Promising in vitro antioxidant, anti-acetylcholinesterase and neuroactive effects of essential oil from two non-psychotropic Cannabis sativa L. biotypes

Phytother Res. 2020 Sep;34(9):2287-2302. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6678. Epub 2020 Apr 20.


The aim of this study was to compare the micro-morphological features of two different non-drug Cannabis sativa L. biotypes (Chinese accession G-309 and one fibrante variety) and to evaluate the phytochemical profile as well as some biological properties of the essential oils (EOs) obtained by hydrodistillation of dried flowering tops. After a micro-morphological evaluation by scanning electron microscopy, the phytochemical composition was analysed by GC-FID and GC-MS analyses. Antioxidant and anti-acetylcholinesterase properties were investigated by several in vitro cell-free assays, while neuroactive effects were evaluated on mouse cortical neuronal as well as human iPS cell-derived central nervous system cells grown on MEA chips. Both EOs showed strong antioxidant properties mainly attributable to the high content of hydroxylated compounds as well as significant anti-acetylcholinesterase activities (IC50 74.64 and 57.31 μg/ml for Chinese accession and fibrante variety, respectively). Furthermore, they showed a concentration-dependent inhibition of spontaneous electrical activity of human and mouse neuronal networks, with the fibrante variety, which showed the best activity (MFR, IC50 0.71 and 10.60 μg/ml, respectively). The observed biological activities could be due to a synergic effect between terpenes and phytocannabinoids, although in vivo studies, which clarify the molecular mechanism, are still lacking.

Keywords: Cannabis sativa L.; anti-acetylcholinesterase; antioxidant; essential oil; human iPSC-derived CNS cells; neuroactive.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / pharmacology
  • Acetylcholinesterase / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology
  • Oils, Volatile / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Extracts
  • Acetylcholinesterase