Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD

Founding Fellow
Board of Directors

Exeter, Devon, UK

Professor Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCP (Edin.), is one of the world’s foremost defenders of science in the field of medicine and a leading critic of the inclusion of ineffective practices, such as homeopathy, in the UK’s National Health Service. He has conducted devastating systematic reviews on research funded by the US National Centers for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Dr Ernst is a professor emeritus at Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter, UK. Until May 2011, he served as Director for the Complementary Medicine Center at the Universities of Exeter & Plymouth. A prolific writer, he has published over 1,000 peer-reviewed papers and more than 40 books, plus dozens of book chapters, and delivered some 500 invited lectures. He is founder and editor-in-chief of two medical journals: FACT (Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies) and Perfusion.

Qualified as a physician in Germany, where he also completed his PhD dissertation, Dr Ernst became Professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) at Hannover Medical School and Head of the PMR Department at the University of Vienna. He came to the University of Exeter in 1993 to establish the first chair in Complementary Medicine in the UK. He served on the Medicines Commission of the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (1994 – 2005) and on the Scientific Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products of the Irish Medicines Board. Dr Ernst has received 13 scientific prizes/awards and two Visiting Professorships.

Selected Books

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Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine, with Simon Singh (WW Norton, 2008). Whether you are an ardent believer in alternative medicine, a skeptic, or are simply baffled by the range of services and opinions, this groundbreaking analysis lays to rest doubts and contradictions with authority, integrity, and clarity. Over thirty of the most popular treatments-including acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology, chiropractic, and herbal medicines-are examined for their benefits and potential dangers. What works and what doesn't? Who can you trust, and who is ripping you off? In its scrutiny of alternative and complementary cures, this book also strives to reassert the primacy of the scientific method as a means for determining public health practice and policy.

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Healing, Hype, or Harm? A Critical Analysis of Complementary or Alternative Medicine, ed. (Societas Imprint Academic, 2008). The scientists writing this book are not 'against' complementary or alternative medicine (CAM), but they are very much 'for' evidence-based medicine and single standards. They aim to counter-balance the many uncritical books on CAM and to stimulate intelligent, well-informed public debate. Includes an essay by ISM Fellow T Polevoy.

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The Oxford Handbook of Complementary Medicine, with Max H. Pittler, Barbara Wider, Kate Boddy (Oxford University Press, 2008). This presents evidence-based information on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in an easily accessible form, thereby enabling hospital doctors, GPs, nurses, medical students and other healthcare professionals to competently advise patients about CAM treatments. The information is presented in a concise, matter-of-fact fashion, avoiding the obscure jargon sometimes used in CAM. Many issues surrounding CAM remain controversial and this handbook discusses them openly and critically.

Selected Papers

  • "National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine-funded randomised controlled trials of acupuncture: a systematic review," (with J Snyder and RA Dunlop), Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 2012 Mar; 17(1):15-21. [DOI] [Abstract]
  • “Homeopathy in severe sepsis,” [letter to editor] Homeopathy, 2011 Jul, 100(3):195. [DOI]
  • Deaths after chiropractic: a review of published cases,” International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2010 Jul; 64(8):1162-1165. [abstract] [DOI]
  • “An independent review of studies of ‘energy medicine’ funded by the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 2011 May 12. [DOI]

Selected presentations:

  • Fifth World Skeptics Congress, Abano Terme, Italy, 2004 Oct 8-10. [extract]

Recent blog entries (Pulse):

In the news:

  • “Alternative medicine investigator: Placebos and platitudes,” by David Cohen, New Scientist, 2011 Aug, 2826. [Excerpt]
  • Is a degree in homeopathy a sick joke?” by Richard Tomkins, Financial Times Magazine, 2009 May 23. About Dr Ernst’s position: “[H]e left a post at the University of Vienna in 1993 to become Britain’s first professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University. But if advocates of alternative therapies had hoped that their field was at last to receive the recognition it deserved, their hopes were to be cruelly dashed: for Ernst emerged not as an advocate of complementary medicine, but as its scourge.”
  • Complementary therapies: The big con?” The Independent, 2008 Apr 22.

“BBC News - Newsnight - The faith healers who claim they can cure cancer”

The Online Edzard Ernst:

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