The common name 'pokeweed' originates from the Native American word for 'blood', referring to the red dye that can be made from the fruit (however, the color is difficult to fix). Some of the other common names, such as 'inkberry' and 'inkweed', refer to this use.
Juice from pokeweed berries was once used to 'improve' the color of cheap red wine.
Supporters of President James Polk wore pokeweed twigs instead of campaign buttons during the 1845 campaign.
Medical researchers have isolated a protein (pokeweed antiviral protein or PAP) from pokeweed that is being used to try to inhibit the replication of the HIV virus in human cells.
Roots, leaves and berries of common pokeweed were used medicinally by Native Americans and early settlers to treat a variety of conditions from hemorrhoids to headaches.
The young shoots and leaves of pokeweed have been eaten as greens ('poke sallet'), boiled with the water changed several times prior to consumption. The taste is described as similar to that of asparagus or spinach. Berries have been used to make pie. However, ingestion of any part of common pokeweed cannot be recommended.