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Prince Charles branded a 'snake oil salesman' by scientist

Edzard Ernst, who was Britain's first professor of complementary medicine, said the prince's support for homeopathy and other alternative medicines earns him the title
Ernst said there were no official criteria to qualify as a snake oil salesman, 'but if they existed, I think Charles would fulfil them'. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

Britain's leading alternative medicine researcher has reignited a public row with Clarence House by branding the Prince of Wales a "snake oil salesman".

Professor Edzard Ernst criticised the heir to the throne for lending his support to homeopathic remedies and for promoting the Duchy Herbals detox tincture.

In a briefing with reporters at the Science Media Centre in London, Ernst warned that "snake oil salesmen are ubiquitous and dangerous", and named the prince as "one of the most outspoken proponents of homeopathy".

He later told the Guardian: "There are no official criteria for a snake oil salesman, but if they existed, I think Charles would fulfil them."

Ernst, who was Britain's first professor of complementary medicine, agreed recently to retire early from Exeter University, where he presided for 18 years over a unit that subjects alternative medicines to thorough scientific scrutiny.

Many of Ernst's studies have been damning for complementary medicines, with some proving no more effective than sugar pills. Other treatments, such as chiropractic spine manipulation, were potentially dangerous, he has said.

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