Credit goes to OneWinged4ngel
Healin'. Patchin' up the wounds. Sewing the Fighter's larynx back in after he took an arrow through the neck and lived and wanted to tell about it. Every player knows the drill. But oddly, a lot of players just use really... silly methods of going about healing themselves, and have some wild misconceptions about how to do it effectively and even how much of a priority it should be.
Some players think they *have* to have a cleric or druid to cover the healing role, and place healing as an extremely high priority, even in combat, and even if they don't, many even spend inordinate amounts of money on extremely inefficient healing items that may hurt them more than help them.
To summarize a few common issues:
Players overprioritize healing in combat when there are more effective options available to them.
Players spend too much money on healing, often spending wads of cash on things like potions of Cure Moderate Wounds.
Players believe they can't heal efficiently without a Cleric or Druid or similar class in the party, and view such as an essential role, to the point where some even *force* others to play a Cleric or Druid just so that they can have a dedicated healer, and then downplay the extraordinary talents of those classes and belittle them to a mere healing role, making for an unenjoyable experience for the victim of this treatment.
Many players just don't know how to get the best healing for their buck.
Some Information and Comparisons
First, an effort at dispelling some of the myths. First off, you should probably never be buying healing potions, perhaps with the exception of Cure Light Wounds or a similar level 1 spell. The reason for this is simple. The cost is exorbitant, and it's really not worth it. A Cure Serious Wounds potion will heal, on average, 18.5 hp, and it will cost you 750gp, and it will take either a standard or a full round action to use, and it will provoke AoOs unless you did some further investment to prevent that, and on top of that it probably smells bad and tastes bitter. Yuck. For the same price, you could have gotten a Wand of Cure Light Wounds (275hp total instead of 18.5hp), a Wand of Lesser Vigor (550hp total instead of 18.5gp), or a Healing Belt (Either 6d8 hp (average 27 hp) a day, or 18 hp (same as the potion!) per day if you burst heal, usable as a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity.)) Would you rather get 18 hp, or 18 hp per day? Now would you rather use a standard or full action that provokes AoOs, *and* need to draw the item, or would you rather use a standard action that doesn't provoke AoOs? And hey, wouldn't you like the option to heal even more for efficiency, outside of battle? There's even another option, this one for artificers, that costs a mere 50 gp a pop: Infuse an ally with Greater Healing armor. This will give them 6d8+30 total healing (3d8+15 as a swift action, usable twice). As an added bonus, it will even automatically heal you if you get knocked unconscious. The point is... potions are bad. Potions are inefficient. So are scrolls of Cure Moderate Wounds, Cure Serious Wounds, and so forth.
Second, a dedicated healer is not a necessary combat role. Seriously.
First off, healing often does not outpace damage. Moreover, removing an enemy a threat can often be much more effective at saving your allies' necks than going up and poking them with Cure X Wounds. If an enemy were to deal 50 damage to an ally, and you can take that enemy out by either disabling or killing them, then you've "healed" that ally of the 50 damage he would have taken. Additionally, as healing often does not keep up the pace with damage, even if you can't disable the enemy, healing the ally might not be good enough to save them. Instead, you might want to use an ability to help the ally escape, or block the enemy from attacking them (this can be something as simple as Benign Transposition, really). In fact, healing in combat is only situationally a good choice, and is often a subpar tactical option.
Secondly, you can get very efficient out-of-combat healing quite easily without a Cleric or Druid, and indeed a Rogue, Artificer, Paladin, Ranger, Factotum, Warlock, or Bard could fill the healing role with a wand of Cure Light Wounds or Lesser Vigor. In fact, you can even get good, cheap burst healing comparable to the Cleric or Druid's ability at low levels with items like the Healing Belt.
Actually, the Artificer can prove to be a fantastic healer, cheaply (we're talking 37.5% market price here) turning out healing belts, wands of lesser vigor, and providing Greater Healing armor infusions (a mere second level infusion) at an early level. The Paladin and Ranger can use wands of Cure Light Wounds without penalty, and the others can use UMD to master the efficient wands. On top of that, members of *any* class can easily chip in with the very efficient Healing Belt.
These things considered, you really can get by without a Cleric or Druid. In fact, if you do have a Cleric or Druid, they're probably going to be more useful in most combats if they are doing something OTHER than healing, since they have considerable talents in many regards.
How to Heal Effectively
(Author's note: I have excluded a few very potent and efficient means of healing because things like the infinite-healing-for-cheap trap and other such things are just plain abusive, and few sane DMs will allow them)
Blessed Bandages (10gp, MiC page 152): 10gp to automatically succeed to stabilize an ally. Can definitely save a friend at very low levels.
