The present study measured changes in antioxidant enzyme activity in, and the phospholipid fatty acid composition of the ageing rat brain and tested whether dietary supplementation with thyme oil or thymol could provide beneficial effects. There were significant declines in superoxide dismutase (EC 126.96.36.199) and glutathione peroxidase (EC 188.8.131.52) activities and the total antioxidant status in the untreated rats with age, while thyme-oil- and thymol-fed rats maintained significantly higher antioxidant enzyme activities and total antioxidant status. The proportions of 18:2n-6, 20:1n-9, 22:4n-6 and 22:5n-3 in the brain phospholipids resulting from all three dietary treatments were significantly higher in 28-month-old rats than in 7-month-old rats. Only 20:1n-9 levels in 28-month-old thyme-oil- and thymol-treated rats were significantly higher than in the age-matched control. The proportion of 22:6n-3 in brain phospholipids, which declined with age in control rats, was also significantly higher in rats given either supplement. This latter finding is particularly important as optimum levels of 22:6n-3 are required for normal brain function. These results highlight the potential benefit of thyme oil as a dietary antioxidant.