Spices are a popular food of plant origin, rich in various phytochemicals and recognized for their numerous properties. The aim of the study was to evaluate the antioxidant and antimicrobial activity, as well as the content of specialized metabolites, of aqueous extracts of three spice species--garlic (Allium sativum L.), ginger (Zingiber officinalle L.) and turmeric (Curcuma longa L.)--prepared by green extraction methods. Ultrasound treatment increased the chromaticity parameter b value of turmeric and ginger extracts, thus indicating a higher yellow color predominantly due to curcuminoids characteristic of these species. Ultrasound-assisted extraction significantly increased the content of total soluble solids, phenolic compounds, total carotenoids and vitamin C. The temperature of the system was also an important factor, with the highest (70 °C) conditions in ultrasound-assisted extraction having a positive effect on thermolabile compounds (vitamin C, phenolics, total carotenoids). For example, turmeric extract treated with ultrasound at 70 °C had up to a 67% higher vitamin C content and a 69.4% higher total carotenoid content compared to samples treated conventionally at the same temperature, while ginger extracts had up to 40% higher total phenols. All different concentrations of spice extracts were not sufficient for complete inhibition of pathogenic bacterial strains of Salmonella, L. monocytogenes and S. aureus; however, only garlic extracts had an effect on slowing down the growth and number of L. monocytogenes colonies. Spice extracts obtained by ultrasonic treatment contained a significantly higher level of bioactive compounds and antioxidant capacity, suggesting that the extracts obtained have significant nutritional potential and thus a significant possibility for phytotherapeutic uses.
Keywords: antimicrobial activity; antioxidant capacity; bioactive compounds; spices; ultrasonic extraction.