First of all, it is important to understand that there are no studies telling us exactly how to use gentian violet in the vagina. The information below is extracted from a variety of sources and should be considered a “best guess” based on bench research, some clinical experience, anecdotal reports from patients, an assorted collection of posts on other sites, some papers from the 1950’s and 60’s, and alternative medicine reviews that don’t say how people specifically used gentian violet just that they used it. This is level 5 evidence (the lowest quality) and thus has a grade D recommendation. Caveat emptor.
So why this post as I’m always spouting on about evidence-based medicine? Well, it’s not that gentian violet doesn’t kill yeast, studies tell us that it is fungicidal. It’s just we don’t really know the best concentration, method of application, and duration or use or data on long-term implications of use for the vagina. It’s used effectively in the mouth for HIV patients it’s probably safe for the vagina. However, I recognize women are looking for other options and in addition I’ve been looking into gentian violet for biofilms (I will post on that soon, biofilms may play a role in recurrent yeast and it’s really fascinating stuff). Given I know the relevant studies, am a vulvovaginal expert, and have a fellowship in infectious diseases I felt ideally suited to combine what the best that the literature, common sense, and clinical experience have to offer.
What is gentian violet? It is a coal-tar derivative. It takes chemistry and some nasty chemicals to get from coal to coal-tar and then from coal-tar to gentian violet (the formula is found in textbooks on industrial chemistry). While gentian violet technically starts out as coal, which is natural, whether it’s a natural product is all in how you define “natural” (i.e. marketing).
Concentrations of gentian violet greater than 1% should not be used as this can be very irritating, especially to the delicate tissues of the vagina. Some of the older studies painted the vaginal walls in the office with 1% gentian violet, though how often I just don’t know as these studies are from the 1950’s and I can’t retrieve them (the limitations of 1950’s microbiology and the ethics of pre-IRB studies notwithstanding). I have used 1% in the office, Recent studies with oral use for thrush find that 0.5% is effective and one small study found that a concentration of 0.1% (and even lower) was very effective at killing yeast in the mouth and caused less staining. Unfortunately, we don’t have studies to tell us the optimal concentration for vaginal use, but certainly it suggests that diluting the gentian violet can be considered to reduce irritation and mess (how dilute you can go is unknown, but for those who are chemistry-minded trying a lower dose might be appealing. If you do go lower, please post a reply below).
Gentian violet is very messy. It will stain everything. You should use gloves when applying it and the best way to get it into the vagina at home is with a tampon (instructions below). It will also stain your vulvar skin and even after the tampon is removed you will have a purple discharge that can stain, so wearing a pad at all times and underwear that you don’t care about. Use dark towels to cover the floor when you insert the tampon (or squat very carefully over the toilet). It is not possible to stress enough how messy this is and how much it stains. You can consider putting Vaseline on your labia to prevent staining on your vulva.
You should not be sexually active while using gentian violet. Intercourse can cause small breaks in the skin and when this happens the gentian violet could potentially leave a permanent tattoo. Also, gentian violet will stain your partner and no one wants a purple penis, fingers, or lips.
The tampon should be left in for 3 to 4 hours and then removed. The optimal duration for home use has not been defined; some people think 5 days is enough and others think up to 12 days is needed. Some people say twice a day (with oral yeast in HIV patients twice a day is recommended, but that’s the mouth and HIV patients, so not a fair comparison). If you have any irritation using gentian violet you should stop using it and be seen by your doctor.
What you need:
- Disposable gloves
- Gentian violet 1%
- A disposable Tupperware type plastic container for mixing the gentian violet and soaking the tampon
- Tampons with a plastic applicator (a cardboard applicator will fall apart in the liquid)
- A tablespoon (and possibly teaspoon) that you won’t mind throwing away
- Dark towels
- Vaseline to coat your skin (if you choose)
- Underwear that you won’t mind throwing away
- Plastic baggies (for throwing away the tampon applicator, you don’t want to risk stains as you chuck the tampon in the trash, but obviously you can avoid this step if you like)
Step One: Wash your hands. Apply Vaseline to protect the skin of your vulva if you decide on that option. Have your pad secure in the underwear that you are going to put on and close at hand. Wash your hands again and dry them well. Put on the disposable gloves. (you can also apply the Vaseline while the tampon is soaking up the gentian violet if mixing up the stuff with your bottoms off bothers you and you think you can be quick about it).
