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Antimicrobial, Insecticidal, and Cytotoxic Properties of Wild-Grown Cannabis sativa from Nepal

Cannabis sativa L. is one of the three species of genus Cannabis that includes C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis (Guy et al., 2004). C. sativa, commonly known as “hemp” or “marijuana” in English and “bhang” or “ganja” in Nepali language, is an annual herbaceous, dioceous plant (Kriese et al., 2004). The origin of wild Cannabis is not known with certainty, but the plant, which appears to have been cultivated in northern China since 4000 BC (Mabberley, 2008), is widely distributed and cultivated throughout the world (Nigam et al., 1965). 

In an APRC study, Cannabis sativa was collected from a wild-growing population in Biratnagar, Nepal. The essential oil was obtained by hydrodistillation and analyzed by gas chromatography – mass spectrometry. A total of 107 constituents were identified in the oil accounting for 94.2% of the composition. This Nepalese chemotype is characterized by a predominance of sesquiterpenoids (68.1%) dominated by (E)-caryophyllene (20.4%), alpha-humulene (7.0%), and alpha-bisabolol (5.8%), but a paucity of monoterpene hydrocarbons (0.9%). In particular, neither myrcene nor terpinolene were detected. The oil in the Nepalese Cannabis plants did contain small amounts of cannabidiol (1.6%), cannabichromene (0.2%) and Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (0.4%). 

In the screening of the Nepalese C. sativa essential oil for antimicrobial activity and toxicity, the oil showed notable activity in the brine shrimp lethality test with a LC50 = 13.6 µg/mL. Tests for antimicrobial activity indicated the essential oil had essentially no effect on the tested microorganisms. The hierarchical cluster analysis of the C. sativa essential oil compositions indicated the essential oil from the Nepalese plants was chemically distinct from the essential oil of other Cannabis plants. Nepalese Cannabis oil was high in caryophyllene and deficient in myrcene and terpinolene as compared with other Cannabis sativa essential oils. 


Guy, G.W., B.A. Whittle, and P. Robson. 2004. The Medicinal Uses of Cannabis and

Cannabinoids. Pharmaceutical Press, London, UK. 

Kriese, U., E. Schumann, W. Weber, M. Beyer, L. Bruhl, and B. Matthaus. 2004. Oil content,

tochopherol composition and fatty acid patterns of the seeds of 51 Cannabis sativa L.

genotypes. Euphytica 137:339-351.

Mabberley, D.J. 2008. Mabberley’s Plant Book, 3rd Ed. Cambridge University Press, UK.

Nigam, M., K. Handa, I. Nigam, and L. Levi. 1965. The essential oils of marihuana

composition of genuine Indian Cannabis sativa L. Canadian Journal of Chemistry




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