Wands of Cure Light Wounds (750gp, Core): The hallmark of efficiency. These wands will dish out an average of 5.5hp a pop, and with 50 charges that will add up to 275 total healing. This wand gains an advantage over Lesser Vigor in two respects: Speed of use, and the fact that Lesser Vigor is a Cleric and Druid only spell, and thus is only available to those classes and UMD users, while Paladins and Rangers and the like will stick to Cure Light Wounds.
Wands of Lesser Vigor (750gp, Spell Compendium Page 229): These are the most efficient healing wands around! You get 11 hp per pop (though it takes a full minute to gain that 11 hp), and you get a total of 550hp of healing for your 750gp.
Healing Belts (750gp, MiC page 110): For 750gp, *anyone* can heal 6d8 hp a day, and even burst heal for 4d8hp as a Standard action with a Touch range, and does not provoke attacks of opportunity like spells and scrolls. Also, with the MiC rules for adding common effects, you don't even need to worry about "keeping the slot free" anymore. You can actually just say, give one of these to everyone in a party of 5 for 30d8 healing per day, and just subsidize your healing costs. This is a great way to keep everyone alive at low levels. As if this weren't good enough, you get feel-good +2 bonus to Heal checks as a bonus.
Artificers can heal very effectively with Greater Healing Armor (MiC page 12), dishing out 3d8+15 healing *twice* usable as a swift action, and even automatically healing a character should they fall unconscious. Best of all, this only costs you 50gp for a total of 6d8+30hp healing, and is available at a very low level.
Wand of Faith Healing (Spell Compendium): It's kinda cheesy, but it's worth mentioning if your DM allows it. It's exactly the same as Cure Light Wounds, except maximized and only usable on people who share your faith (which can easily just be everyone in your party). I personally don't allow this spell as a DM.
Touch of Healing (Reserve Feat, Complete Champion pg 62): This one is for the actual "healers." As long as you have a healing spell of second level or higher ready to cast, you can heal anyone up to half their total hp (but no higher, meaning you have to use more abilities to fully heal them) for free. Basically, for the cost of a feat, you get a lot of free healing.
Summon Nature's Ally IV (Core): Summoning a Unicorn nets you a free set of 3 CLWs, 1 CMW, and a Neutralize Poison. It has a caster level of 5th, so that'll total 5d8+20 points of healing (and a neutralize poison). It's even something a druid can cast spontaneously. Not bad.
Revivify (Cleric 5, Spell Compendium page 176): Revive your dead buddy for 1000gp as a standard action instead of for 5000gp as a much longer action, and best of all *no level loss.* A no brainer really. You just need to be quick about it, acting within 1 round of the victim's death!
Revenance (Cleric 4, Paladin 4, Bard 6): This spell can target any character that died within 1 round / caster level of casting. The subject comes back to life (as if by Raise Dead except with no penalties) and is able to fight (with a +1 morale bonus on attack, damage, and saves against the person who killer her) for 1 minute per level, at the end of which the character dies again. The real seller here is that it has a wider window to cast than Revivify (1 round / level), and moreover the ally will die at the end of the spell (or after being killed again), often allowing you to use Revivify when it would otherwise be impossible (window passed) or too dangerous (in the middle of combat).
Delay Death (Cleric 4, Spell Compendium page 63): As an *Immediate Action*, the ally becomes unable to die from hit point damage (they'll still fall unconscious, they just won't die.) This means that you can instantaneously cast this spell when a buddy takes their final hit, and they won't die for 1 round/level (during which time you can finish the encounter, then heal them up.) Can definitely be a lifesaver.
Tomb Tainted Soul (Feat, Libris Mortis): This handy feat allows you to be healed by negative energy. This means that a living Dread Necromancer can heal you to full as much as she likes with Charnel Touch, and that you can heal yourself with things like Uttercold metamagiced spells and the like.
Amulet of Retributive Healing (2000gp, MiC Page 69): This handy little doodad lets you double up on your healing 3 times per day. When activated (as a swift action) this amulet allows you to cure yourself of an amount of damage equal to however much you cured your buddy of. So, if you cast Heal on your ally, you can activate this item to use a free quickened Heal on yourself. Works with scrolls and everything, too.
Collar of Healing (5000gp, MiC page 90): As an *Immediate action* once per day, heal your animal companion of 50hp and cures the Fatigued or Exhausted conditions. Keep your little buddy going. As an added bonus, it works at any range (as long as you're on the same plane), and lets you know your companion's exact hit point total at all times.
