Gallic acid is commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry. It is used as a standard for determining the phenol content of various analytes by the Folin-Ciocalteau assay; results are reported in gallic acid equivalents. Gallic acid can also be used to synthesize the hallucinogenic alkaloid mescaline, also known as 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine.
Gallic acid was one of the substances used by Angelo Mai among other early investigators of palimpsests to clear the top layer of text off and reveal hidden manuscripts underneath. Mai was the first to employ it, but did so "with a heavy hand," often damaging manuscripts for future study.