Topic Overview

What is SAM-e?

SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine, a substance that occurs naturally in the cells of plants, animals, and humans. SAM-e is not an herb. Because the body produces less SAM-e with age, some people think that SAM-e may be a helpful supplement for certain diseases. In Canada, it is sold as a natural health product.

What is SAM-e used for?

In Canada, people use SAM-e to treat depression or to preserve emotional well-being. SAM-e may help with symptoms of depression in the short term, but more studies are needed to compare SAM-e with no treatment and with conventional treatment.

SAM-e may also help to relieve pain in osteoarthritis and symptoms of some liver diseases.

Is SAM-e safe?

Side effects may include:

  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Mild insomnia.
  • Feeling dizzy.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sweating.

People diagnosed with bipolar disorder should not take SAM-e.

The Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD), within the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, regulates natural health products in Canada. Natural health products, including SAM-e, must be reviewed and approved by the NHPD before they can be sold in Canada.

Always tell your doctor if you are using a natural health product or if you are thinking about combining a natural health product with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a natural health product. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

When using natural health products, keep in mind the following:

  • Like conventional medicines, natural health products may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and non-prescription medicines or other natural health products you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or natural product may make other health conditions worse.
  • Natural health products may not be standardized in their manufacturing. This means that how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
  • The long-term effects of most natural health products, other than vitamins and minerals, are not known. Many natural health products are not used long-term.


Other Works Consulted

  • Murray MT (2013). SAMe (S-adenoslymethionine). In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 1012–1017. St. Louis: Mosby.
  • SAMe (2008). In A DerMarderosian et al., eds., Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Wolters Kluwer Health.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine

Current as ofNovember 20, 2015