Volatile terpenes represent the largest group of Cannabis sativa L. components and they are responsible for its aromatic properties. Even if many studies on C. sativa have been focused on cannabinoids, which are terpenophenolics, little research has been carried out on its volatile terpenic compounds. In the light of all the above, the present work was aimed at the chemical characterization of seventeen essential oils from different fibre-type varieties of C. sativa (industrial hemp or hemp) by means of GC-MS and GC-FID techniques. In total, 71 compounds were identified, and the semi-quantitative analysis revealed that α- and β-pinene, β-myrcene and β-caryophyllene are the major components in all the essential oils analysed. In addition, a GC-MS method was developed here for the first time, and it was applied to quantify cannabinoids in the essential oils. The antibacterial activity of hemp essential oils against some pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms isolated from food and food processing environment was also determined. The inhibitory effects of the essential oils were evaluated by both the agar well diffusion assay and the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) evaluation. By using the agar diffusion method and considering the zone of inhibition, it was possible to preliminarily verify the inhibitory activity on most of the examined strains. The results showed a good antibacterial activity of six hemp essential oils against the Gram-positive bacteria, thus suggesting that hemp essential oil can inhibit or reduce bacterial proliferation and it can be a valid support to reduce microorganism contamination, especially in the food processing field.
Keywords: Cannabis sativa L.; GC; antibacterial activity; cannabinoids; essential oil; hemp; terpenes.