S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) is a compound found naturally in the body. SAMe helps produce and regulate hormones and maintain cell membranes.
A synthetic version of SAMe is available as a dietary supplement in the U.S. In Europe, SAMe is a prescription drug.
SAMe can be taken orally, intravenously or through a muscular injection. People generally use SAMe to treat osteoarthritis, liver disease and depression. However, SAMe can also interact with antidepressant medications.
Research on SAMe use for specific conditions shows:
- Depression. While research has shown that SAMe has a positive effect in treating depression, most studies weren't well-designed and included a small number of people.
- Liver disease. It's not clear if SAMe is beneficial for people who have liver disease.
- Osteoarthritis. Many studies comparing the use of SAMe with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs showed that each provided similar pain relief and improvement in joint function, but SAMe produced fewer side effects. A smaller number of studies haven't shown the same results.
Side effects from SAMe are rare and, if they occur, usually mild.
SAMe can cause:
- Upset stomach
- Mild insomnia
If you have bipolar disorder, talk to your doctor before taking SAMe. The supplement might increase anxiety and mania.
If you have a compromised immune system, consider avoiding SAMe. People who have weakened immune systems are at risk of an infection caused by a specific microorganism. SAMe boosts this microorganism's growth.
Possible interactions include:
- Antidepressants and other drugs and supplements that increase levels of serotonin. Don't take SAMe with antidepressants. The combination could cause effects similar to a condition caused by high levels of the chemical serotonin to accumulate in your body (serotonin syndrome).
- Antipsychotics. Be cautious when taking these drugs with SAMe. The combination could increase the risk of serotonin syndrome.
- Amphetamines. Be cautious when taking these drugs with SAMe. The combination could increase the risk of serotonin syndrome.
- Dextromethorphan. Taking SAMe with this cough suppressant could increase the risk of serotonin syndrome.
- Narcotics. Taking SAMe with meperidine (Demerol) or tramadol (Ultam, ConZip) could increase the risk of serotonin syndrome.
- St. John's wort. Be cautious when taking this supplement with SAMe. The combination could cause serotonin syndrome.