Can You Use Gentian Violet for Thrush?

Gentian violet is an antiseptic dye that has been used to treat certain bacterial and fungal infections, including thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection within the body, most commonly affecting the mouth, throat, and vagina. While some research has shown gentian violet to be an effective treatment for thrush, more clinical evidence is needed to assess its safety and efficacy as a first-line treatment for thrush.

Some studies have shown that gentian violet can cause a number of health problems, such as irritation to the mucous membranes, which cover the inside of your body, and oral ulcers, which are sores in your mouth. In fact, its use has been severely limited by authorities in a number of countries, including Australia, Canada, and France.

purple dye in a beaker

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What Is Gentian Violet?

Gentian violet is also called crystal violet, methyl violet 10B, and hexamethyl pararosaniline chloride. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and has been used to treat various health conditions, including bacterial infections, fungal infections, parasitic infections, and dermatitis. It has been studied in some animal models for cancer.

Gentian violet comes in a 1% or 2% solution. Its name stems from its color, which resembles that of a violet flower, but its ingredients are synthetic and not actually from the violet plant.

Does It Help With Thrush?

Gentian violet has been used to treat thrush, especially in less developed countries due to its stability and inexpensive cost, and most commonly for thrush in people with an HIV infection.


Infants are more likely to develop thrush because their immune systems are not yet fully formed. This gives the Candida yeast, which is responsible for most yeast infections, the ability to become overgrown. Babies can also develop the condition if they or their breastfeeding mother takes antibiotics.

Gentian violet may help reduce the overgrowth of Candida yeast in a case of thrush. For those who are wary of certain treatments, such as a systemic antifungal, or who may have a form of thrush that is resistant to standard treatments, gentian violet is sometimes used as an alternative treatment because it is used topically in small amounts and may have success against treatment-resistant forms of Candida. 

However, its use, particularly in children, is controversial. The World Health Organization lists gentian violet as carcinogenic, or having the potential to cause cancer, and genotoxic, or potentially damaging to DNA.

If this is your baby’s first time getting thrush or if you’re not sure if it is thrush, talk to your healthcare provider. They can find out whether thrush is causing your baby’s symptoms. They can also instruct you on treatment options.

Breastfeeding Mothers

Candida can grow in the breasts, nipples, and areolas, especially if the nipples have open cracks. This is known as nipple thrush. There is a risk of staining the nipples with gentian violet. Using a low dose of gentian violet can reduce that risk.

Adult Thrush

Gentian violet can also be used to help with adult thrush, even in people with other health conditions such as HIV.

A review published in 2020 in Dermatology Online Journal found gentian violet to be more effective at treating oral thrush in HIV-infected patients than nystatin, an antifungal medication commonly used to treat yeast infections, and almost as effective as the antifungal ketoconazole.

The researchers also found gentian violet to be effective at treating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) skin lesions, which are bacterial infections resistant to standard antibiotic treatments.

How to Use Gentian Violet for Thrush

Gentian violet is used topically, on the skin or affected area. You should not ingest gentian violet. Choose a 1% solution for treating thrush.

How long gentian violet takes to clear thrush can vary, but it generally works quickly and isn't typically used more than a few days at a time in children.


Your healthcare provider can instruct you on how to apply it so that your child isn't swallowing gentian violet.

For infants with thrush, you'd generally first prepare the affected area by rubbing petroleum jelly or a type of cooking oil that is safe for your baby to ingest along the inside of the mouth, cheeks, and lips. This can help prevent staining.

Then, you'd swab the solution over the affected areas. This can be done using a cotton swab or pad. You can repeat this treatment twice a day for up to three days.

Breastfeeding Mothers

If your infant has oral thrush and you have it in your breasts, you can start to feed your child after treating them with gentian violet. This can help you get the benefits of the treatment while they feed.

To treat yourself separately, apply gentian violet to the affected areas of the breast with a cotton pad. Make sure to let the solution dry prior to feeding your baby.

If the gentian violet is gone after feeding, you can apply more and use a breast pad so that your clothing doesn’t get stained. You can use this treatment twice a day for no more than seven days.  

Adult Thrush

Similar to thrush in babies and breastfeeding mothers, adults with thrush can apply gentian violet directly to the affected areas.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

You should consult your healthcare provider if it is your or your baby’s first time having thrush, if you have recurrent infections, or if the condition does not clear up after treatment.


Although gentian violet can be an effective thrush treatment, there are some drawbacks with its use. For example, it can stain the mouth, skin, and clothing very easily. Although this isn’t medically dangerous, it can be annoying.

It can also come with some side effects such as: 

  • Irritation: Research has shown that gentian violet can irritate the lining of the eyes, gastrointestinal tract, and genital tract. This typically only occurs if it’s used at a high concentration, so use the lowest possible doses of gentian violet.
  • Toxicity: If you ingest gentian violet, it can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  • Ulcers: Some reports found that gentian violet can lead to the development of oral ulcers in some people, even if it’s used in low concentrations.
  • Necrotic skin reactions: Necrotic skin, or blackened skin caused by tissue death, has also occurred when gentian violet was used in high doses.

Although the use of gentian violet is a personal decision, you should always speak to your healthcare provider prior to beginning any new treatment for thrush. This is because it is not clear how gentian violet may interact with other medications.


Gentian violet may be an effective treatment for thrush in certain populations, such as people with an HIV infection. However, its effectiveness and safety need further study. Check with your healthcare provider before using gentian violet to treat thrush in yourself or your children.

A Word From Verywell

Although thrush is generally mild, it is an infection that needs treatment as quickly as possible. It can spread to other areas of the body and even into the bloodstream. When this happens, the complications of the infection can progress to serious and life threatening.

Gentian violet may be a good alternative treatment for thrush because it’s affordable and some research has shown it to be effective at treating the infection. However, it’s unclear how effective or safe it really is. Therefore, you should consult your healthcare provider prior to treating thrush on your own with this remedy. 

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Maley AM, Arbiser JL. Gentian violet: a 19th century drug re-emerges in the 21st century. Exp Dermatol. 2013;22(12):775-780. doi:10.1111/exd.12257

  3. Kids Health. Oral thrush.

  4. Jurevic RJ, Traboulsi RS, Mukherjee PK, Salata RA, Ghannoum MA; Oral HIV/AIDS Research Alliance Mycology Focus group. Identification of gentian violet concentration that does not stain oral mucosa, possesses anti-candidal activity and is well tolerated. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2011;30(5):629-633. doi:10.1007/s10096-010-1131-8

  5. World Health Organization. Gentian violet.

  6. Pona A, Quan EY, Cline A, Feldman SR. Review of the use of gentian violet in dermatology practiceDermatology Online Journal. 2020;26(5). doi:10.5070/D3265048772

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  8. Douvoyiannis M, Swank C. The worst thrush I have ever seen. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2016;32(9):614-615. doi:10.1097/PEC.0000000000000619

By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.