MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Yes, I have just published a new book! Its title is ‘Alternativmedizin – was hilft, was schadet: Die 20 besten, die 20 bedenklichsten Methoden’ (Alternative medicine – treatments that help and treatments that harm: The 20 best and the 20 most worrying methods). Yes, it is in German, and somehow I doubt that there will be an English version of it. Therefore I take the liberty of translating a short section for those who do not read German.

But first, let me tell you about the book’s concept.

Some people who read this blog seem to have the impression that I am dead against so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) – my friend Dana Ullman, for instance, is convinced of it. This, however, is not quite correct (Dana rarely is). The truth is that I am

  • FOR evidence-based medicine,
  • FOR a level playing field in all areas of healthcare,
  • FOR critically evaluating all options.

This also means, of course, that I am against misleading consumers about the value of SCAM. And therefore I am FOR any SCAM that demonstrably does more good than harm.

This attitude should have been clear from all my books. However, it seems to be difficult to understand for those who are on the more fanatical end of the SCAM spectrum. And because it is not that obvious, I decided to write a book that analyses (understandably yet analytically [including ~300 references of the original science]) the evidence for 20 SCAMs that are supported by reasonably sound evidence together with 20 for which this is not the case. My hope is that, with this approach, I might reach more consumers who are in favour of SCAM.

There is a risk, of course. Chances are that, instead of reaching more people from the pro-camp, I will merely offend both the sceptics as well as the enthusiasts.

We shall see.

Anyway, here is the promised bit that I translated for you. It is the postscript of the book, and I hope it gives you a flavour of what it is all about. Here we go:

 

In the first chapter of the book, I promised that I would neither uncritically hype alternative medicine nor unfairly condemn it. I have taken great pains to keep this promise.

Have I succeeded?

I fear there will be many who answer this question in the negative. And I can’t even blame my critics! Who likes to be criticized for something in which he deeply believes? Who likes to hear that his prejudices against everything called alternative medicine are wrong and counter-productive? Who doesn’t mind an ugly fact that destroys his beautiful theory? Both the dogmatic naysayers and the naive believers will be dissatisfied with my book (or at least parts of).

That’s a shame, but ultimately it is irrelevant. My point was not to take the word of one camp or another in the endless trench warfare that is alternative medicine. My main concern was to present the evidence as up-to-date, understandable, and objective as possible, and to serve those who are seriously interested in facts.

The book is thus not for dogged trench warriors; rather, it is aimed at ordinary consumers with an interest in their health. After all, the vast majority of the population is not among the unteachables of one camp or the other. Most people don’t want ideology, they want effective medicine. And most of them are baffled by the unmanageable variety of alternative medicine on offer, the grandiose promises of healing, and the vehement emotions that it all triggers.

In the area of alternative medicine, there is undoubtedly a lot of nonsense, charlatanry, and danger. But there are also some things that demonstrably do more good than harm. In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, consumers don’t need creeds. What they need above all is reliable evidence!

You can read about this evidence in my book. How you then deal with it is solely your decision. I do not want to tell anyone what to do with my presentation of the facts. But I know that the abundance of misinformation in the field of alternative medicine causes great damage and that the consumer and reader of my book, deserve better than to be led up the garden path.

If this book helps readers to make wise treatment decisions, my efforts will have been worthwhile. And if they get half as much pleasure from reading it as I did from writing it, my goal has been achieved.

THE END

(If by any chance you do read German and are in the position to publish a book review, please let me know and I will see that you get a free review copy of my book)

32 Responses to I just published a new book

  • This is the end, my friend….
    Isn´t there already the same book of a SCSM (so-called scientific-medicine)-Lady?
    Something new to tell?
    We will see!

  • Blast it, Doctor, could you not have written it in some easily accessible language like Latin?

    It sounds like a very valuable and rather fascinating book and my German is limited to about five words, two of which I learned from a former German soldier frow WII.

    • old Greek perhaps?

      • I had a patient once who had some impressive tattoos on his back written in Aramaic.

        • They were originally in English – it’s just that the surgeon hadn’t made the neatest job of the closure..

          My mate Charlie is a plastic surgeon and he frequently does apronecomies for post-bariatric patients, many of whom have body art which gets ruined in the process. Charlie told me about a chap who had a massive and beautiful eagle tattoo which he tried to work round but unfortunately some modifications had to be made. By all accounts, it ended up looking more like a pigeon.

  • “(If by any chance you do read German and are in the position to publish a book review, please let me know and I will see that you get a free review copy of my book)”
    Can I have a free review copy, I promise to be honest and unbiased (perhaps you convince me?)

