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Gentian violet

Gentian violet
CAS number 548-62-9
PubChem 11057
MeSH Gentian+violet
Molecular formula C25H30ClN3
Molar mass 407.979
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state
(at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Infobox disclaimer and references

Gentian violet (crystal violet, Methyl Violet 10B, hexamethyl pararosaniline chloride) is an antifungal agent, the primary agent used in the Gram stain test, perhaps the single most important bacterial identification test in use today, and it is also used by hospitals for the treatment of serious heat burns and other injuries to the skin and gums. Typically prepared as a weak (e.g. 1%) solution in water, it is painted on skin or gums to treat or prevent fungal infections. Gentian violet does not require a doctor's prescription (in the US), but is not easily found in drug stores. Tampons treated with gentian violet are sometimes used for vaginal applications.

Gentian violet is also known as Andergon, Aniline violet, Axuris, Badil, Basic Violet 3, Brilliant Violet 58, Gentiaverm, Hexamethyl-p-rosaniline chloride, Meroxylan, Meroxyl, Methylrosalinide chloride, Methyl Violet 10BNS, Pyoktanin, Vianin, Viocid, and Viola Crystallina.



Commonly used for

Tinea; e.g. Athlete's foot, jock itch, and ringworm
Candida albicans and related infections; e.g. thrush, yeast infections
Mouth ulcers[1]
Impetigo used in England before the advent of antibiotics but still useful to anybody that may be allergic to penicillin, as it cleans the open sores and prevents spread of the contagion

In forensics, gentian violet was used to develop fingerprints.

In body piercing, gentian violet is commonly used to mark the location for placing a tongue piercing.

Engineering students in Canada traditionally use this substance to dye their whole bodies purple in preparation for homecoming celebrations and frosh week. Additionally, Queen's University's golden leather engineering jacket, also known as Golden Party Armour or GPA, is purpled using this dye.


The Food and Drug Administration has determined that gentian violet has not been shown by adequate scientific data to be safe for use in animal feed. Use of gentian violet in animal feed causes the feed to be adulterated and in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. 21CFR589.1000

Gentian violet's worst common side effect is staining skin and cloth, but if used on ulcerations or open wounds it can cause tattooing. It is generally considered safe for use on children and breastfeeding mothers. It has even been applied to the mouth and lips of premature infants, and has a long history of safe use. Many have recommended it for thrush on the nipple, and La Leche League lists gentian violet as a possible alternative.[1] However, in large quantities, gentian violet may lead to ulceration of a baby's mouth and throat and is linked with mouth cancer. Dr. Sears recommends using it sparingly.[2] Gentian violet has also been linked to cancer in the digestive tract of other animals.[3]

When using gentian in order to purple skin or jackets, care should be taken to mix only low concentrations of the crystal into warm water. This avoids the material attaining a golden hue. Additionally, jackets with a waterproof coating should be scrubbed lightly with a scrub pad, steel wool, or light grade sand paper before dyeing.[4]

Popular culture

In Catch-22, the medics are portrayed as using gentian violet on feet and gums as a universal panacea. During the 1940's in the US, tub soaks made with water and gentian violet were "prescribed" as a cure for poison ivy, though its efficacy in such an application is unsubstantiated.


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  4. ^ Jacket Purpling Guide; URL last accessed September 19, 2006

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Gentian_violet". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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