SAMe, or S-adenosylmethionine, is a compound that’s made naturally in the body and plays an important role in normal body function. SAMe helps produce and regulate hormones and maintain cell membranes. A synthesized form of SAMe is sold as a supplement in the U.S., but has been sold as a prescription drug in Europe for decades. SAMe is also known as ademetionine and SAM-e.
SAMe is often used in the management of osteoarthritis, liver disease, and depression. Though this supplement has shown positive results in several studies, the evidence is not conclusive.
Research and Studies about SAMe
Interest in researching SAMe for chronic joint pain came out of clinical studies on depression. Patients taking SAMe for depression, who also had chronic joint pain or arthritis, shared that their joint pain had also reduced (in addition to reduced depression symptoms). This led to several studies focused on the treatment of osteoarthritis and chronic joint pain with SAMe.
There is some good evidence that SAMe can treat osteoarthritis pain and some studies have found that oral SAMe is as effective as NSAID pain medications, such as ibuprofen and Celebrex. Many people prefer to use SAMe for chronic joint or arthritis pain as, though SAMe takes longer to act, it has fewer side effects than NSAIDs.
According to The American Journal of clinical Nutrition, many studies comparing the use of SAMe with NSAIDS showed that each provided similar pain relief and improvement in joint function, but SAMe produced fewer side effects. Though this is positive, a smaller number of studies haven’t shown the same results and some of these studies evaluated SAMe as an injection which may not give the same results as taking the supplement orally.
Dosage and usage
There are no food sources for SAM-e, so supplementing via liquid, capsule, or injection is your only option. For dosage for chronic joint pain or osteoarthritis, 600-1,200 mg daily divided into three doses is common, but you should ask your doctor for advice.
Precautions and side effects
SAMe is known to be generally safe, however it can interact with antidepressant medications. Don’t use SAMe and prescription antidepressants together. Side effects are usually mild, but SAMe can cause:
- Digestive problems, such as nausea, diarrhea or constipation
- Mild insomnia
Sometimes it’s helpful to increase SAMe dosage gradually over several weeks to reduce side effects such as restlessness or anxiety. Talk to your doctor first if you have bipolar disorder, a compromised immune system, or you are HIV-positive. SAMe can increase anxiety and mania and may boost the growth of a bacteria called pneumocystis, especially in people who are HIV-positive.
In addition to antidepressants, don’t take SAMe with antipsychotics, amphetamines, dextromethorphan, levodopa, narcotics, or st. John’s wort.