SAM-e

Topic Overview

What is SAM-e?

SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine, a substance that occurs naturally in the cells of plants, animals, and humans. SAM-e is not an herb. Because the body produces less SAM-e with age, some people think that SAM-e may be a helpful supplement for certain diseases. In the United States, it is sold as a dietary supplement.

What is SAM-e used for?

In the United States, people use SAM-e to treat depression or to preserve emotional well-being. Studies show that SAM-e may help with symptoms of depression in the short term, but more studies are needed to compare SAM-e with no treatment and with conventional treatment.1

SAM-e may also help to relieve pain in osteoarthritis and itching in intrahepatic cholestasis, a liver disease.1

Is SAM-e safe?

SAM-e can have many side effects, including:

  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Headache.
  • Anxiety.
  • Gas.
  • Swings from depression to intense energy (mania).

People diagnosed with bipolar disorder should not take SAM-e.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way it regulates medicines. A dietary supplement can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works.

Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary supplement or if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

When using dietary supplements, keep in mind the following:

  • Like conventional medicines, dietary supplements may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and nonprescription medicines or other supplements you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or supplement may make other health conditions worse.
  • Dietary supplements may not be standardized in their manufacturing. This means that how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
  • The long-term effects of most dietary supplements, other than vitamins and minerals, are not known. Many dietary supplements are not used long-term.

References

Citations

  1. Williams A, et al. (2005). S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) as treatment for depression: A systematic review. Clinical and Investigative Medicine, 28(3): 132-138.

Other Works Consulted

  • Murray MT, Pizzorno JE Jr (2006). SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine). In JE Pizzorno Jr, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 3rd ed., vol. 1, pp. 1235–1239. St. Louis: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
  • SAMe (2008). In A DerMarderosian et al., eds., Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Wolters Kluwer Health.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Last Revised June 29, 2011

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