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SAM-e (pronounced "sammy"), or S-adenosylmethionine, is a naturally-occurring compound found in all living cells. SAM-e helps to manufacture hormones, neurotransmitters and cell membranes, and is involved in the structural formation of cartilage. SAM-e also plays a role in the production of glutathione, a substance used by the liver in the removal of toxins. Levels of SAM-e usually decrease with age, and are less prominent in individuals with depression or a B vitamin deficiency.
SAM-e has been studied for over 20 years in Europe, where in some countries it is classified as a prescription drug. It is considered a dietary supplement in the United States, however, and is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
SAM-e provides wide-ranging health benefits, but most users are primarily concerned with one of 3 main functions of SAM-e. First, SAM-e is used to support a positive mood and state-of-mind. Studies have shown that SAM-e may be clinically effective for alleviating symptoms of depression within about 10 days, compared to the 4-6 weeks typical of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant drugs. For this purpose, SAM-e can be combined with other supplements that promote positive mood such as St John's Wort.
SAM-e is also a very effective joint-support compound. Research suggests that SAM-e may be of value in relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In these situations it would be best to combine SAM-e with other joint-support compounds such as glucosamine.
Finally, SAM-e is also an excellent liver detoxification supplement, especially when combined with liver-support nutrients such as milk thistle and NAC.
A general dosage recommendation has not been established, though exceeding 1600mg per day is not recommended. Most people experiment with the dose of SAM-e to determine the lowest noticeably effective dose for ongoing use, usually 200-800 mg per day.
Rare, but may include skin irritation and gastrointestinal discomfort. Consult your doctor or pharmacist before using SAM-e if you are taking any medication or have a health condition.