Picture of Astrodose


Scientists Say Microdosing Psilocybin May Treat Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that currently affects 537 million people globally — and that number is only rising. With a prospective 783 million people on course to have diabetes by 2045, more effective and affordable treatments must be developed. A new study suggests microdosing psilocybin could play a part. 

In recent years, psilocybin (the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms and truffles) has begun to be recognised for its therapeutic potential, especially for mental health conditions. So promising are the findings, that it now even being studied in relation to the treatment of physical pain, with successful results. With so much of its mechanisms still a mystery, it is no wonder that scientists of all disciplines are eager to explore further uses of psilocybin.

This is reflected in an exciting new study, published in the journal Genes, that explores the viability of psilocybin as a treatment for diabetes. Study author Igor Kovalchuk explained;

“Diabetes and metabolic syndrome plague society and we were looking for various ways to contribute to the fight against those conditions… Since microdosing with mushrooms could become one of the treatment options for various diseases, we wanted to test whether its active ingredient, psilocybin, would also have anti-diabetic effects.”

Psilocybin: The Serotonin Whisperer

And it’s definitely not just psychedelic bandwagon-jumping. Psilocybin interacts with the serotonin receptors in the brain, which is one of the numerous ways it is effective as a mental health treatment. However, did you know we also have serotonin receptors in our pancreas, where insulin is produced? With insulin production (or lack thereof) being at the heart of what causes diabetes, could the unique skill set of psilocybin change the game?

What Causes Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that occurs when the pancreas stops being able to make insulin, or the body can no longer effectively use the insulin produced. Insulin is the hormone that turns the glucose from the food we eat into energy our cells can use. When our bodies cannot produce or use insulin effectively, this leads to high glucose levels in the blood which is called hyperglycaemia. Over time these high blood-glucose levels can damage the body, and cause the failure of various organs and tissues. So, according to the study authors, by interacting with the serotonin cells in the pancreas, psilocybin may be able to prevent the loss of vital insulin-producing cells. 

Photo by Matt C on Unsplash

How The Study Worked

In the study, the researchers explored the effects of psilocybin on pancreatic β-cells. Pancreatic β-cells are the cells responsible for producing insulin. When they are compromised, such as in a diabetic person, the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels is disrupted. 

The researchers exposed pancreatic β-cells to high glucose and high lipid (fat) conditions, a state that reflects the metabolic stress caused by diabetes. They used a rat insulinoma cell line, a scientific model used due to its relevance to human β-cell function. 

After being cultured in a nutrient-rich medium, some of the cells were treated with a specific concentration of psilocybin. After the psilocybin treatment, the cells were immersed in the high glucose and lipid conditions, calculated to induce the strain and damage generally observed in the pancreatic β-cells of people with diabetes. 

Photo by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash

Psilocybin Protects Cells

The researchers observed that the cells that had been treated with psilocybin showed significantly better viability compared to those that were not treated with psilocybin. This finding suggests that psilocybin has a protective effect on pancreatic β-cells, which helps to alleviate the damage of the metabolic stress associated with diabetes. 

On further analysis, the researchers were able to provide insights into why psilocybin may have these protective effects. Using ‘Western Blot’ analysis, the study found that psilocybin treatment led to a decrease in several key apoptotic biomarkers in β-cells that had been exposed to the high glucose, high lipid levels that mimic diabetes. Apoptosis (which means programmed cell death) plays a key role in the loss of β-cells in diabetes. The observed ability of psilocybin to reduce markers associated with this process highlights its potential to save β-cells in diabetic conditions. 

In response to his team’s exciting findings Kovalchuk remarked;

“We did not expect psilocybin to work so well on pancreas cells,” 

He also told PsyPost that;

“…microdosing with magic mushrooms will likely have positive effect for people with metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) and diabetes,”

Study Limitations: Early Days

While a promising start in this research field, there are limitations to the study that indicate the need for further research projects. Most notably, of course, was that the study was conducted using a rat insulinoma cell line, which although appropriate for very early investigations, is not able to fully replicate the complexities of a living organism. 

Kovaluchuk noted; “We need to perform this study on animals to be sure it works as well as it does in vitro,” 

Additionally, this study only looked at the effects of psilocybin under specific conditions of stress induced by high glucose and high lipid conditions. This represents only one aspect of diabetes, which is a multifactorial disease, meaning it exhibits a wide range of pathologies including inflammation, insulin resistance, and in the case of Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune components.

A Revolution in Diabetes Treatment

At its heart, this study points towards a potential revolution in the treatment of diabetes. This is essential because it is a condition that must be managed throughout the course of a person’s life. In many countries, the medication needed to maintain health for a diabetic individual is expensive, and for those on lower incomes, often sacrificed in place of food or rent. As Kolvachuk says “We are always looking for more natural/traditional/holistic ways to treat diseases.”

Could this research make way for a future in which people can manage their health with the affordable and naturally occuring magic truffle?

Here’s hoping! 🤞

Note: If you are diabetic don’t stop taking your meds! This research, though exciting, is in its infancy. Always consult your doctor before making a lifestyle change.

Share this post

easily pay with 💳 Mastercard, Visa, Amex, iDeal, GiroPay, EPS, Bancontact or Bank Transfer

easily pay with 💳 Mastercard, Visa, Amex & others