Gentian violet is an old but versatile medication. It was created in the 19th century, and although it is a bright blue dye, it was never used to color cloth or products. Its applications were strictly in the laboratory and the doctor’s office. Gentian violet kills many types of bacteria and fungi. Doctors are now recommending it when antibiotic resistance makes other treatments less effective (Maley & Arbiser, Experimental Dermatology, Dec. 2013). One reader found that it could help make her split fingertips and thumbs become pain free.

Gentian Violet Against Nail Fungus:

Q. I hope you won’t mind another letter about gentian violet; my experience has been positive. After reading about it in your column, I applied it carefully with a cotton swab once a week for a month. My toenails appeared to have purple polish.

After trying over the counter and prescription remedies for many, many years, I am seeing excellent changes to my toenails for the first time. I’ll keep up the treatment in hopes it will cure this terrible fungus.

Now for another use for gentian violet: Every winter for years, I’ve had painful splits in the skin around my thumbnails. As with my toenails, I’ve tried all sorts of remedies to no avail. After painting my toenails, I decided to paint the miserable wound on one of my thumbs. Within a week, there was noticeable healing. No physician ever suggested that this malady was a fungal infection.

I don’t mind the bright purple toenails (with a little iridescent sheen!) if it defeats nail fungus.

How Could Gentian Violet Make Thumbs Pain Free?

A. We are delighted that the gentian violet has been helpful for your split thumb tips. We remind anyone else who decides to try this that gentian violet is quite a strong blue dye.

That said, we heard from another reader who inadvertently discovered a way to remove the color:

“After reading about gentian violet’s use for nail fungus, I’ve been treating my wife’s toenail fungus with it. It seems to be working slowly. I accidentally discovered an easy way to remove it–common hydrogen peroxide. With a little rubbing, the peroxide removed the gentian violet quite well.”

Since people use hydrogen peroxide to treat toenail fungus, we can understand why he might have been using it. It is quite a powerful cleanser and bleach.

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