Gentian Violet (also known as crystal violet) is an antiseptic dye that is also used as an antifungal. Gentian Violet can be used topically to treat types of fungus infections that are on the skin, in the mouth (also know as thrush), and in the ears (fungal ear infections).  Gentian Violet also has some minimal antibacterial properties and may be used as a disinfectant on minor cuts and scrapes.  In addition to the medicinal properties, Gentian Violet is also used as a textile dye.  Gentian Violet is available without a prescription and comes in a solution (liquid) form.

What Does Gentian Violet Look Like?
Gentian Violet is a solution (liquid) that has a deep, rich indigo color.  Indigo is a combination of blue or purple and the solution's color is what leads to its name.  The color is not only very dark but also very strong.  It easily stains most materials including clothing, skin, wood, paper, and more. Therefore, as seen below, Gentian Violet is frequently used as a stain or dye.

The Medicinal Uses of Gentian Violet
Because Gentian Violet has antibacterial, antifungal, and anthelmintic (gets rid of parasites) properties, there are many medicinal uses of Gentian Violet. Some of its popular medicinal uses include:

  • Fungal Infections
    Gentian Violet is used to treat numerous fungal infections such as:
    • Tinea also known as ringworm which can also present as Athlete's Foot or Jock Itch.
    • Candidiasis also known as Thrush or a Yeast Infection
    • Otitis externa also known as Swimmer’s Ear (a fungal ear infection)
  • Mouth Ulcers
    Gentian Violet is used to treat mouth ulcers such as canker sores and cold sores.
  • Impetigo
    Before the advent of antibiotics, Gentian Violet was used to clean the open sores of those with Impetigo to prevent the spread of the contagion.
  • Marking the Skin
    Gentian Violet is frequently used for marking the skin for surgery preparation, allergy testing, and placing body piercings.
  • Abrasions
    Gentian Violet is used on abrasions as it is one of the best agents for making an abrasion or weeping wound “scab up.”  Gentian Violet is used to prevent infection in wounds and burns.  Gentian Violet does not burn when applied but does cause a temporary skin discoloration.
  • Antiseptic
    Gentian Violet used as an antiseptic for Singaporean prisoners who were caned.

The Non-Medicinal Uses of Gentian Violet
In addition to its numerous medicinal uses, there are also many non-medicinal uses for Gentian Violet given its strong color and ability to stain numerous materials.  Some of its popular non-medicinal uses include:

  • Dye
    Gentian violet has many uses as a dye and is used to dye the following products:
    • Paper
    • Ink
      Gentian violet is a component of navy blue and black inks for printing, ballpoint pens and ink-jet printers.
    • Fertilizers
    • Anti-freeze
    • Detergents
    • Leather jackets
    • Disinfectant 
      Gentian Violet is an effective disinfectant in killing staphylococci, the bacteria which causes staph infections.  However, it does not have a disinfectant quality for killing other germs.
    • Forensics  
      Gentian Violet is used to develop fingerprints and as a tissue stain.
    • Laboratory Stain     
      Gentian Violet is used to stain cells grown in tissue culture both to preserve them and make them easily visible.  Most cells are colorless and therefore, need to be dyed in order to be visible.  Similarly, gentian Violet is used as a histological stain, particularly in the Gram’s method for classifying bacteria.  Gentian Violet is used as a non-toxic DNA stain. Gentian Violet is also used in laboratories as a cheap way to put identification markings on laboratory mice.