Gentian violet is also known as Andergon, Aniline violet, Axuris, Badil, Basic Violet 3, Brilliant Violet 58, Gentiaverm, Hexamethyl-p-rosaniline chloride, Meroxylan, Meroxyl, Methylrosanilide chloride, Methyl Violet 10BNS, Pyoktanin, Vianin, Viocid, and Viola Crystallina. It is worth noting that the name "Gentian Violet" refers to its colour, being like that of the petals of a gentian flower; it is not made from gentians.
In body piercing, gentian violet is commonly used to mark the location for placing a tongue piercing.
Engineering students in Belgium and Canada traditionally use this substance to dye their whole bodies purple in preparation for homecoming celebrations and frosh week. Additionally, aside from also dying their bodies purple during frosh week, Queen's University's golden leather engineering jacket, also known as Golden Party Armour or GPA, is purpled using this dye.
"Like MG [malachite green], CV [crystal violet] is readily absorbed into fish tissue from water exposure and is reduced metabolically by fish to the leuco moiety, leucocrystal violet (LCV). Several studies by the National Toxicology Program reported that the carcinogenic and mutagenic effects of crystal violet in rodents. It has also been linked to increased risk of human bladder cancer. The leuco form induces renal, hepatic and lung tumor in mice.
Gentian violet's worst common side effect is staining skin and cloth, but if used on ulcerations or open wounds it can cause tattooing. It is generally considered safe for use on children and breastfeeding mothers. It has even been applied to the mouth and lips of premature infants, and has a long history of safe use. Many have recommended it for thrush on the nipple, and La Leche League lists gentian violet as a possible alternative. However, in large quantities, gentian violet may lead to ulceration of a baby's mouth and throat and is linked with mouth cancer. Dr. Sears recommends using it sparingly. Gentian violet has also been linked to cancer in the digestive tract of other animals.
When using gentian in order to purple skin or jackets, care should be taken to mix only low concentrations of the crystal into warm water. This avoids the material attaining a golden hue. Additionally, jackets with a waterproof coating should be scrubbed lightly with a scrub pad, steel wool, or light grade sand paper before dyeing.
In July 2003, the polar bear Pelusa in the Mendoza, Argentina zoo was treated with gentian violet. News stories with a picture of the purple polar bear were widely read. However, many accounts referred only to a "drug", "treatment" or "antiseptic" without naming it. This gave rise to claims that the photo was digitally altered and the story was a hoax.