Potassium permanganate (KMnO4) cannot be used to make gentian violet, and this is a common misconception. When water and potassium permanganate are mixed, it produces a vivid purple solution, which may lead to this misconception.

Gentian violet is a dye with the chemical formula C25H30ClN3. As stated above, mixing water with potassium permanganate will not create gentian violet.

Both gentian violet and potassium permanganate have similar characteristics when it comes to medical uses, which include:

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Antihelminthic
  • Wound disinfecting

Potassium permanganate is potent and needs to be heavily diluted before applying to the skin. Even then, it may cause irritation, rashes and burns. In addition, it should not be used in the mouth as it can be extremely toxic.

Gentian violet, in a 1% or 2% solution, has been used topically as an anti-infective.

Neither gentian violet or potassium permanganate should be used in infants as data is lacking, both in terms of safety and effectiveness. If your baby has a suspected thrush infection, they should be seen by their doctor.