The chemical diversity of antioxidants in complex matrices such as plant extracts makes it difficult to separate and quantify antioxidants from these solutions. Therefore it is desirable to establish methods that can measure the total antioxidant capacity (TAC) levels directly front plant extracts. Iron(Ill)-based TAC assays, especially the most widely used FRAP (ferric-reducing antioxidant power), play an important role in this regard. However, many problems have been reported in the application of the FRAP assay, the most serious one being the incomplete oxidation of a number of antioxidants during the time protocol of the assay. Thus, six different ferric ion-based total antioxidant capacity (TAC) assays have been comparatively tested, modified, and improved so as to obtain more sensitive and precise results for complex mixtures, namely: 1,10-phenanthroline (o-phen) method (with incubation), batho-phenanthroline method (with incubation), original FRAP method, modified FRAP method (with incubation), original ferricyanide method, and modified ferricyanide method (with incubation). Two new assays in this regard (i.e., o-phen and batho-phen) have been established, and the existing assays (FRAP and ferricyanide) have been modified so as to let the oxidation reactions of antioxidants reach completion. The molar absorpitivity for a variety of antioxidants was highest for modified FRAP, batho-phen, and original FRAP methods. The absorption maximum wavelength shifted batochromically to a higher extent for modified ferricyanide, FRAP, and batho-phen procedures, decreasing the possibility of interferences due to organics absorbing in the near-UV range of the visible spectrum where most antioxidant assays are performed. The linear concentration ranges were shown to be further extended and linear correlation coefficients improved with respect to the most widely used ferric-based assay, FRAP. Of the six assays tested and developed, only the modified ferricyanide procedure gave high intercept values and low addivitity of TAC values of constituents in complex Mixtures, requiring further attention of method optimization. Thus, it was shown that the most widely used FRAP could be effectively modified, and o-phen, batho-phen, and ferricyanide methods constitute cheaper alternatives to FRAP under certain conditions, with partly improved molar absorptivity (and thus sensitivity) for antioxidants, lower intercept values (and higher precision), broader linear range (and higher flexibility), and better additivity of TAC values of antioxidant constituents in mixtures. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.