SAM-e is a natural mood enhancer found in any health food or vitamin store that can be used in lieu of or in addition to anti-depressants. Many anti-depressants work by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. SAM-e is a substance known as a co-enzyme that occurs naturally in the human body. It is one of the building blocks that the brain uses to create serotonin. (SAM-e has other uses in the body as well and it is said to improve liver functioning and ease osteoarthritis as well as alleviate depression.)
Some studies have shown that SAM-e is at least as effective as currently marketed anti-depressants. However, the effective dose varies widely from individual to individual. Some will notice an uplift in mood when taking 400mg a day, but therapeutic doses are usually higher. For maximal effect, it may be necessary to take up to 1600mg (four 400mg tablets) per day. Given SAM-e's price, taking it at these levels to treat depression can be rather expensive--as much as $2 a day.
In addition, SAM-e can have some unpleasant side effects at high doses. These side effects include stomach upset, intestinal gas, and diarrhea. SAM-e must also be taken on an empty stomach in order to get the full benefit of the supplement. Whether SAM-e's effectiveness outweighs the cost and the side-effects is something each individual ultimately has to decide for herself.