What does this rating mean?
SAMe (pronounced 'Sammy') is short for S-adenosylmethionine. SAMe is a chemical that is produced naturally by the body.
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.
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.
Safety concerns have been raised for the use of this supplement. A recent study, conducted with mice, found that SAMe breaks down in the body into molecules which are known to be toxic to humans. This result has not yet been replicated in studies of SAMe with humans.
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.
SAMe is available in health food shops, chemist shops and on the internet.
There is evidence that SAMe appears to be a promising treatment for mild-to-moderate depressive symptoms in the short term. However, SAMe is not recommended for self-help. A recent study suggests SAMe may be toxic and more research is needed to establish that it is safe.
Last reviewed and updated: 20 April 2022