Supplements 101: What is SAMe?

Osteoarthritis, Liver Cirrhosis, Depression…what do they all have in common??  It would seem, not much, but surprisingly there is something and it’s called S-Adenosyl Methionine, also known as SAMe. 

SAMe is a form of the amino acid methionine and most people get enough.  However, there are some instances, taking extra SAMe just may be your solution.

Liver Cirrhosis

For example, in the unfortunate situation you have or know someone with alcoholic liver cirrhosis, supplementing with large amounts of SAMe may improve survival and liver function.  


SAMe has been shown to reverse the depletion of glutathione, an important antioxidant required for liver function1.  It has also been shown to aid in the resolution of blocked bile flow (cholestasis), a common complication of liver cirrhosis2, 3.

How much would you need to take?

Well, one double-blind trial found that 1,200 mg of SAMe per day for two years significantly decreased the overall death rate and the need for liver transplantation in people with alcoholic liver cirrhosis, particularly in those with less advanced liver disease4.


Do you have achy, painful joints caused from osteoarthritis?  SAMe possesses anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and tissue-healing properties that may help protect the health of your joints5, 6


The primary way in which SAMe reduces osteoarthritis symptoms is not known but here are some interesting research findings: 

A very large, though uncontrolled, trial (meaning that there was no comparison with placebo) demonstrated “very good” or “good” clinical effect of SAMe in 71% of over 20,000 osteoarthritis sufferers7.  In addition to this preliminary research, many double-blind trials have shown SAMe reduces pain, stiffness, and swelling better than placebo and equal to drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen in people with osteoarthritis.8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.  A review of the clinical trials on SAMe concluded its efficacy against osteoarthritis was similar to that of conventional drugs but patients tolerated it better 16.

How much SAMe to take?

These double-blind trials all used 1,200 mg of SAMe per day.


Millions of people worldwide have some form of depression. Taking SAMe by mouth or by injection seems to reduce symptoms of depression.  


 It appears to raise levels of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter in mood regulation. 

Interesting research findings: 

Several studies have shown SAMe can be beneficial and might be as effective as some prescription medications used for depression (tricyclic antidepressants).  Some research also shows taking SAMe might be helpful for people who don’t have a good response to a prescription antidepressant.  But keep in mind, SAMe should not be taken in combination with a prescription antidepressant without the monitoring of a health professional.

How much? 

Most trials used 1,600 mg of SAMe per day17.

Bottom Line:

SAMe shows some promising results for several devastating problems.  Ask your health care provider about using SAMe if it sounds like something you may benefit from.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods



1.  Loguercio C, Nardi G, Argenzio F, et al. Effect of S-adenosyl-L-methionine administration on red blood cell cysteine and glutathione levels in alcoholic patients with and without liver disease.  Alcohol 1994;29:597–604.

2.  Frezza M, Centini G, Cammareri G, et al. S-adenosylmethionine for the treatment of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. Results of a controlled clinical trial. Hepatogastroenterology 1990;37 Suppl 2:122–5.

3.  Frezza M, Surrenti C, Manzillo G, et al. Oral S-adenosylmethionine in the symptomatic treatment of intrahepatic cholestasis. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Gastroenterology 1990;99:211–5.

4.  Mato JM, Camara J, Fernandez de Paz J, et al. S-adenosylmethionine in alcoholic liver cirrhosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter clinical trial. J Hepatol 1999;30:1081–9.

5.  Schumacher HR. Osteoarthritis: the clinical picture, pathogenesis, and management with studies on a new therapeutic agent, S-adenosylmethionine. Am J Med 1987;83(Suppl 5A):1–4 [review].

6.  Harmand MF, Vilamitjana J, Maloche E, et al. Effects of S-adenosylmethionine on human articular chondrocyte differentiation: an in vitro study. Am J Med 1987;83(Suppl 5A):48–54.

7.  Berger R, Nowak H. A new medical approach to the treatment of osteoarthritis. Report of an open phase IV study with ademetionine (Gumbaral). Am J Med 1987;83:84–8.

8. Domljan Z, Vrhovac B, Durrigl T, Pucar I. A double-blind trial of ademetionine vs naproxen in activated gonarthrosis. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol 1989;27:329–33.

9. Müller-Fassbender H. Double-blind clinical trial of S-adenosylmethionine in versus ibuprofen in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Am J Med 1987;83(Suppl 5A):81–3.

10. Vetter G. Double-blind comparative clinical trial with S-adenosylmethionine and indomethacin in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Am J Med 1987;83(Suppl 5A):78–80.

11. Maccagno A. Double-blind controlled clinical trial of oral S-adenosylmethionine versus piroxicam in knee osteoarthritis. Am J Med 1987;83(Suppl 5A):72–7.

12. Caruso I, Pietrogrande V. Italian double-blind multicenter study comparing S-adenosylmethionine, naproxen, and placebo in the treatment of degenerative joint disease. Am J Med 1987;83(Suppl 5A):66–71.

13. Marcolongo R, Giordano N, Colombo B, et al. Double-blind multicentre study of the activity of s-adenosyl-methionine in hip and knee osteoarthritis. Curr Ther Res 1985;37:82–94.

14. Glorioso S, Todesco S, Mazzi A, et al. Double-blind multicentre study of the activity of S-adenosylmethionine in hip and knee osteoarthritis. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 1985;5:39–49.

15. Montrone F, Fumagalli M, Sarzi-Puttini P, et al. Double-blind study of S-adenosyl-methionine versus placebo in hip and knee arthrosis. Clin Rheumatol 1985;4:484–5.

16. Di Padova C. S-adenosylmethionine in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Review of the clinical studies. Am J Med 1987;83:60–5 [review].

17. Natural Products Foundation Vitamins and Herbs A-Z:  SAMe.


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