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SAM-e is a molecule that occurs naturally in the body. Although the body can make it using amino acids, it is also available in the form of dietary supplements. Studies suggest that SAM-e supplements may be effective for treating depression, arthritis, and intrahepatic cholestasis. Side effects that have been reported with supplements include insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, and gas.

What Is SAM-e?

S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) is a naturally occurring molecule found throughout the human body. It is also a popular ingredient in dietary supplements and is often claimed to be helpful for the following conditions:
  • Depression
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • AIDS-related myelopathy (a spine and nerve disorder associated with AIDS)
  • Intrahepatic cholestasis (a decreased ability of the liver to secrete bile, often caused by pregnancy or other conditions)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Although SAM-e is regulated as a dietary supplement in the United States, not a drug, it is a prescription drug in some other countries.
(Click Benefits of SAM-e for more information on what this supplement is used for.)

How Does It Work?

SAM-e is a molecule that plays an essential role in over 100 chemical reactions in the body. The body can make it using methionine, an amino acid. It is not clear exactly how SAM-e works for depression treatment or other uses. It causes several changes in the brain that may be responsible for its antidepressant effects.
SAM-e is believed to work in several different ways for arthritis treatment. It may have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects, and may stimulate the growth and repair of cartilage in joints.
People with intrahepatic cholestasis often have a decreased ability to make SAM-e, which can cause numerous problems and can further worsen liver problems. Supplements can help make up for this decrease in production.
SAM-e may work for AIDS-related myelopathy because levels in the spinal fluid of people with AIDS are often low.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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