    • I tried to send you an email about this, but it does not seem to go through.
      I will send you a copy with pleasure but need:
      1) where and when you intend to publish a book review
      2) your postal address
      thanks
      edzard

      • Instead of answering my request Huemmer got himself a copy and published this review on Amazon. I had it translated:
        First of all, the author, who as a scientist once had a thoroughly positive attitude towards homeopathy [and in a meta-analysis even attested to it significantly positive results in a certain clinical picture], explains the principles and procedures in homeopathy in a clear and objective manner.
        In explaining the principle of potentization, however, Ernst’s one-dimensional and completely unscientific matter-bound, quasi-medieval understanding of science shines through for the first time.
        At the latest with the assertion, “both the dilution and the similarity rule contradict the laws of nature” he then clearly reveals his unscientific thinking, whereby he could have easily relativized this by an inserted differentiation “presently, known [laws of nature]”.
        And not even the following sentence “…we understand very well that it can function only if the known laws of nature would be invalid” is agreed by critically thinking natural scientists.
        Also the assertion: “The totality of this evidence does not show that homeopathic remedies would be no more than placebo”, is countered by a well-known – belonging to the skeptic movement – expert of the homeopathic study situation with the remark:
        “Furthermore, you should read my statements and those of the INH more carefully again: Our statement is that there is no robust / reliable / convincing evidence for efficacy beyond placebo. ALSO NOT “NONE” but “none conclusive”, which yes makes a difference in absolute numbers. Just like “no beer” is different than “not a good beer”. ”
        Since patients usually turn to homeopathy only when so-called scientific medicine negates their disorders of well-being and accordingly has nothing to offer them, Ernst’s reference to the fact that patients could “endanger their health” is to be seen as a cheap attempt at discrediting. The reference that this assessment comes from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council is not without a particularly piquant note, since this NHMRC may have to be held responsible for a particularly infamous attempt at scientific fraud to the disadvantage of homeopathy.
        Also the alleged “fact” that “[positive] experiences […] are the result of a long, empathetic, sympathetic encounter with a homoeopath…” can be disproved by immediate – also diagnostically verified – cures, which occurred immediately without a long admission or which failed to appear even after several intensive anamneses under most sympathetic admission against all expectations…..
        Finally Ernst’s argument “the benefit-cost-argument of homeopathy is not positive” is an absolute air number, because the saving of 1 €/patient and year (in case of abolition of the homeopathy-reimbursement) would not even allow a free new glasses-nose-pad….
        THE END
        FYI: homeopathy occupies 5 of 224 pages in my book!

        • I very much doubt Mr. Hümmer has already finished reading the book even if he got hold of a copy during the week, which I very much doubt as his rather confused review is not marked with a “verified purchase” label. Such a label always accompanies reviews by those who have indeed purchased the item.
          It is of course lowly and unsporting to submit a review before perusing a book, but I submitted a preliminary review of my own to warn of Mr. Hümmer’s biased position and inform customers of Professor Ernsts position as a renowned expert in so called alternative medicine.
          As I have yet to receive my own copy I promised to review my five star rating it if I found the book does not live up to my high expectations once I get hold of it 😉

          • it just got worse:
            someone posted a ‘review’, without a word about the book, simply complaining that Amazon erases the comment of HHH and giving the book the worst rating possible. of course, she has not even read the book.

  • Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Professor! Viele Leute denken, Skeptiker sind gegen sogenannte alternative Medikamente, nur um schwierig zu sein. Sie scheinen nicht zu verstehen, dass wir einfach Beweise wollen.*

    * Vielen Dank an Herrn Google für diese (wahrscheinlich schreckliche) Übersetzung.

  • I just ordered it. Having looked at the contents, I’m pleased to see the ’20 best’ list includes quite a few modalities that I also found quite reasonable in the past, and not based squarely on supernatural powers and a Medieval view of science…. Or not *necessarily* squarely based on those things.

  • I look forward to reading your book. I will leave a review on Amazon. I am a recovering Naturopath and you have been a great help to me. I will certainly struggle with my German – but that is a small price to pay.

  • Congratulations professor! Your productivity is admirable.

    I decided to get the Kinidle version, to be able to quickly look up words and practice my German. I have many of your books in both Kindle and paperback -very convenient.

