In the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Jack Arbiser and colleagues describe the use of gentian violet to provide some relief to a patient who came to the emergency room with a painful skin irritation. Arbiser is a professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine.
A coal-tar dye which is inexpensive and availableÂ over the counter, gentian violet was first synthesized in the 19th century. It has been used as a component of paper ink, a histological stain, and an antibiotic or antifungal agent, especially before the arrival of penicillin.
“Clinicians should not forget about gentian violet for immediate pain relief and antibiotic coverage,” the authors conclude in their case report.
In addition to its antibiotic properties, Arbiser reports that gentian violet has antiinflammatory effects, possibly because of its inhibition of the enzyme NADPH oxidase and the gene angiopoetin-2.