Step Two: Add one tablespoon of gentian violet 1% to the Tupperware container. If you plan on diluting it add another tablespoon of water and you will have a 0.5% solution (based on the oral studies for thrush 0.5% is probably fine and likely to be less irritating). You don’t need much liquid. If you want to make a 0.1% solution use one teaspoon of gentian violet and three tablespoons of water.
Step Three: Take the tampon out of the wrapper and put the tip in the gentian violet. The liquid will soak up into the tampon through the opening at the tip. Let it soak about ¾ of the way up. This will not take very long (a few minutes at most).
Step Four: Insert the tampon as you normally would and put the applicator in the baggie to throw away. Remove the tampon after 3-4 hours and discard, remove sooner if you have irritation.
Repeat this for 5 to 12 days depending on your symptoms. Starting at once a day seems reasonable.
If you fail this or any other treatment for yeast you should get a yeast (mycology) culture before retreating. Many women and their health care providers incorrectly diagnose chronic yeast based on symptoms or the and what they see (or think they see) under the microscope. A mycology culture is the gold standard. You don’t want to use any treatment repeatedly for a problem that you may not have.
THIS POST IS NOT DIRECT MEDICAL ADVICE.
I wasn’t thinking of using it internally, but externally near the vagina, but not in it is where I am having a fungal infection that itches so bad that I keep causing myself to bleed. I’ve been to the doctors office for the past month and I have tried Nystatin with no success. So, I am fully aware of the staining effects of this stuff because I had to use it when breastfeeding and my son had to be treated with it as well for thrush. Is this safe to use externally around the vaginal area? If so, how much and how long?
Excellent author. I have a medical background and have written a few medical research papers & articles for medical journals. Good comprehensive data & research with a common sense approach. Good writing! Love that you are digging deep into the 1950’s for information. That is some of the best medicine and science. Hard to find now because they bury it. Thanks for making some of it available (via the internet) today! Good stuff, keep it up!
I used GV 35 years ago. My Gyny would apply this every week during my pregnancy – it really works for thrush and soreness. Forget the creams
Rubbing alcohol removes it from counter and toilet and drips on floor and spots on hands.
Yes it sure does
These tips were really helpful, thanks for sharing.
I’ve used GV 3 times and I believe it may have worked, I am seriously irritated on the outside of my vagina. What do u recommend for some relief?
What would be your suggestion to use on the outside of the vagina if the gentian violet has irritated and or burned this area?
i want to know how to treat ringworm can i use gentian violet
Hello Dr Jen and other wise women,
Could I use gentian violet while pregnant and suffering from alternate thrush and UTIs caused by various bacteria (GBS one time and something else this time)? Have already had several courses of canesten and just finished antibiotics, and they want to give me more of both…
Also, if all the itching is external, do I still need to get the GV into the vagina, or will a q tip around the labia do the job?
thanks for your definitely-not-advise but still super useful words
In the early 1980s I was suffering symptoms of recurring vaginal yeast infections. Tests were inconclusive, and Monistat did not bring relief. My family doctor, the daughter of an Irish country MD, suggested trying “painting with gentian violet”. She used a speculum and a small sterile brush, and painted the cervix, walls of the vagina, and vulva. Yes, it was messy, but what a relief!!!!! One application did the trick, and I never had another yeast infection – until now. In my mid-60s, I tried taking Invokana for Type 2 diabetes, and got recurring yeast infections as a side effect. Monistat burns like crazy, and the condition keeps coming back. Now I can use gentian violet myself – thank you!!!!!
I am applying gentian violet with three cotton bud for now and will do it up to 5 days and see what happen. I also hanged my diet and I am eating garlic every time I can. Thanks for your explanation on how to use it, it is really helpful.
Have you got any thoughts on essential oils to cure yeast infectioins? Tea Tree/Lavender/Oregano?
At some point I will get to those!
