Walk into your corner bodega and chances are good that you’ll spot a tie-dyed package near the 5-Hour Energy shots and other snacks that looks suspiciously like a pot brownie. On the front: The name of the product — Kush Cakes — printed in a font made to look like marijuana leaves. This has to be illegal, right?
Nope. The company behind the treats is using some visual trickery to make you think they’re laced with marijuana, but in reality they’re a “premium relaxation brownie that will melt in your mouth and give you complete relaxation,” the company writes on its Amazon product page.
Kush Cake ingredients
Kush Cakes are made with a combination of ingredients known for their sleep-enduring properties.
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“These cakes are baked with love and a proprietary blend of all natural ingredients, featuring Melatonin and Valerian Root as the key active ingredients,” the company writes, adding that there is absolutely no THC or marijuana in Kush Cakes.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone released by the pineal gland that helps balance the sleep-wake cycle. It’s also available in supplement form.
“Most people’s bodies produce enough melatonin for sleep on their own,” Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M. said in a blog post. “However, there are steps you can take to make the most of your natural melatonin production, or you can try a supplement on a short-term basis if you’re experiencing insomnia, want to overcome jet lag, or are a night owl who needs to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier, such as for work or school.”
Though it hasn’t been studied as thoroughly as melatonin, valerian root is believed to help relieve insomnia and anxiety by subtly increasing the levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.
Rose hips extract, hemp protein powder and passion flower are said to be two other ingredients added to the chocolate in Kush Cakes.
Are Kush Cakes safe to eat?
In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to the makers of Lazy Larry’s, another brand of relaxation brownies made with melatonin (also called Lazy Cakes), saying that melatonin is not considered a safe food additive.
"We know of no basis for general recognition of safety for melatonin based either on scientific procedures or common use in food," the letter said, adding that if the company didn’t comply, the FDA could seize the product.
Lazy Cakes contained about 8 milligrams of melatonin — more than adults need, and definitely more than the recommended daily amount for children (0.3 milligrams).
Lazy Cakes caught the attention of the FDA after two kids got sick after eating them. Melatonin overdoses in kids can put them in a deep sleep, according to Dr. Steven Lipshultz, executive dean for children's health at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.
“Most melatonin overdoses in children are not necessarily life-threatening, but they are associated with not only deep sleep but also with nausea, gastrointestinal problems, changes in mood, headaches and other effects," Dr. Lipshultz told ABC News at the time.
It’s probably just best to stick to regular brownies and melatonin pills (if you need them) — and leave the Kush Cakes on the shelf.