CAM Type: biologically based

Common Names: S-Adenosyl methionine, SAM, AdoMet, Adomet

Introduction to SAM-e:

S-adenosyl methionine, or SAM, is a biological compound involved in methyl group transfers, and is present in all living cells.

First discovered in 1952, SAM-e is an amino acid used to treat a number of conditions. Over 150,000 Americans and thousands of Europeans use SAM-e supplements regularly. SAM-e was first introduced into the US market in 1999, and has been used successfully for over 20 years to treat ailments such as depression.

Common Uses:

Depression, migraine, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, increase bile flow, and liver disease

As a methyl donor, SAM-e “donates” units called methyl groups, which contain carbon and hydrogen atoms, to other substances. This process is called methylation, and it is one way in which the body protects itself from damage on the cellular level.

Preparation Methods:

SAM-e is found in some foods, but is highly unstable and usually does not have substantial benefits in this form. It is often taken in the form of an oral dietary supplement.


Methyl donors help protect against heart disease, neurological disorders, cancer and many age-related problems, and facilitate the manufacture of DNA and brain neurotransmitters. SAM-e is involved in more than 50 methylation reactions in the body, including the regulation of various hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and melatonin.

Once SAM-e donates its methyl group to choline, carnitine, creatine, RNA, DNA, epinephrine, and other compounds, it is changed into S-adenosyl-homocysteine (SAH). SAH donates its sulfur molecule to sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine. Folic acid or betaine can turn homocysteine back into methionine in the presence of vitamin B12, or convert it into cysteine and glutathione in the presence of B6. Thus, it is recommended to supplement one’s diet with B6 and B12 when taking SAM-e.

Mechanisms of Action:

Supplemental SAM-e’s precise mechanism of action is unclear, but much is known of the mechanism of action of endogenous SAM-e.

Methylation of DNA is critical in the phenomenon known as gene silencing. Gene silencing helps suppress genes that may give rise to cancer or those that may carry information for endogenous retroviruses. Methylation of RNA, especially transfer RNA, is equally as important in protecting the form and function of these molecules in protein synthesis.

Furthermore, SAM-e’s importance in the body is emphasized by the fact that it is also the methyl donor for the synthesis of melatonin, glutathione, adrenaline, spermine and spermidine, and the amino acids taurine and L-cysteine, all of which are vital for health.


SAM-e may be indicated for the support of emotional well-being and mood. Some people use it to treat depression, and it may also be indicated for joint health, joint comfort and mobility. It is also sometimes used for osteoarthritis, but it is presently unclear whether SAM-e is beneficial for other forms of arthritis.

SAM-e is also occasionally used for some liver conditions, including various forms of cholestasis and cirrhosis, and there is a very preliminary indication that it may be helpful in lowering lipids.

In America SAM-e is sold as a nutritional supplement. Therapeutic use of SAM-e has increased as dietary supplements have increased in popularity, especially after 1999’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. This law allowed SAM-e to be distributed over-the-counter, therefore allowing it to bypass the regulatory requirements of the FDA.

Safety, Side Effects and Warnings:

Persons with bipolar disorder should not take SAM-e. While generally well-tolerated by people taking it, SAM-e should be discontinued and a doctor consulted if chest pain, breathing problems, throat/chest tightness, or rash occurs.

Some people have reported experiencing vomiting or upset stomach when taking large amounts of SAM-e.

Those with high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease should consult their doctor before taking SAM-e.

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