Goji (Lycium barbarum
L.) leaves and fruits have been described as a valuable source of bioactive compounds with a great potential for the development of health-promoting formulations. The present study aimed to evaluate the potential of a sustainable process for the recovery of phenolic compounds from Goji leaves through a combination of aqueous extraction and membrane-based operations. Water was used as a safe, cheap, and non-hazardous extraction solvent, and parameters of extraction of dried Goji leaves were optimized in order to maximize the yield of polyphenols, total soluble solids (TSS), and total antioxidants simultaneously. The aqueous extract was clarified by ultrafiltration and then processed with three flat-sheet polyethersulphone (PES) membranes with molecular weight cut-off (MWCO) values in the range of 0.3–4.0 kDa, in order to remove sugar compounds from polyphenols and improve the antioxidant activity of the produced fractions. Among the selected membranes, a 1 kDa membrane exhibited the best performance in terms of purification of polyphenols from the clarified aqueous extract. The rejection by this membrane of TSS and total carbohydrates was in the range of 15.8–25.3%, and was decreased by increasing the volume reduction factor (VRF). On the other hand, the retention values for total polyphenols and total antioxidant activity (TAA) were in the range of 73–80%, and were increased by increasing the VRF.
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