Total equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) and phenolic content of 26 common spice extracts from 12 botanical families were investigated. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of major phenolics in the spice extracts were systematically conducted by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC). Many spices contained high levels of phenolics and demonstrated high antioxidant capacity. Wide variation in TEAC values (0.55-168.7 mmol/100 g) and total phenolic content (0.04-14.38 g of gallic acid equivalent/100 g) was observed. A highly positive linear relationship (R2= 0.95) obtained between TEAC values and total phenolic content showed that phenolic compounds in the tested spices contributed significantly to their antioxidant capacity. Major types of phenolic constituents identified in the spice extracts were phenolic acids, phenolic diterpenes, flavonoids, and volatile oils (e.g., aromatic compounds). Rosmarinic acid was the dominant phenolic compound in the six spices of the family Labiatae. Phenolic volatile oils were the principal active ingredients in most spices. The spices and related families with the highest antioxidant capacity were screened, e.g., clove in the Myrtaceae, cinnamon in the Lauraceae, oregano in the Labiatae, etc., representing potential sources of potent natural antioxidants for commercial exploitation. This study provides direct comparative data on antioxidant capacity and total and individual phenolics contents of the 26 spice extracts.