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Table of Contents > Articles > The Scoop on SAMe
The Scoop on SAMe

Within the past year, SAMe (short for S-adenosylmethionine and pronounced "sammy") has become a hot commodity on the shelves in health food and drug stores. SAMe is a substance that occurs naturally in the human body, especially in the liver or brain. Deficiencies in either folic acid or vitamin B12 affect the amount of SAMe in your body. SAMe is also available as a dietary supplement, and it appears to be effective for treating depression and osteoarthritis. In Europe, physicians have been writing SAMe prescriptions for at least 30 years. It was introduced in the U.S. in the spring of 1999 as an over-the-counter supplement.

Numerous studies in the U.S. and other countries show that SAMe is effective for relieving the symptoms of depression and osteoarthritis. Studies dating back to the early 1970s show SAMe to be at least as effective for reducing symptoms of depression. It has been found to be at least as effective as tricyclic antidepressants and acts more quickly: While standard antidepressants sometimes take up to four weeks to start working, people taking SAMe may feel its effects after one week. SAMe is also remarkably free of side effects even after years of use. The two side effects that have been reported are mild anxiety and upper gastrointestinal symptoms.

SAMe has also been shown to be just as effective as standard medication, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, for treating osteoarthritis. It does work more slowly than these medications, however. SAMe reduces the inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis. It may also protect cartilage and relieve the depression that often accompanies osteoarthritis.

If you are considering taking SAMe for depression or osteoarthritis, talk with your doctor. Your doctor should know about all the supplements you take. People who have bipolar disorder (manic depression) may not respond well to SAMe. Experts also do not recommend taking SAMe if you are currently taking an antidepressant.

Typical doses of SAMe for depression are 200 mg/day to 800 mg twice a day. For osteoarthritis, the recommended dose is a total of 400 mg to 1,200 mg/day, taken divided into two or three doses. Higher doses within this range may increase the therapeutic effects with no increased side effects. Be sure to take SAMe on an empty stomach. Choose tablets with an enteric coating, which improves absorption. You can expect to pay about $2.50 to $4.50 per a 400 mg pill for the supplement.


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Review Date: February 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe)
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

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