An Ounce of Prevention

4 minutes reading time (840 words)



Many substances naturally present in the human body are being discovered and found to have healing properties. One such compound is called SAMe, the scientific name for S-adenosylmethionine. This substance is found in every cell in our bodies and, on average, humans produce six to eight grams of SAMe daily. It takes part in several biological reactions in the human body, including balancing brain function, joint cartilage repair, liver detoxification and cell membrane activity.

SAMe and Depression

Among its many functions, SAMe is essential for the manufacture of substances called neurotransmitters that are vital for the healthy functioning of the brain. Specifically SAMe may enhance the production and impact of the mood-boosting messengers in the brain - serotonin and dopamine. An imbalance in these substances is now known to be a major factor in depression. Since the 1990’s, many medical trials have been conducted using SAMe in the treatment of depression.

The overwhelming consensus of these studies is that SAMe is at least as good as, and probably better than many antidepressant drugs in treating depressive illness. Study after study confirmed that SAMe is not only effective but also remarkably non-toxic with few side effects. It is fast acting and well tolerated even by the elderly or the mentally disturbed.

As SAMe cannot be obtained directly from the diet, we need to eat foods that supply the nutrients that body uses to make SAMe. This includes dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains and legumes.


How to Use of SAMe

This incredible substance is a non-prescription item that is available in tablet form from health food stores and pharmacies. The customary dosage for SAMe is 400 mg to 1200 mg daily. One can start with 200 mg twice daily and increase up to 400 mg three times daily if necessary. You should not alter or stop any medication prescribed by your doctor without consulting him/her. SAMe is not known to negatively interact with prescription medicines, but often makes antidepressant drugs work better. Benefits are often experienced after a week but optimal results manifest themselves after two weeks of treatment. It may cause slight nausea in some persons and is best taken with a light

carbohydrate snack like fruit. It is not recommended for persons with a particular mental illness called bipolar disorder or manic depression.

Other Uses for SAMe

SAMe also performs another important chemical function in the body called methylation. This makes SAMe useful in also  treating osteo-arthritis, liver disease, alcoholism, menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia, senile dementia and early Alzheimer’s disease. These widespread benefits are related to its methylating effect in improving cellular metabolism and detoxification.


St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a natural, herbal medicine that is often used to treat depression. The history of this plant goes back to ancient Greece where it was used to treat “nervous conditions”. In modern times in addition to its extensive use for depression, especially in Europe, it has been found helpful to treat PMS, menopause, anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorders and even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Researchers from the Cochrane Institute studied the results of several trials of patients with major depression treated with St. Johns Wort. In these studies, St. John's Wort was compared to standard antidepressants and St. John's Wort was found to be just as effective and that patients were less likely to stop treatment because of side effects. Other investigators have found it very effective in mild to moderate depression but not as useful for major depression.

Drug oriented doctors are quick to point out that combining St. John’s wort with some antidepressant drugs can lead to a unhealthy increase of serotonin, a brain chemical targeted by antidepressants and that St. John’s wort can also reduce the effectiveness of some other prescription medicines. Strangely they have little to say about the even greater problems from the side effects of modern anti depressant drugs.

St. John’s wort is available as an over the counter item in health food stores and pharmacies and the usual recommended dosage is 300mg three times daily by mouth.


Several research studies have demonstrated that regular exercise had its own powerful antidepressant effects in some cases working better that drugs used to treat depression.

The antidepressant benefits are best when exercise is done regularly – about five times per week for at least thirty minutes each day. It needs to be intense enough to produce and increase in heart rate and breathing and induce sweating. Although improvement may soon be felt, optimal benefits are usually experienced after three or more months of regular practice.

Personally, I have been very impressed with the response of my own patients to these natural substances, particularly when used in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle practices like proper nutrition, exercise and stress management. SAMe is yet another demonstration of the healing power of the body’s natural pharmacy and St. Johns wort a further example of the power of herbs. I strongly recommend however that anyone suffering from depression, first consult their health care provider and not simply self medicate themselves.

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