SAMe or SAM-e

Our rating
1 smiley: This treatment is promising and may be useful. It has some evidence to support it, but more evidence is needed to be sure it works.

What is it?

SAMe (pronounced 'Sammy') is short for S-adenosylmethionine. It is a chemical that is produced in the body. No food has SAMe.

How does it work?

More research is needed to understand how SAMe might help depression.

Some believe SAMe gives part of its chemical structure (methyl group) to other molecules. In doing so, it increases chemical messengers in the brain (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine). It is believed that increasing these chemical messengers can be helpful in depression.

Is it effective?

There is very little good quality scientific evidence on SAMe for the treatment of depression. More robust studies are needed, particularly where symptoms are severe.

Some studies have reported SAMe has a positive effect on depressive symptoms. However, the number of people studied was small. The effects were studied for only a short period. Some studies used a type of SAMe that is not available to the public.

Are there any disadvantages?

Some supplements can be harmful or ineffective if you take the wrong dose. Talk to your health care professional if you are thinking of taking supplements.

People who are taking prescribed anti-depressants or who have Bipolar Disorder should not take SAMe unless they have consulted their doctor first.

Many studies did not report negative effects. It is not clear whether these effects were systematically investigated. Some participants taking SAMe have reported anxiety effects and mania.

Where do you get it?

SAMe is available in health food shops, chemist shops and on the internet. It can be expensive to buy. Consult a health professional to make sure that you get the most effective type and dosage.

Recommendation

SAMe appears to be a promising treatment for mild-to-moderate depressive symptoms in the short term. More research is needed to be sure it is effective.

Key references

  • Carpenter DJ. St. John’s Wort and S-Adenosyl methionine as “natural” alternatives to conventional antidepressants in the era of the suicidality boxed warning: What is the evidence for clinically relevant benefit? Alternative Medicine Review 2011; 16: 17-39./li>

Last reviewed and updated: 16 March 2015