The process of developing pharmaceuticals today did not come without an extended history of alchemists in the past. We have come a long way in the process of extending human lives and improving health with the power of alchemy.
Alchemy has humble beginnings in ancient Egypt where it was called Khem. This was a direct reference to the floodplains around the Nile that were believed to be a space for life after death. Procedures that were developed in alchemy worked towards the goal of eventual immortality but made headway into preserving human health over time.
When Alexander the great conquered Egypt alchemy was something that was brought into Christian lands. Quite unfortunately much that was learned during this early period of alchemy was actually lost during the great fire of Alexandra.
Alchemy also has roots independently in other countries. Taoist monks in China for example were using a series of minerals, plants and elixirs to try and extend their lives and manipulate the overall life force within their body.
India also had its own independent alchemy, they were able to use methods for purifying the body and even invented steel accidentally trying to produce alchemy recipes.
Throughout the Arabic world metal craft was often used in alchemy. Sulfur and mercury for example were utilized in an attempt to purify various metals that could be used for healing properties.
Although there were many influences alchemy is a whole separate off into two disciplines in the 16th century. There were a group of alchemists that were closer to chemists. They focused in on science and technology and work at discovering new reactions and compounds. Other alchemists focused on the metaphysical side continuing to work on transmuting materials from their base form and working towards mixtures that could one day lead to immortality.