He studied medicine at the University of Breslau under Friedrich Theodor von Frerichs and at the University of Berlin under Rudolf Virchow and Moritz Heinrich Romberg, graduating from the latter institution in 1859. During the same year he was named physician at the Allerheiligen Hospital in Breslau. In 1868 he became chief physician at the "Findelhaus" (municipal poorhouse); and from 1874 was a professor at the University of Göttingen, where he subsequently served as director of the university hospital and dispensary (from 1877).
Ebstein's specialties were studies of malassimilation and improper nutrition, of which he introduced an number of new procedures for treatment. This included the virtual elimination of carbohydrates from the diet, while allowing fat to be administered with adequate protein; Ebstein believed that fat contained a nutritive value equivalent to two and a half times that of carbohydrates. The following works are related to dietary and metabolism issues:
- "Die Fettleibigkeit", etc., 7th ed., Wiesbaden, 1887 - On obesity.
- "Fett oder Kohlenhydrate", Wiesbaden, 1885 - Obesity and carbohydrates.
- "Wasserentziehung und Anstrengende Muskelbewegungen," ib. 1885 - Dehydration and strenuous muscle movements.
- Max Joseph Oertel: "Die Ebsteinsche Flugschrift über Wasserentziehung", Leipzig, 1885) - Ebstein's pamphlet on dehydration. Ebstein was a leading expert in regards to research of dehydration.
Other noteworthy works by Ebstein include:
- "Nierenkrankheiten Nebst den Affectionen der Nierenbecken und der Urnieren", in von Ziemssen's "Handbuch der Speziellen Pathologie und Therapie", 2d ed., vol. ix. - Kidney disease and also affections of the renal pelvis and mesonephros.
- "Traumatische Leukämie," in "Deutsche Med. Wochenschrift," 1894 - Traumatic leukemia.
- "Handbuch der Praktischen Medizin," ib. 1899 - Manual of practical medicine.
- "Die Medizin im Alten Testament," Stuttgart, 1901 - Medicine of the Old Testament.
- "Handbuch der Praktischen Medizin," (with Gustav Schwalbe), ib. 1901
- "Die Krankheiten im Feldzuge Gegen Russland," ib. 1902 - On diseases experienced on a campaign to Russia.
- "Dorf- und Stadthygiene," ib. 1902 - Village and city hygiene.
- "Die Medizin in Bibel und Talmud" - Medicine in the (New Testament and Talmud), ib. 1903.
- Pagel, J. L., Biographisches Lexikon, s.v.
- Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, s.v.
- Brockhaus, Konversations-Lexikon, s.v.