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S-adenosylmethionine is quite a mouthful; the abbreviation SAMe (pronounced samm-ee) is easier to say. Its chemical structure and name are derived from two materials you may have heard about already: methionine, a sulfur-containing amino acid; and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body's main energy molecule.
SAMe was discovered in Italy in 1952. It was first investigated as a treatment for depression, but along the way it was accidentally noted to improve arthritis symptoms—a kind of positive side effect.
Unfortunately, SAMe is an extraordinarily expensive supplement at present. Full dosages can easily cost more than $200 per month.
A substantial amount of evidence suggests that SAMe can be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis , the "wear and tear" type of arthritis that many people develop as they get older. 1 A moderate amount of evidence suggests that SAMe might be helpful for depression . 2 Weak and inconsistent evidence hints that SAMe might be helpful for a variety of liver conditions such as cirrhosis , chronic viral hepatitis , pregnancy-related jaundice , and Gilbert's syndrome. 3 SAMe may help the painful muscle condition known as fibromyalgia . 4 SAMe has undergone some investigation as a possible supportive treatment for Parkinson's disease . One study suggests that it may reduce the depression so commonly associated with the disease. 5 In addition, the drug levodopa , used for...
SAMe appears to be quite safe, according to both human and animal studies. 6 7 8 9 The most common side effect is mild digestive distress. However, SAMe does not actually damage the stomach. 10 Like other substances with antidepressant activity, SAMe might trigger a manic episode in those with bipolar disease (manic-depressive illness). 11 12 Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
SAMe might interfere with the action of the Parkinson's drug levodopa. 13 In addition, there may also be risks involved in combining SAMe with standard antidepressants. 14 For this reason, you shouldn't try either combination except under physician supervision.