The liquid commonly known as gentian violet is a preparation of hexamethyl pararosaniline chloride and water in solution. It is the primary colorant used in the common laboratory process of the Gram stain test. It is also used medically as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal treatment.
Most common uses of gentian violet are for the prevention and treatment of fungal infections. The most common of these is thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection caused by the overgrowth of candida yeast. Commonly found in babies, thrush is characterized by thick white spots on the tongue and a scaly painful diaper rash. To treat thrust, gentian violet is painted on the baby's tongue several times a day. Nursing mothers may also paint their nipples with gentian violet to prevent reinfection of thrush from contact of the baby's mouth. Gentian violet may also be used to treat other fungal infections such as athlete's foot, jock itch and ringworm, especially in patients who may be allergic to other common anti-fungal medications.
Gentian violet is also used to mark incision lines and other areas for surgical treatment. Originally, this dark purple liquid was also used to develop the finger-printing process. It can also be used to treat mouth ulcers and the sores associated with impetigo.
Although gentian violet is generally safe for all patients, a few common-sense precautions should be used. A true tincture, gentian violet stains almost all materials it comes into contact with, including skin, fabric, and any other porous material. It can sting when used in contact with open sores or abraded skin.
Where to get Gentian Violet
In the U.S., no prescription is required for gentian violet. However, new anti-fungal treatments have overtaken it in popularity and it is often difficult to find. Many pharmacies and drug stores do still carry it in small quantities, but it may be kept behind the pharmacy counter and only available by special request. Gentian violet generally comes in a small glass bottle with an applicator attached to its cap. It should be stored in a clean, dry place.