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. SAMe is a chemical that is produced naturally by the body.

How does it work?

It is not clear exactly how SAMe might work to help depression. It is thought that SAMe is involved in the production of different chemicals in the body, including neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain). Increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin, might help reduce symptoms of depression.

SAMe can be taken orally as a supplement and is sometimes given as an injection.

Is it effective?

Some studies have found that SAMe has a positive effect on depressive symptoms. In some cases, SAMe was more effective than a placebo (dummy pill), and about as effective as anti-depressant medication in reducing depression symptoms.

While there have been several studies looking at SAMe for depression, many of these studies are of poor quality. There is very little good-quality scientific evidence on SAMe for the treatment of depression. More research is needed to understand the effectiveness of SAMe, especially for people who have severe depression.

Are there any disadvantages?

SAMe may have negative interactions with antidepressant medications and other supplements. People who are taking prescribed anti-depressants or who have Bipolar Disorder should not take SAMe unless they have consulted their doctor first.

Some studies of SAMe have found that it did not cause any more side-effects than placebos or anti-depressant medication. However, it is not clear whether these side-effects were thoroughly investigated. Some participants taking SAMe have reported experiencing anxiety 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.
  • Galizia I, Oldani L, et al. S‐adenosyl methionine (SAMe) for depression in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews; 2016 (10).
  • Sharma A, Gerbarg, P, et al. S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) for neuropsychiatric disorders: a clinician-oriented review of research. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2017; 78(6), e656.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 May 2019