The Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is claimed to have beneficial properties for human health, such as anti-bacterial, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. The antioxidant effects of the mushroom may be partly explained by protection of cell components against free radicals. We evaluated the effect of aqueous Chaga mushroom extracts for their potential for protecting against oxidative damage to DNA in human lymphocytes. Cells were pretreated with various concentrations (10, 50, 100 and 500 microg/mL) of the extract for 1 h at 37 degrees C. Cells were then treated with 100 microM of H2O2 for 5 min as an oxidative stress. Evaluation of oxidative damage was performed using single-cell gel electrophoresis for DNA fragmentation (Comet assay). Using image analysis, the degree of DNA damage was evaluated as the DNA tail moment. Cells pretreated with Chaga extract showed over 40% reduction in DNA fragmentation compared with the positive control (100 micromol H2O2 treatment). Thus, Chaga mushroom treatment affords cellular protection against endogenous DNA damage produced by H2O2.