Identification of Anti-Neuroinflammatory Bioactive Compounds in Essential Oils and Aqueous Distillation Residues Obtained from Commercial Varieties of Cannabis sativa L

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Nov 22;24(23):16601. doi: 10.3390/ijms242316601.


Neuroinflammation, which is mainly triggered by microglia, is a key contributor to multiple neurodegenerative diseases. Natural products, and in particular Cannabis sativa L., due to its richness in phytochemical components, represent ideal candidates to counteract neuroinflammation. We previously characterized different C. sativa commercial varieties which showed significantly different chemical profiles. On these bases, the aim of this study was to evaluate essential oils and aqueous distillation residues from the inflorescences of three different hemp varieties for their anti-neuroinflammatory activity in BV-2 microglial cells. Cells were pretreated with aqueous residues or essential oils and then activated with LPS. Unlike essential oils, aqueous residues showed negligible effects in terms of anti-inflammatory activity. Among the essential oils, the one obtained from 'Gorilla Glue' was the most effective in inhibiting pro-inflammatory mediators and in upregulating anti-inflammatory ones through the modulation of the p38 MAPK/NF-κB pathway. Moreover, the sesquiterpenes (E)-caryophyllene, α-humulene, and caryophyllene oxide were identified as the main contributors to the essential oils' anti-inflammatory activity. To our knowledge, the anti-neuroinflammatory activity of α-humulene has not been previously described. In conclusion, our work shows that C. sativa essential oils characterized by high levels of sesquiterpenes can be promising candidates in the prevention/counteraction of neuroinflammation.

Keywords: Cannabis; anti-inflammatory activity; aqueous distillation residues; essential oils; microglia; neuroinflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Cannabis* / chemistry
  • Distillation
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Microglia
  • NF-kappa B / pharmacology
  • Neuroinflammatory Diseases
  • Oils, Volatile* / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile* / pharmacology
  • Sesquiterpenes* / pharmacology


  • Oils, Volatile
  • humulene
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • NF-kappa B
  • Lipopolysaccharides