SAM-E: A Better Alternative for Depression than St. John’s Wort

Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by: Jo Hartley
Tags: SAM-E, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) The herbal supplement St. John's Wort has long been promoted as an effective alternative for treating depression. Unfortunately, St. John's Wort has proven ineffective for people suffering severe clinical depression. In fact, the results of a recent study revealed that St. John's Wort is completely ineffective at treating severe depression. There is another effective natural alternative, however, and it is called SAM-E (S-adenosylmethionine).

Symptoms of Depression:

•Feelings of sadness and emptiness
•Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness
•Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
•Excessive sleeping or insomnia
•Lack of energy
•Difficulty concentrating and in decision-making
•Headaches or digestive disorders
•Crying and tearfulness
•Overeating or under eating

In the aforementioned study, St. John's Wort was tested for eight weeks on 200 patients who were suffering a degree of depression that made daily functioning difficult. St. John's Wort was no more effective than a placebo.

In a significant number of previous studies, however, St. John's Wort was found effective for mild to moderate cases of depression. There is some evidence that points to the fact that St. John's Wort can help with some symptoms of depression. In Germany, in fact, St. John's Wort is available by prescription.

There have been questions about the quality of some of this research, though. One such criticism cites a lack of studies using a placebo and another drug such as Zoloft. Zoloft is classified as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and these are commonly used drugs for treating depression. These newer drugs also have numerous side-effects, however, and while many claim to be "non-habit forming," this does not seem to be the case.

To satisfy these criticisms about the St. John's Wort studies, researchers gave participating patients either St. John's Wort, Zoloft, or a placebo for up to 26 weeks. When the study concluded, researchers found that neither the prescription drug nor the St. John's Wort was more effective than the placebo. Almost 33% of the placebo patients showed a large response to their treatment and this was compared to approximately 24% of both the Zoloft group and the St. John's Wort group.

In the same way that not all antidepressants work for all people, it is suspected that St. John's Wort simply may not be effective for all people. One other important note is that it is possible that St. John's Wort may interfere with sensitivity to sunlight, AIDS medicines, oral contraceptives, and cardiac drugs.

SAM-E was discovered in Italy in the 1950s. The first study of SAM-E for use in treating depression was done in the 1970s. SAM-E is an amino acid used to treat many conditions. Some of these conditions include depression, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, and migraine headaches. SAM-E has been sold as an effective natural therapy for depression in Europe for over twenty years.

SAM-E comes from the amino acid methionine. It is created when methionine combines with adenosine triphosphate (the main source of cellular energy). The liver utilizes this process to make SAM-E. There are conditions which will decrease the liver's production of SAM-E, however. Liver disease, osteoarthritis, and the over use of both prescription and over-the-counter medications will all contribute to a decrease in the amount of SAM-E produced by the liver.

SAM-E is instrumental in a process called methylation that is an important way that the body protects itself from damage to its cells. This is the body's way of protecting itself from cancer, heart disease, various neurological disorders, and other age-related conditions. SAM-E is also involved in the regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine.

When purchasing SAM-E, be aware of the actual amount of SAM-E contained in the product so that both the therapeutic value and price comparison can be evaluated. In addition, purchase enteric-coated tablets to make sure that the SAM-E doesn't break down in the stomach. It is necessary for it to reach the intestines where it can be primarily absorbed.

SAM-E is sold in various forms and typically contains an additional compound that is attached to the SAM-E molecule. The reason for this is to stabilize the SAM-E molecule and prevent degradation. Some of the names of the stabilizing compounds may be tosylate, disulfate tosylate, disulfate ditosylate, and 1.4 butanedisulfonate. These compounds will usually be written immediately following the SAM-E. Often these stabilizing compounds weigh the same amount as the SAM-E molecule.

There are some products that are inaccurately labeled with the combined weight of the stabilizing compound and the "free" SAM-E instead of listing the weights separately. For this reason, read labels carefully and choose a product that lists the two compounds and their weights separately so that the actual amount of SAM-E is clearly labeled.

It is a good idea to add vitamins B12 and B6 to the diet when supplementing with SAM-E.


About the author

Jo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything! - Current Events - Simply Abundant Living

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