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What Are the Medicinal Uses of Gentian Violet?

By Jennifer Mackin
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Gentian violet is a type of medicinal anti-fungal used to treat fungal infections on the skin or inside the mouth. A doctor may prescribe it for ringworm, athlete’s foot, or thrush. Gentian violet is also available over-the-counter (OTC) in many places. As its name indicates, this medicine includes an antiseptic dying agent that can stain the skin and clothes purple.

When applying the medicine for a fungal infection on the skin, a person should be careful during application of the gentian violet and use it exactly as described on the bottle or by a doctor. Using the medicine too often or using too much can cause irritation to the surrounding healthy skin. To ensure that the medicine only gets on the infected skin, a cotton swab should be used. Skin irritation can also occur if the area is bandaged after application, so the infected area should not be covered.

Sometimes the gentian violet can cause more irritation to the infected area. If the fungal infection worsens, the skin becomes hot to the touch, or starts to ooze pus, a doctor should be contacted immediately. Another possible side effect is skin sores. This normally occurs in areas where there are skin folds, such as between the toes or the underside of the breasts. To help prevent this from happening, a person should wait until the medicine is completely dry before putting on his or her clothing or shoes.

The medication should not be used on open sores. Doing so can cause tattooing of the skin. This is occurs when the dye seeps deep into the skin and permanently stains it, like a tattoo.

Gentian violet can also be used to help get rid of thrush, which is an overgrowth of yeast often found on the inside of a baby’s mouth. The anti-fungal agent in the medicine can help fight the yeast. Treating thrush with gentian violet should be done exactly as prescribed, since the anti-fungal should not be swallowed. Typically, a light coating should be applied directly to the white patches inside the baby’s mouth. Petroleum jelly can be applied before the treatment to keep the baby’s lips from being stained purple.

Some people are allergic to the active ingredients in gentian violet. Anyone who has allergies to any type of food, dyes, or food preservatives should tell the prescribing physician and use caution when using this product. A serious allergic reaction may include trouble breathing and swelling of the tongue or throat.

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