As part of my real job, I am currently working on understanding the mechanisms of sleep in the brain, so this food story is fortuitously à propos.
For $3.50, Butter Café in Walpole (Cedar Junction to my brothers on lockdown) has the Mellow Yellow cupcake containing valarian root and melatonin–both of which are mild hypnotics (sleep aids). Melatonin can also help in resetting circadian rhythms, and is used to combat jet lag.
This rides on the coattails of a controversy earlier this year, when the FDA formally threatened to take melatonin-laced Lazy Cakes, Kush Cakes, and Lulla Pies off the market, citing dangers to public health–especially to children. These products are still being sold locally by their inventor “Lazy Larry”, and the FDA has yet to come to a final decision.
To attempt to ensure the safety and education of its customers, Butter requires that you must be 18+ to purchase a Mellow Yellow cupcake, which comes complete with the following disclaimer:
Valerian is derived from dried roots and plant materials from the valerian plant. It is used to treat sleeping disorders, nervousness, headaches, anxiety and panic attacks. Valerian’s side effects include dizziness, mild depression, agitation, stomach aches, allergic reactions, anxiety and recently liver failure. It also is sometimes used by pregnant women though research is inconclusive on the side effects it could have on the unborn child.
People taking allergy, cholesterol, cancer and antifungal medications should not take valerian.
Melatonin on the other hand is one of the gentlest supplements that can be used as a sleeping aid. It is used to supplement the natural melatonin hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, in cases of sleep deprivation and insomnia. Melatonin benefits a lot of people and is being used in the treatment of jet lag, migraines (due to its anti-inflammatory effect), sleep disorders and neurodegenerative disorders. Recent studies are beginning to show that it can also be used in the treatment of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
For a list of drugs that have serious drug interactions. For more information on melatonin supplements side effects, dosage, side effects, FDA regulations visit FDA website.
Even though Valerian and Melatonin are both sleeping aids and sold as supplements at health stores, they should not be taken together. The resulting effect of taking the two includes heavy drowsiness, nausea, confusion and headaches.
Each cupcake is purported to contain approximately 5mg of melatonin per cupcake. Clinical use of melatonin by sleep neurologists ranges from between 1-10mg.
All in all, for healthy non-medicated adults, these cupcakes are most likely harmless, but I would not consume more than one and would be sure to check for drugs with potential interactions.