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SAM-e is a compound that's made naturally in the body and plays an important role in normal bodily function. A synthesized form of SAM-e is considered a supplement in the U.S., but SAM-e has been sold as a prescription drug in parts of Europe for decades. Its scientific name is S-adenosylmethionine. SAM-e is also known as ademetionine and SAMe.

Why do people take SAM-e?

SAM-e has good evidence as a treatment for osteoarthritis pain. Some studies have found that oral SAM-e is as effective as NSAID painkillers, such as ibuprofen and Celebrex. SAM-e takes longer to act than drugs do, but it also has fewer side effects than NSAIDs.

SAM-e has also been used to treat depression for many years. Some studies have found that SAM-e might work as well as tricyclic antidepressants in relieving symptoms. However, many of these studies were flawed or too small to be conclusive.

Other uses of SAM-e have not been studied as thoroughly. There's some evidence that SAM-e might help ease the pain of fibromyalgia and spinal cord damage caused by HIV. SAM-e may also help control cholestasis -- a buildup of bile in the liver -- particularly in pregnant women during the third trimester. One trial suggested that SAM-e might be helpful for adults with ADHD. However, more research needs to be done.

Some people use SAM-e as a treatment for other conditions, such as liver disease, Alzheimer's disease, pain, migraine, and bursitis. We don't know the potential risks or benefits of these uses.

How much SAM-e should you take?

There is no established ideal dose of SAM-e. For depression, many studies have used between 400-1,600 milligrams daily. For osteoarthritis, 600-1,200 milligrams daily of SAM-e divided into three doses is common. Ask your doctor for advice. Sometimes, the dose of SAM-e is increased gradually over a few weeks. This can help reduce side effects such as restlessness or anxiety.

Can you get SAM-e naturally from foods?

There are no food sources of SAM-e.

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