Heal (Core): Heal is a great spell. It really is. It's the healing spell you actually might want to use in fights fairly often. It heals a ton of damage, and it takes away ability damage, blinded, confused, dazed, dazzled, deafened, diseased, exhausted, fatigued, feebleminded, insanity, nauseated, sickened, stunned, and poisoned. A laundry list of status effects, some of which are quite deadly in their own right! However, Heal is not a necessary party role in and of itself! Again, you don't actually need *any* in-combat healing to have a highly effective party. Still, when you *do* have a Cleric or Druid around, there's no reason they shouldn't have this ready. If you don't have a Cleric or Druid around, you may want to consider a scroll or two of this for those few situations where you really do want a Heal (i.e., your buddy just got blasted for 100 damage and got stunned to boot).
Divine Ward (Feat, PHB II): This feat will help out the "true healers," allowing them to use Close Range instead of Touch Range for their healing spells on one ally by spending your Turning attempts. You can get a similar results with Divine Metamagic (Reach Spell) (Which happens to be doubly useful for, say, a ranged Slay Living).
Augment Healing (Feat, Complete Divine): Add +2 healing per level of the healing spell cast. Simple and effective for a dedicated healer, should you choose to get one.
False Life (Sor/Wiz 2, Core):
Instead of taking up an action to heal during combat, take an action to heal up to 1 hour / level before combat ever happens! See also, Aid (Cleric 2, PHB)
Empathic Transfer (Egoist 2, Psychic Warrior 2, XPH): This useful power is the standy of healing as a Psionic character. The method is a little unique as opposed to standard methods of healing, but it works just as well. You eliminate anywhere from 2d10 to 10d10 (depending on augment) hp of damage from an ally, and transfer half of that damage onto yourself. Combined with Vigor (Psion 1, Psychic Warrior 1, XPH), and Share Pain (Psion 2, XPH) both shared to your psicrystal through Share Powers, the temporary hit points will absorb all of the damage.
Vigor (Psion 1, Psychic Warrior 1, XPH): This power giives you 5 temporary hit points per power point spent, lasting for a minute per level. It's like healing *before* you ever take damage, and lets you buff beforehand in order to avoid the need to heal in combat.
Amulet of Tears (2300gp, MiC page 70): Another source of temporary hit points, this handy item stores 3 charges per day and grants temporary hit points lasting for 10 minutes based on the number of charges spent. For 1 charge, you gain 12 tmporary hit points, and for 3 charges grants 24 temporary hit points.
Share Pain (Psion 2, XPH): This power transfers half of the damage dealt to you to a willing subject, and thus helps a good deal with damage mitigation. It lasts for an hour per level, so can last for a full day's worth of encounters, and a popular use is to combine it with a Vigor (Psion 1, Psychic Warrior 1, XPH) power shared with your psicrystal and make your psicrystal the subject, effectively doubling the effect of vigor and transferring a good deal of hp damage onto a target that is often a noncombatant.
Shield Other (Cleric 2, Paladin 2, Core): This is much like Share Pain, except it deals half of an ally's damage to you, helping you to protect them. It also adds a +1 resistance bonus to saves and a +1 deflection bonus to AC for the target, as an added plus.
Vampiric Touch (Sor/Wiz 3, Duskblade 3, Core): 1d6 damage per two levels, and gain temporary hp equal to the damage dealt. This spell is notable for combining offensive abilities and effective in-combat "healing" into the same attack. This spell is useful in spell storing weapons, or channeled through a Duskblade's "Arcane Channelling" ability. It is generally *not* a good idea for the average mage to run up into melee and try to touch an enemy with it, because the damage will be low and the temporary hp probably won't save you from a world of pain (unless you have other protective spells and such up). Also note that if you're an Unseen Seer or Arcane Trickster, you can increase the amount healed with sneak attacks!
Bloodstone weapon enhancement (+1, page 29 MiC): Stores and casts Vampiric Touch just like a spell storing weapon, except that it's automatically empowered. Basically, this will deal extra damage on attacks equal to (1d6 per two caster levels)*1.5, *and* give the wielder of the weapon temporary hp equal to the damage dealt. Thus, you're adding to damage and to healing at the same time! See also: Vampiric Touch.
Bodyfeeder weapon enhancement (+3 bonus, XPH): This handy enhancement will grant its wielder temporary hit points equal to the damage dealt by any critical hit he dishes out. With an expanded critical hit range, you can expect this to give a steady stream of temporary hp. This enhancement can be granted by an artificer spending a 3rd level infusion and a small amount of gp. (Note: Though "Wrathful Healing" is almost certainly more effective, it's much less likely to be allowed)