So my story is very similar, struggling for over 3
Months.. have diflucan resistant yeast from the culture.. but normal candida .. so my doc suggested gentian violet and soaking a tampon.. I have to tell you I think the yeast infection might be a little better , but when I urinate it burns badly on the skin .. I’ve tried it 2x now .. not sure I should continue .. and ofcourse it’s Sunday so my gyno is not available … any suggestions ?
I want to say that THANK GOD I found this site. I have been suffering for so long due to a chronic bladder infection and using antibiotic bladder instills to get rid of it. Vagina is OUT OF CONTROL! Seems to be diflucan resistant at this point. Became resistant to tea tree oil douching, apple cider vinegar did nothing, povidine iodine douche made me feel dry as a bone and it did not work. Desperate here. Poor vagina has had enough! Using garlic cloves now. Going to get some of this and hopefully it will work! THANK YOU! 🙂
Oh man, don’t ever use iodine up there! Whatever you do! I remember some stupid doctor suggested this to me and it stung so much – I was a lot younger, and my mom got really angry at this doctor too. That’s bringing back some really unpleasant memories!
Good luck with the gentian violet! Sounds like you’ve been through a lot.
Don’t know if anyone else mentioned this? Sorry to many to read. But you can also use this under your breast and in the belly button. Any crease or crevice that gets an itchy yeast build up. Just swish a Q-tip under your breast and put on an old shirt. If you have to go out, put on a bra you don’t care about.
I had an old school doctor, that is now retired, tell me to use gentian violet. I use a Q-tip. I don’t use gloves. I’m an artist, I’m used to stains but I never get much on my fingers. I have never had to use it more than once. I used it twice this time in a two day period and I have some discomfort. I think I just used to much. This is a cheaper way to go than over the counter products and easy to use if you don’t make it complicated.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that I had also tried oral fluconazole for 30 days, two times a day of 100mcg each for a total of 200mcg of fluconazole per day – it didnt’t help at all! Thanks so much, Dr. Jen, you saved my sanity!
Ladies, I must say it WORKED for me too! I had already tried a full course of vaginal canesten pills (3 days, clotrimazole) along with applying the canesten cream 2 times a day externally for a month (!), 2 FULL 7 day courses of FENTIZOL, and none had worked, 2 days after stopping the medicines the itching would return. Since the itching was mostly outside my vagina, first I tried only applying a 1% solution of gentian violet to a cotton ball and rubbing it externally. After 4 days of doings this once a day, it burned my labia – and I really mean a lot of burning, the mucosa was very red and sore when I peed and it also hurt even to walk for a few days. I waited until everything was a bit better, using a course of Fentizol like cited above. After stopping the fentizol and the symptoms of candida returning, I decided to try the gentian inside at a MUCH lower dosage so that the burning I experienced using it outside didn’t return. I live in Brazil and here we don’t have tampons with vaginal applicators for sale anymore, only regular ones. So I got myself a dropper, a regular vaginal cream applicator, and made a VERY diluted solution of 10 parts water to 1 part of gentian violet 1%. I laid down on the bed and inserted the applicator into the vagina and then, the dropper inside the applicator, containing about 5 ml or 10 ml of that solution. I squeezed the dropper until the solution was dripping outside me. Then I waited for about 15 minutes and got up. I did it on alternating days (for fear of getting burned again, the gentian violet really makes me very dry) for 10 days. So I did it only about 5 times. It simply worked!
I have had yeast infection for almost 4 months. I have been tested for everything, HIV, diabetes, STDs and full blood work up and everything came back normal and negative. Vaginal cultures showed a yeast infection. I have been treated twice with oral anti-fungals, otc, and homeopathetic remedies, and altered diet with little to no relief of my symptoms which are mainly minor swelling and discharge. My last vaginal culture came back that I had normal levels of yeast, but I still have the same symptoms. Could this be anything but a yeast infection? I just want my vagina to go back to normal. My gyno has suggested gentian violet treatment, is this effective for treating the most stubborn yeast??? I’m at the end of my rope. Please help.