    The Kindle version seems to be only available in the German Amazon, but it does not want to sell it to me. I guess because I am not in Germany 🙁

    UK Amazon only offers the paperback version. The US Amazon, to which German Amazon told me to go to get the Kindle version of your book, didn’t even have it in paperback but offered me this book instead: Die geimpfte Nation: Wie Impfen der Bevölkerung schadet. Warum ADHS, Autismus, Asthma und Allergien dramatisch zunehmen* by Andreas Moritz 😛

    *Translation: “The Vaccinated Nation: How vaccination harms the population. Why ADHD, autism, asthma, and allergies are increasing dramatically.”

    • what can I say?
      embarrassing

      • You do not need to say anything, dear professor. I have already ordered the book. I just thought it hilarious being offered antivaccine nonsense instead of the Kinidle version of your book.
        I went back to see if I could somehow wrestle out an electronic version but the Kinidle option seems to have disappeared from the German Amazon!? So perhaps there never was one?

        I will certaiinly enjoy the paper version and practice my German reading.

    • Andreas Moritz has its own entry in psiram. He was a dangerous quack: iridologist, vaccine opponent, liver cleansing, pseudoscientific cancer therapy, AIDS denial.

      https://www.psiram.com/en/index.php/Andreas_Moritz

    • One way round this might be to install VPN (virtual private network) software on your device. This routes all Internet traffic through an intermediary server so that when you are browsing the Web, sites that you visit can’t see your real TCP/IP address and anybody trying to hack into your device can’t see what Web sites you are accessing. This improves security if you are using a public WiFi network such as at an airport or hotel. There are many available – I use one provided by Symantec, who also sell Norton Anti-Virus etc.

      Most such services have intermediary servers in many countries, and if you choose one in Germany, for instance, then any Web site that you visit will think that you are accessing it directly from Germany and will show you the German version of their site (though there may well be a language option to see it in English). This doesn’t always work, as some sites block anyone using a VPN. Streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, for instance, won’t let you access content via a VPN because of licensing restrictions on where specific content may be distributed (e.g. the owners of a film might not want to lose the DVD revenue).

      This has all been made more complicated by Brexit as vendors need to know what country you are in so that they can apply the appropriate taxes and complete the required paperwork, but I have no idea how this applies to e-books such as Kindle.

      • I have just tried this on my iPhone using SecureVPN by Norton. A Google search for Amazon brought up amazon.de by default and I was able to find the Kindle version of the book for 11.99 euros. I got as far as the one-click order page but I don’t really want to spend that much on a book that I can’t read, however much I would like to support Edzard.

        • I already ordered a paperback version and intend to use it to practice my German. 🙂
          I might try the VPN trick, or even better, ask a frien who lives in Germany to try to buy it as a gift to me?

          I like having both a paper and electronic versions of books like this.

  • Edzard wrote quote:

    ‘…the evidence for 20 SCAMs that are supported by reasonably sound evidence….’

    This quote is rather an oxymoron.
    You might need to find another acronym for SCAM for these 20 therapies.
    Are they still SCAMs with some evidence.?

    • you might be right. however, most people call these 20 ‘ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE’ – hence so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)

    • Of course, if those 20 treatments have good evidence of effectiveness, then they cease being any kind of “alternative” medicine, and become, instead, simply medicine.

  • I happily received a copy of this new book some days ago and have been enjoying it greatly.
    My German-reading proficiency is accelerating. I read the paragraphs first and practice understanding. Then I use my phone and Google-translate to learn the difficult and unfamiliar words. The camera-translate feature is fantastic. Simply switch the Google-Translate app into camera mode, keep the view still on the page and lo and behold, in a blink of the eye the text is helpfully translated in the image!!

    Even if I appreciate the concept behind your approach and your obvious effort to avoid unfairly condemning some modalities of SCAM that might have a therapeutic potential I do not fully agree with your evaluation of some of the SCAM-modalities.

    This book is exceptionally well structured. The layout is beautiful. Your style of writing and presenting your findings is concise and flowing and the reader is led into the subject in a logical and accessible manner. I am sure this book will be well received in the German speaking part of our world.

    Keep’em coming. I have become a collector of your produce and I try to “plug” your books wherever possible.

    • thanks
      if we all agreed all the time, life might be quite boring.
      [the book is best understood by realizing that it aims to catch a readership that does not normally read critical texts. my attempt to not preach at the already convinced]

      • That was my thought when reading the book. I guess it does take a bespoke approach to break through the long ingrained beliefs.

        • thanks for understanding this principle – and don’t forget: the 20 ‘best’ are not necessarily very good.
          in any case, I would love to hear which other modalities might be put on the list of 20 best.

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