Sam-e supplement — what is it?

Originally Published: May 9, 2008
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Dear Alice,

I would like to know about the supplement: Sam-e. What can you tell me?

Dear Reader,

SAMe, also known as SAM-e, stands for S-adenosylmethionine and occurs naturally in the body. It is formed from the amino acid methionine and the nucleotide adenosine triphosphate, more commonly known as ATP. SAMe works by donating the needed methyl groups for many of the essential reactions that occur in the body. SAMe is also available as a supplement, and is thought to be effective in treating a wide range of diseases ranging from depression and other psychiatric illnesses to infertility, liver problems, osteoarthritis, and premenstrual symptoms and disorders. SAMe can be taken either by mouth or through injections in the muscle given by qualified and trained medical professionals. Since limited research exists on the effectiveness of SAMe in treating the many listed health concerns, it is important for individuals to consult with her/his health care provider before making the decision to take SAMe.

Side-effects of taking SAMe may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomachaches, increased thirst, increased salivation, and decreased appetite, among others. As noted above, your health care provider can help you to decide if SAMe is the appropriate method of treatment for your specific condition, and recommend the proper dosage and method of administration. S/he should also be consulted if you experience any of the side effects described above, or any other side effects, while you are taking the supplement.

Because SAMe is sold as a supplement rather than a drug, it is available over the counter without a prescription. However, keep in mind that supplements and herbs are very loosely regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that there are no checks or guarantees that why you buy actually contains what is labeled on the bottle. Unlike prescription or over-the-counter medications, there are also no guarantees as to the purity, strength, efficacy, or safety of the product. So, even though products like SAMe may sound like a good idea, take the time to talk with your health care provider and to make an informed decision about your health!