YES. A full resounding YES. It will help you. I had a recurring one that wouldnt go away with 2 rounds of 7-day Monistat, and an oral Diflucan. Came back a month later, and then I said, screw it, I am going nuclear on this thing. I always lived with the fear of a flareup, every time I took antibiotics, or was stressed. For me, 2 days of tampon insertion with a tampon soaked in GV (1 tea spoon if I recall correctly from my original post), for 3 hours a day, for 2 days, that was all it took. Your gyno is a smart person to recommend this, imo. Best of luck. And wear gloves! That thing stains like crazy.
Has anyone tried applying the gentian violet using a sea sponge rather than a tampon?
Sea sponges are considered unsafe for vaginal use
Is it abnormal to have some spotting after using gentian violet vaginally? I did it in April (had it painted on by a doctor) and had minor spotting two days later. It might be worth noting that it was also two days post-ovulation. I just had it done again two days ago and bam, this morning I had some spotting. Worth nothing (possibly) that I am ALSO two days post-ovulation today. I don’t normally spot with ovulation or mid-cycle, so I am wondering if it could have something to do with the GV?? It’s not much and not bothersome, but I am just curious. I want to have a baby in the next year so I’m paranoid about any cycle abnormalities
I’ve had a chronic BV problem for months now and I was told by someone at a vitamin store to try this because they used it for yeast and they mentioned it has antibacterial properties too. If my skin is already “RAW” due to my situation, would it be risky to try gentian violet in my vagina since it might stain my skin? I also have a tiny ulcer on my vestibule, so I’m scared this might irritate or make it worse.
@Dianette Lopez – I used GV on my tissues that were affected by a persistent candida yeast infection, as I’m sure most people have – it will make your skin a bit irritated, but about the same level, if not less, than over the counter yeast infection meds like monistat. It is not a severe irritation. For a week after, your skin will feel quite ‘dry’ and a bit ‘raw’ as a result, and it will take your body a week to start producing the same vaginal discharge/mucus (which ultimately moisturizes your tissues). But its well worth it. Don’t over use it. Personal experiece for me was that a 2-3 hour insertion of the soaked tampon, once a day for two days, eliminated my candida yeast infection. The solution has 10% alcohol, so let it sit for a while. It also contributes to the dryness you will feel.
I have read warnings about the tattooing you mention from gv entering skin breaks. I have however been unable to find any evidence of this actually happening to anyone.
In addition, I have used it in an open wound (out of necessity with no access to medical care) before closing the wound. I believed that the area would be tattooed and remain violet. It did not. There is no sign after healing that the area was ever discolored.
Is it safe to apply to my boy bits as part of BDSM medical play? And do I need to dilute it before applying? Thank you!
You probably should dilute it if you’re just literally playing around with it and dyeing parts of your body for fun…there is 10% alcohol so an equal amount of water or more should do it. The pigment is very concentrated. Keep in mind, you’ll be stained purple for a good week.
EM, thanks for your very helpful response!
I’ve used gentian violet for stubborn yeast infections but with a much simpler method. I got one of those disposable douches. Put 5 drops gentian violet in and used it. Usually only one treatment was required, occasionally a second. Only caveat, use a panty liner. BTY, bleach removed gentian violet stains easily.
Hello I have had major itching for about a month now and i cant find anything that will help they say i dont have a yeast infection but the only thing they find is white blood cells down there so theyre treating me for a UTI which I dont think it is because i still have major itching. Even though i supposably dont have a yeast infection I want to try this, I have itching on the outside and on my clitoris a bit. Can someone explain step by step how to do it? Do I soak the entire tampon in it or only the top? Can I take a Q tip and out it on the external part of my vagina?
This was 2 years ago but I wanted to say that itching without yeast could be Lichen Sclerosus (or Sclerosis). It affects the vulva and in some, the perineum and anal areas.
Dear Dr. Gunter,
I am writing to tell you that I have finally been cured of C Glabrata after 2 years after my gentian violet after reading your blog. I had tried high dose fluconazole, voriconozole, OTC creams, amphotericin b compound and nothing worked.
I diluted to .5%, insert for 7 nights.
I have had 2 tests come back now with no fungus isolated.
Thank you so much!
