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SAMe

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated May 23, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Elderly woman with arthritic hands
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What is SAMe?

The supplement SAMe, also known as S-adenosylmethionine, is a synthetic form of a compound formed naturally in the body from the essential amino acid methionine and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy-producing compound found in all cells in the body. It was first discovered in 1953.

SAMe is believed to work by being a methyl group donor in many reactions in the body. After donating the methyl group, it is converted to a compound called S-adenosyl-homocysteine.

Why Do People Use SAMe?

1) Osteoarthritis

There have been a number of studies on the effectiveness of SAMe in the treatment of osteoarthritis. SAMe appears to diminish osteoarthritis pain as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. It appears to be well-tolerated.

See Natural Remedies for Osteoarthritis.

2) Depression

There have been a number of studies on the use of SAMe for depression. It has been hypothesized that SAMe increases the availaibility of neurotransmitter serotonin and dopamine.

More Depression Remedies: 8 Natural Treatments.

3) Liver disease

Some evidence suggests that SAMe may help people with liver disease. Preliminary research suggests it may help to normalize liver enzyme levels and help with cholestasis.

Related: Herbs for the Liver.

Side Effects and Safety Concerns

The safety of SAMe during pregnancy and during breastfeeding is unknown.

People with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric conditions should only use SAMe under the supervision of their healthcare provider. SAMe has been associated with hypomania and mania.

The most common side effects are digestive complaints, particularly nausea. Other side effects include skin rash, lowered blood sugar, dry mouth, blood in the stool, thirst, increased urination, headache, hyperactivity, anxiety and insomnia.

People with Parkinson's disease should avoid SAM-e.

Dosage

Most studies have used daily doses of no less than 800 mg per day. However, many practitioners recommend starting with 400 mg per day and then increasing the dose depending on the results.

SAM-e should be taken on an empty stomach. If nausea or heartburn occur, drinking more water may help. Many people notice that SAM-e can be stimulating, so it should be taken earlier in the day to avoid insomnia.

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