SAMe and 5-HTP are chemicals produced naturally within the human body. Both have been studied for use in depression for many decades; however, currently available trials are inconclusive. Although there is little evidence that the combination of 5-HTP and SAM-e is harmful, it is important to talk to your physician before undertaking any new course of therapy.
5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is manufactured naturally in the human body. It is the direct chemical precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin regulates a variety of functions, including body temperature and digestion. Drugs that increase synaptic serotonin levels, however, are usually used in order to treat depression and anxiety. While most pharmaceutical antidepressants work by preventing the body from destroying or reabsorbing serotonin, 5-HTP is believed to work by increasing the basic building block necessary for the body to manufacture it. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 5-HTP may be as effective as some antidepressant drugs in treating mild to moderate depression.
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S-adenosylmethionine, or SAM-e, has been used for the treatment of depression for over three decades. It is known as the drug Ademetionine in Europe, where it is available by prescription only. Despite its established efficacy and long history of use, its mechanism of action is not well-understood. SAM-e is known to play an important role in several crucial chemical pathways within the body, which together may be responsible for its many therapeutic effects. SAM-e's promotion of one of these pathways may increase the level of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. By increasing serotonin levels, SAM-e is believed to promote a feeling of well-being. Increased dopamine and norepinephrine levels, however, may produce feelings of increased energy and motivation.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, combining 5-HTP with serotonin re-uptake inhibiting, tricyclic, or tetracyclic antidepressants can also cause serotonin syndrome, a condition characterized by mental changes, blood pressure and heart rate changes and possibly coma. Serotonin syndrome may also be caused by using 5-HTP with tramadol, carbidopa and several triptan migraine medications. Consequently, it is important to consult with your doctor before using 5-HTP or SAM-e.
Both 5-HTP and SAM-e have a low incidence of side-effects, most of which are mild. 5-HTP can cause nausea, heartburn, bloating, gas, and loss of appetite in some patients. SAM-e can cause restlessness, gastrointestinal upset, rash, and insomnia, and should not be taken by people with bipolar disorder. Rarely, SAM-e may cause anxiety, hostility or suicidal thoughts.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Possible Interactions With: 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
- National Intitutes of Health: MedlinePlus: SAMe
- Neuropsychology: L-5-Hydroxytryptophan Alone and in Combination With a Peripheral Decarboxylase Inhibitor in the Treatment of Depression
- University of Maryland Medical Center: 5-Hydroxytryptophan
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: SAMe