Wow! Thanks for the information (even though my posts are of course not direct medical advice)
i commented on this thread a long time ago. I am back to say that even though the treatment was not pleasant (I used 1 tsp of gentian violet on a tampon and inserted once a day for 2 hours in the evening, two consequtive days) I have not had a recurrent infection since 2013. Knock on wood! Side effects were very dry, chapped feeling vaginal skin and low lubrication/secretions for about a week, after which things slowly returned to their normal levels.
Do you insert at night only when you are going to bed? And do you wash the place after every insertion?
Hi @charlotte – I inserted it in the evening after work, then put on underwear and a maxi pad, and sat and tried to relax on the couch watching some TV…then I removed it after about 2 or 2.5 hours, depending on how annoying it felt down there, lol. Then I took a shower to wash off the excess purple stuff. Your skin will be purple for about a week, as well as your discharge. Your affected skin will also be kind of dry and squeaky clean, and possibly somewhat irritated, not the most comfortable feeling. But after a week, it will start to regain its regular consistency and moisture.
I currently have vaginal glabrata and have had it for nearly a year.. I have tried diflucan(before the docs knew it was glabrata) .. Voriconazole etc.. I am now resistant to everything. I am terrified.. Where can i source genetian violet? Please help..
Hi Vera, all you have to do is go into any well-stocked pharmacy and go up to the counter and ask for the gentian violet. They keep it behind the counter. Its commonly used for thrush in babies who are nursing.
CONGRATULATIONS,! GOOD HEALTH TO YOU!
I am working currently or a German charity in the Philippines and use 0.5 % GV lotion daily on the skin and in the mouth with good success. It is messy but effective. A paper by Jurevic et al. (Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 30:629-33, 2011) implies that much lower, non staining concentrations of GV might also be effective.against oral candida. Has anyone successfulyl used low GV concentrations?
I tried the tampon method. It did not work for me. I’ve had this problem for 14 years. After having tried just about every possible remedy, from meds to diets, to starvation, the yeast always finds a way to come back. I was hoping this was the answer…
I had recurrent yeast infections in 1979-1980, nothing seemed to get rid of them for long. My doctor decided to try genitan violet. He painted the inside walls of my vagina and outside a bit too. His instructions were no baths for a week just showers. It did the trick! I didn’t have another yeast infection for about 10 years. He also gave me pills which were to eradicate yeast in my colon and rectum. Hope this info helps!
I am currently using it…. hoping for the best because I have been dealing with this yeast infection since Feb…. sucks!
I use the 1% solution that contains 9% alcohol and it doesn’t burn at all. Personally I think it’s more messy and not worth the hassle of using the tampon process. I just dip a (super long) q-tip in the bottle and just swipe it around inside.
Thank you, thank you, thank you x
And where do you get the super long q-tips? Can’t seem to find any in my pharmacies.
After self-administering 1% gentian on a push up tampon. (didn’t dawn on me an applicator would be easier) never had the problem again. Single application. Well I have made some lifestyle changes, by going off cane sugar, eat meat once per year, and rinsing undies in a baking soda solution and hanging them outside in the sunshine. Also add vinegar to my wash water and wash the vagina separately after bath no rags or washcloths.
Thank you so Much for this article! I have been dealing with chronic yeast infections and BV for several years and can’t seems to get rid of it for long. I have used it once and it went away. But came back after only a few weeks. Due to intercourse or menstral cycle.Yeast can be a plaguing thing to deal with and you feel there should be some 1,2,3 step solution to get rid of it for good. Please keep researching.. We really need more experts who know more about this! Instead of dr. Who cont. To try treating with a Rx that doesn’t work..
Did you continue to try the GV? I have been suffering from yeast for over a decade. No doctor has been able to find a cure. I am considering trying this method. Considering so many people have these problems, I think more work needs to be done in this area.
When all else failed I went to my gyno, he used it on me one time and that did it. He said it was the treatment of choice. He said use non diluted one time on a tampon for 6 hrs.if I did it myself. You may order for under $3 on walgreens website.
