you. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Joseph Sible-Reinstate Monica yeah, though my point was to say that even such an important compound (and one that, at least in a metallic state, would seem incompatible with our body at first) can be toxic in large quantities. Didn't go out as expected. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 23:55
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It's nothing surprising.

Oxygen and water are also essential for life, however if you breathe pure Oxygen above a certain pressure or drink pure distilled water you are not going to be exactly healthy.

Oxygen toxicity is a thing, and cells explode when exposed to distilled water due to inverse osmosis.

Same is for mana.

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    $\begingroup$ Tap and spring water can cause toxicity, not just distilled. Water has and LD50 of 90g/kg so you have to drink quite a bit of it to die though. $\endgroup$
    – gmatht
    Jun 2, 2020 at 3:28
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It's the dose that makes the poison. Many things that are beneficial or even necessary for life are poisonous in excess. So normal people have a mana-excreting organ, something like the kidneys or liver, that removes excess mana from the body. Take in too much mana, though, and it overloads the organ, it fails, and bad things happen.

Think of mana as like sugar for diabetics, or vitamin A toxicity.

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Magical Immunology:

  • Mana from others is identifiably different to your(soul/spirit) and in much the same way your body rejects a foreign organ, your spirit rejects foreign mana, thinking it's a demon trying to possess you. In the middle of a spell, the mana is most "present" to your spirit, and it can suddenly cut power to the spell so the "demon" doesn't gain control. A partly cast spell can kill you quickly.
  • Long term, this immune process leads to auto-immune spirit issues, like mental illness, psychosis, and eventually the separation of the spirit from the body (death).
  • Alternatively, the spirit is so traumatized by the sheer evil inherent in what is being done that it actively seeks the death of the body before the contaminating mana integrates to prevent damnation.
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  • $\begingroup$ The answer I was going to suggest, and much more interesting than “well too much oxygen is deadly”. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Jun 1, 2020 at 20:37
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The raw mana reacts with the human body creating magical effects that are unpredictable in nature. Given how easily things go wrong with the body, the usual effect is to corrupt a biological process in a lethal manner. This can kill massive numbers of cells, or create cancer.

Only mana naturally integrated with the body can be controlled safely enough to ensure its effects are not random.

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Similar to this answer: https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/177628/6712

There can be different compatibilities with different Mana types much like there are different compatibilities with different blood types.

People with Type O Mana can only survive a transfusion from other people with Type O Mana. People with Type A Mana can only survive a transfusion from people with either Type A or Type O Mana (O being the universal donor type for Mana).

As long as you identify which Mana type you have and which Mana type you are consuming, you can make sure to safely only consume compatible types.

Blood types are already extremely complex and interrelated (more than just A,B,O) so you can use what we already know about blood types for inspiration to create as simple or complex of a system as you want.

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Mana is just like every other substance in the body

It's often said that poison and medicine are two sides of the same coin. Have too much or too little of anything in your body and it's a poison. What matters is the dosage, the form of the substance, and the means of getting and storing the substance.

Water is essential to life but a quick google of Dihydrogen Monoxide will show you a plethora of ways it can kill you.

You can easily and safely eat chicken soup but injecting it into your blood stream won't end well.

Oxygen is essential to life but, as others have pointed out, pure oxygen is something you shouldn't breathe.

Mana overload is a thing

There as been many stories where "Mana Overload" is a thing, as in having too much mana can make the user weak, sick, collapse, or even explode.

Each human may have a maximum amount of mana they can process/use at a time, which is their usual rate of use. Using an external mana crystal may force the body to exceed that natural maximum, causing them to get Mana Poisoning.

Mana from fetuses is unstable

As one grows, their body gains the ability to absorb and purify/stablelize mana naturally. However, a fetus relies on its mother to do the task. The mana extracted from fetuses may be unstable or impure (on something else), thus making it harmful to the body.

Process the mana after extraction and before selling/using it.

Mana outside the body can be contaminated

Having raw mana outside the body can make it "go bad" like food. Some miasma can contaminate the mana crystals. Just having mana exposed to air can make it react, similar to how metals oxidize.

To fix this, you can store mana in some specialized medium like pill capsules, pokemon mana balls, etc. You can also purify the mana during production, removing contaminants that may have got in during extraction.

The medium to store the extracted mana is bad

Even if you have the best medicine, if the container for it damages the medicine, it can ruin the medicine. Improve your containers of mana.

If the body has a natural container to store mana, say a mana heart (different from the blood-pumping heart), you can extract mana hearts from humans (and may be other mana-using creatures) and use those as containers.

Mana inside the body is different from mana from outside sources

Mana inside the body can be naturally refined for use. However, the body can't process a large amount of mana from outside, meaning that mana can't be made safe for consumption by the body.

Find someway to refine the mana to make in safe. May be capture some humans and turn them into mindless mana refiners.

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