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Gentian Violet - Unveiling The Healing Powers Of Gentian Violet


Gentian violet, crystal violet or methyl violet 10B, is a blue-violet dye. It's derived from coal tar and is presently used to treat thrush (a fungal infection) of the mouth and skin. This dye was first produced in the 19th century and was used for some time as an antibiotic and antifungal. In Latin America, it's used to sterilize blood transfusions and prevent transmission of the parasite that causes Chagas' disease. Gentian violet is primarily used against the thrush causing fungus: Candida Fungus. Gentian violet certainly has great antibacterial and antiviral potential so let's learn more about it:

Gentian Violet: Understanding The Uses And Side Effects

What Is Gentian Violet?

Gentian violet consists of the following dyes:

  • Crystal violet 96%
  • Methyl violet and brilliant green 4%


In the early 20th century, gentian violet was widely used for:

  • Mucous membrane infections such as mouth, nose and vaginal.
  • Thrush
  • Skin infections, such as impetigo
  • Burns
  • Parasitic worms, such as pinworm
  • Fungal infections

It fell out of recommendations with doctors for a while as new antibiotics were developed, but it seems to be re-emerging in the 21st century. Given that it is stable at room temperature for years, it has become a staple of dermatological treatment in underdeveloped countries. However, several factors, including the development of antibiotic resistance, use of catheters and indwelling devices, suggest that GV should be used more extensively in the developed world as well.

Should You Use Gentian Violet?

The widespread use of antibiotics over the past decades has caused dangerous antibiotic resistance all over the world in the 21st century. Gentian violet is being investigated again and being used as an inexpensive, easy-to-use alternative for skin infections and bacterial and fungal resistance to gentian violet is very low.

The FDA permits the sale of over-the-counter gentian violet, provided that the use is for:

  • Mouth and vaginal thrush
  • Skin infections
  • Disinfecting wounds

Its use is more restricted in the UK and Australia because of animal studies demonstrating the potential to cause cancer. The UK limits its application to unwounded skin, while Australia recommends the use of antifungals instead of gentian violet for mouth thrush in babies.

Uses Of Gentian Violet


Candida fungus can cause thrush, a white mouth rash, especially in people with a weak immune system: the elderly, newborns, people using antibiotics, and those with chronic diseases.

Gentian violet has been used for thrush in babies for over 90 years and it is being increasingly used for thrush in people with HIV, especially in underdeveloped regions of the world where nystatin and fluconazole are not available. However, both lemon juice and lemongrass infusions were more effective for thrush than 0.5% gentian violet 3x/day in a clinical trial of 83 people.

Gentian violet has also been traditionally used to improve thrush in the nipples of breastfeeding mothers passed on by their babies with mouth thrush.

Vaginal Yeast Infections:

Gentian violet was prescribed for vaginal yeast infections until the late 1980s, but it is currently only indicated for mouth and skin thrush. That's because many don't recommend gentian violet against vaginal yeast infections.

Antifungal drugs (such as clotrimazole and miconazole) are now more commonly used and better researched for treating vaginal fungal infections. Gentian violet tampons are also available. But there is no up-to-date information about the best formulations for vaginal use especially considering that gentian violet is a dye that stains everything purple it comes into contact with. Keep that in mind before using it on any sensitive body parts.

Bacterial Skin Infections:

In a clinical trial on 21 people with atopic eczema and skin infection (Staphylococcus aureus), 0.3% gentian violet for 4 days showed better results on both the severity of the eczema and the infection. GV was superior to a tar solution or glucocorticosteroids, which only decreased eczema.

Umbilical Cord Infections:

In two observational studies on over 13 thousand low-income women who recently gave birth, umbilical cord care with gentian violet was clearly associated with reduced infection and death rates in the babies. Gentian violet has the potential to be used in underdeveloped regions.

Hospital-Acquired Infections:

Cleansing with gentian violet and antibiotics healed four people with antibiotic-resistant MRSA infections and two others with hard-to-treat bacterial infections. These infections were acquired in the hospital.

Coating medical devices such as catheters and tubes with a combination of gentian violet and an antiseptic (gendine) can stop the movement of infections through medical equipment. This mixture when combined kills infectious bacteria and yeast (Candida varieties).

Antiviral Activity:

With the rise of the Coronavirus, viruses have been studied this year more than any other so let's begin with the virus that started it all- animal viruses. Did you know? Gentian violet had strong influences against some animal viruses deadly to humans (Hendra and Nipah) in cellular studies.

Another study showed that 2% gentian violet completely fought a tongue disease (oral hairy leukoplakia) caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in a person with HIV.

A cloth dyed with gentian violet killed the flu virus in a cell study but it requires more investigation.

Antiparasitic Activity:

Gentian violet has traditionally been used to kill parasitic worms but parasites are nowadays killed with more effective anti-parasite drugs (such as mebendazole and albendazole).

As A Dye:

Due to its staining capacity, gentian violet can also be procured

  • As a stain to view cells and tissues in labs
  • In forensics, gentian violet was used to compound latent fingerprints in surfaces
  • To mark specific tissues during surgery
  • To classify bacteria to those that can be stained (Gram-positive) and those that can't (Gram-negative)
  • As a dye for wood, clothes food, inks, and cosmetics

Side Effects And Safety

  • Gentian violet stains the skin, teeth, and clothes, and almost anything else it comes into contact with. If applied on open wounds, it can temporarily tattoo the wound and later the skin itself.
  • When used for thrush, it causes irritation or damage to the mouth and cheek lining, cracked lips and dry mouth, breastfeeding difficulties,and inflammation of the larynx.
  • Frequent 2% gentian violet use on the mouth in a baby over 4 days resulted in swollen tongue, mouth injury, irritability, lack of appetite, and a hoarse cough.
  • Gentian violet applied on their legs caused stinging after a few days in 2 children.
  • A high dose of gentian violet (3%) was known to discomfort the back of one person after 14 hours.
  • Workers exposed to high amounts of gentian violet (such as dye manufacturers, pulp workers, and fruit packers) have complained of nose bleeding.
  • Gentian violet is toxic to the eyes and causes conjunctivitis, eye irritation, and pain.
  • Gentian violet toxicity levels in humans are limited to case reports and only mild adverse effects have been observed in clinical trials.
  • In two long-term oral toxicity studies in mice and rats, gentian violet intake increased the death rate and the incidence of several cancer types popped up. However, gentian violet is not taken orally and no cases of cancer have been linked to applying gentian violet on the skin in over a century of use.
  • In more than one or two studies in cells, gentian violet caused DNA mutations and abnormal cell division, which may explain the cancer effects in mice and rats. But it also has anticancer activity, which is not that unusual for chemotherapy drugs. Many drugs that can kill cancer cells can also cause cancerous changes in healthy cells. When it comes to gentian violet, further investigation is needed.

In conclusion, the drawbacks of this treatment outweigh the uses and until further investigation is done. The widespread usage of Gentian Violet remains at bay.

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