So I have severe bacterial vaginitis since giving birth to my son. I had tried everything under the sun until my gyno told me about this. she had me come in and she painted my vagina with this stuff and then asked me to come back for the second application in 4 weeks. it worked for me for about a month and now i am trying it on my own at home. so messy but worth the relief!
http://vaginapagina.livejournal.com/9326026.html?page=1#comments – hello – I wanted to post this link because it is extremely relevant – several personal accounts on how women today have used Gentian Violet for vaginal yeast infection (average is 3-4 hours for 3 days). Using a 1% solution with 10% alcohol.
Yikes! Seems to me that boric acid would be a preferable home remedy.
Thanks for this blog. My dad, a retired Ob/Gyn, said this was their standard back in the day- the 1960’s- and I use it as a last resort in my Ob/Gyn practice. Recently I had a very stubborn athlete’s foot- the kind I wanted to cut of my foot- and stole some from my office. Yes I ruined a pair of shoes but it worked like a dream!
Ask your Dad how often they applied it and post the answer! Please! They called it “painting” with gentian violet, I’m told.
I know this is 7 years old but wanted to reply to this.
In the late 90’s, I developed horrible V burning after a round of antibiotics for a UTI. No clumpy discharge like regular yeast. My ob/gyn kept testing and treating me for c albicans. But it persisted. It went on for a year despite boric acid inserts, otc yeast meds, diflucan etc. I finally went to Arizona to see a vulvar specialist there named Dr. Gordon Davis. He has since retired. Anyway, he asked a few questions and said, I think I know what this is. Took a swab and went to his “lab” and looked in the microscope. Came back with the best news ever..he knew what it was!! C. Glabrata! It’s resistant to yeast meds and diflucan. He said he used Gentian Violet painting to cure it. So, he did one that day with a long swabby thing with GV on it. It was messy but on my drive home (12 hour drive from where I lived), I noticed about 80% improvement. I was to return in a couple of weeks for a 2nd round. I was almost 100% by the time I got treatment #2. Treatment #2 left me 100% recovered and I was thrilled. He said that it’s hard to detect (at least back then it was) and required a longer growth time or a high powered microscope to view it. It didn’t have standard clumpy white discharge of albicans. I’m glad I found him and got relief from over a year of burning pain.
The gentian violet I found at drugstore.com says it’s 9% alcohol. Is that the stuff I should be using? Wouldn’t it sting and or burn my vaginal tissue with that much alcohol?
Mine has 10% alcohol in it as a preservative. I’ve used it on my own mouth thrush and it didn’t burn at all, I’ve never used it undiluted on vaginal tissue because of the staining power it has but I’d imagine if it doesn’t burn my or my newborns mouth (she never reacted to it) then your vagina will be fine but if it still freaks you out see my previous comment on how I dilute it for vaginal use.
Wow almost jumped through the roof.. But its my last resort.. Burns like hell.. All purple now..
A midwife I trained under had used this method before OTC miconazole was available for some ladies, and would retreat them every 3 days for about a week, sometimes less if one dose did the trick.
I used gentian violet on my daughter’s very stubborn thrush when she was an infant after many unsuccessful rounds of nystatin. Wish I had used it sooner, but it’s hard to find.
Huh, wow. I’ve never used Gentian Violet, but based on the sorts of people who write about it, I always assumed it was some sort of plant extract. There’s a family of plants called Gentians.
It’s named Gentian Violet because it is supposed to be the color of the plant. It is by no means a plant based product.
I am so amused by this. Especially because of how people tout it as a ‘natural’ remedy. I. Yep.
That said, I am very curious about things that might help recurrent yi. They’re horrible.
I usually mix 1 tbsp into a 2 liter douche and use it while I’m in the shower or bath. 2 times a day (morning and night) for 3 – 7 days, usually that gets rid of anything that’s itching, if I’m unbalanced or irritated.
Loads of pediatricians recommended it for oral thrush in babies, if it’s safe enough for my newborn’s mouth undiluted, I think my lady bits will be fine.
Are you using a 2 liter for both times or 4 liter all together
I remember seeing it used in the 1970’s for stubborn trichomonas infections too. One painting seemed to do it.
It seems like a lot of trouble to go through just to avoid Monistat or whatever!
Very interesting stuff, though.