The medicinal mushroom Inonotus obliquus is a traditional and widely used multi-functional fungus. Hot water (50 degrees C, 70 degrees C, and 80 degrees C) and ethanol crude extracts of I. obliquus were investigated for their antioxidant activity with superoxide dismutase (SOD) and (1,1-diphenyl-2-picryhydrazyl) (DPPH) radical-scavenging activity assays. We also investigated the antiproliferative effects and ability of the extracts to induce apoptosis in human colon cancer DLD-1 cells. Among the four extracts, the ethanol extract (EE) exhibited the strongest SOD-like activity and antiproliferative effect on DLD-1 cells, and exposure to the EE resulted in the induction of apoptosis, whereas no apoptosis was observed in DLD-1 cells exposed to the hot water extracts (HWEs). HWE at 70 degrees C (HWE70) exhibited the strongest DPPH radical-scavenging activity (EC50, 126 microg/ml), whereas the EE showed the weakest activity (EC50, 224 microg/ml). The different biological activities among the four extracts may be attributed to differences in their chemical composition, partially supported by polysaccharide, protein and phenolic content, and the 1H-NMR spectra.