Well Being

Gentian Violet and Grapefruit Seed Extract as Thrush Remedies

By  | 

grapefruit-seed-extract.jpgWelcome to the April Carnival of Breastfeeding, “Thrush and Mastitis and Blebs, oh my!” This month several contributors share their experiences with different breastfeeding challenges and offer links and resources for overcoming those challenges. First I will talk about using gentian violet or grapefruit seed extract as alternative remedies for thrush, but make sure to read on for links to the other contributions at the end!


When my first daughter was born, I struggled with oversupply. In theory oversupply sounds great because it eliminates any worry about having enough milk for the baby. In reality, it can cause a lot of problems including painful engorgement, an overactive letdown (which can cause the baby to choke, sputter, and pop off the breast), a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance (leading to green and gassy stools), plugged ducts, and mastitis.

I wish I had known more about correcting oversupply in the first place. In the end it took about 12 weeks for my supply to regulate.

Plugged Ducts

Off and on over that first year, I experienced several plugged ducts:

~ Kellymom on Plugged Ducts and Mastitis
~ NEW BEGINNINGS article on Plugged Ducts

I became adept at hand-expressing to remove the little white milk plug that was blocking the milk duct. One time, though, I found that I had damaged the nipple skin at the site of the plug, and the sore simply would not heal. I tried Lansinoh and I tried expressing breast milk on the nipple and letting it air dry. The white, cracked sore did not go away.


Eventually I spoke to a La Leche League leader, who suggested I consult my doctor to see whether it could be thrush. I wasn't in terrible pain and my baby didn't have white patches in her mouth, but thrush can exist without such symptoms or signs. My gynecologist first prescribed Nystatin for me and my baby, and when that didn't work, we moved on to Diflucan. (I also sanitized all of my clothing and any toys or other items that had been in my baby's mouth). When Diflucan didn't work either, I began to suspect I didn't have thrush (that's what I think in retrospect), or I had a stubborn case.

Gentian Violet and Grapefruit Seed Extract

I started looking for alternative remedies for thrush, and happened upon information about using Gentian Violet:

~ Using Gentian Violet – Dr. Jack Newman
~ Thrush Remedies including Gentian Violet (see also the warning on its use) — AskDrSears.com

Gentian violet is purple and does indeed stain your nipples, baby's mouth, and clothing. I bought a few pink/purple outfits and put my baby in them for the duration of our treatment! Whether or not I actually had thrush, this is the product that finally helped my nipple heal.

Later on I learned about grapefruit seed extract and its antimicrobial properties. I tried Nutribiotic – GSE Liquid Concentrate anytime I had an open sore, or my baby developed a yeasty diaper rash. I also take it internally when I'm battling a bout of plugged ducts and/or mastitis. It's also an effective cleaner! Just make sure you dilute it. Plain sterile water works for topical applications, and a little orange juice (or grapefruit juice!) works well to mask the bitter taste when you take it internally. A small bottle of GSE seems expensive ($10.50 or so on-line or at a natural foods store) but a little goes a long way and I still have my original bottle four years later.

~ Grapefruit Seed Extract for Treatment of Thrush – AskLenore.com
~ Identifying and Treating Thrush (with GSE) – Dr. Jay Gordon

It's convenient that these remedies do not require a prescription, but as always, consult your physician, your child's physician, and/or a pharmacist before using any medication.

Other Participants in the Carnival

~ Tongue Tie – Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog
~ Supplementing – Mama's Magic
~ Oversupply, Blebs, Plugged Ducts, and Mastits – Half Pint Pixie
~ Plugged Ducts and Mastitis – Speech Act
~ Low Milk Supply and the Mini-Pill – Tales of Life with a Girl on the Go
~ Getting Rid of Thrush – Nurturing Notes
~ Sore Nipples, Engorgement, and Medications – BreastfeedingMums
~ Surviving Mastitis – Blessed Nest Perch
~ Supplementing during the First Week – Hobo Mama